<b>Pack a shoebox with gifts for Operation Christmas Child</b>

I know it's just the first of November and might feel too soon to think about Christmas, but if you are looking to reach out to a child in need this season, there is an exciting project you can work on right now.

It is called Operation Christmas Child, and is hosted by an organization called Samaritan's Purse. With Operation Christmas Child, you have the chance to fill up a shoebox with gifts and ship it overseas to a needy boy or girl. This will bring great joy to children who are in desperate situations, while also exposing them -- perhaps for the first time -- to the love of Jesus Christ.

"Every shoebox offers an opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with a hurting child," said Franklin Graham, the president of Samaritan's Purse.

If you are interested in taking part in this activity, there are a few easy steps to follow:

1. Shoebox

Use an empty cardboard or plastic shoebox (average size). If you want to wrap it, cover the box and lid separately.

2. Boy or Girl

Decide whether your gift will be for a boy or a girl, and the age category: 2-4, 5-9, or 10-14.

3. Include a "Wow" Toy

Start with a medium to large item that will capture the child's attention the instant he or she opens the box. Ideas include a doll, soccer ball with pump or stuffed animal.

4. Fill With Gifts

Add other fun toys children will immediately embrace, non-liquid hygiene items, school supplies, and other accessories.

5. Pray

Most importantly, pray for the child who will receive your gift.

6. Include $9 Donation Per Box

Donate $9 for shipping costs. And if you would like to add an additional $9, you can discover the destination of your shoebox gift by giving to Follow Your Box online at www.samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child/follow-your-box/

7. Drop Off

Cut out the appropriate boy/girl label I have included above. Mark the correct age category and tape the label to the top of your box. Place a rubber band around each closed shoebox and bring it to the drop-off location nearest you during National Collection Week, Nov. 18-25. According to their website, the drop-off locations in the Tri-County area include First Christian Church in Corbin, Calvary Missionary Baptist Church in Williamsburg, East Barbourville Baptist Church in Barbourville, and New Salem Baptist Church in London. You can visit www.samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child/drop-off-locations/ for all of the available drop-off spots nationwide.

Gift Suggestions

Before you get busy cramming goodies into your shoebox, there are some gift suggestions you should first be aware of:

Toys: Include items that children will immediately embrace such as dolls, toy cars, stuffed animals, kazoos, harmonicas, yo-yos, jump ropes, balls, toys that light up and make noise (with extra batteries), etc.

School Supplies: Pens, pencils and sharpeners, crayons, markers, notebooks, paper, solar calculators, glue sticks (do not include liquid glue), coloring and picture books, etc.

Non-liquid Hygiene Items: Toothbrushes, bar soap, combs, washcloths, etc.

Accessories: T-shirts, socks, hats, sunglasses, hair clips, jewelry, watches, flashlights (with extra batteries), etc.

A Personal Note: You may enclose a note to the child and a photo of yourself or your family. If you include your name and address, the child may be able to write back.

Do Not Include: Candy; toothpaste; used or damaged items; war-related items such as toy guns, knives, or military figures; chocolate or food; seeds; fruit rolls or other fruit snacks; drink mixes (powdered or liquid); liquids or lotions; medications or vitamins; breakable items such as snow globes or glass containers; aerosol cans.

For more information

If you're interested, you can visit www.samaritanspurse.org/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child/ for all of the additional information, resources and materials you need to get your shoebox shipped out.

If you have any questions for the local churches participating, you can contact First Christian Church at (606) 528-1655, New Salem Baptist Church at (606) 843-7802, East Barbourville Baptist Church at (606) 546-5912, or Calvary Missionary Baptist Church at (606) 539-0481.

This is a very exciting opportunity to give, and a great chance to show God's love to a young child who so badly needs it.

Brad Hall is the nighttime editor at the Times-Tribune. He can be contacted at bhall@thetimestribune.com.

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