When a Crothersville woman was asked to help collect shoeboxes filled with school supplies, hygiene items, toys and other items to send to children around the world several years ago, she decided she couldn’t take on any more volunteer work.
“Then when I learned about it, I couldn’t say no,” Nancy Rypma said of Operation Christmas Child. “It’s such a great program.”
So for the past several years, Rypma has served as relay center coordinator of the program at Cornerstone Community Church at 1088 Sarasota Drive in Seymour.
The church again will serve as one of about 4,500 locations across the country where gift-filled shoe boxes for children living in poverty overseas will be collected during National Collection Week.
The week began Monday and ends Nov. 21. During that time, area residents may donate shoeboxes — filled with school supplies, hygiene items, notes of encouragement and fun toys, such as a doll or a soccer ball — that Operation Christmas Child, in turn, will deliver to children in need around the world.
Those who don’t have a shoebox may visit Cornerstone Community Church to obtain one from Rypma. They also can use their own shoeboxes, Rypma said.
She and her husband have a competition each year to see who can fill their boxes with the best items.
“It can be as plain or as extravagant as you want to make,” Rypma said.
This year, the hope is that residents of the Seymour area will contribute more than 700 shoebox gifts toward the 2016 global goal of reaching 12 million children. That’s a reasonable goal considering one generous local couple’s contribution a year ago, Rypma said.
“We had one retired couple bring in more than 100 shoeboxes,” she said. “It’s her year-round project, and he helps.”
Operation Christmas Child is the world’s largest Christmas project of its kind, said Linda Hall, the area coordinator for the project.
The mission of Operation Christmas Child is to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to children in need around the world, and together with the local church worldwide, to share the good news of Jesus Christ.
Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has collected and delivered more than 135 million gift-filled shoeboxes to children in more than 150 countries and territories.
For many of these children, the gift-filled shoebox is the first gift they have ever received, Hall said. The school supplies are always welcome because in some places around the world, children can’t go to school without them, she said.
She said the southeast district of Operation Christmas Child includes the counties of Dearborn, Decatur, Franklin, Jackson, Jefferson, Jennings, Ohio, Ripley and Switzerland. Until this year, Jackson County was a part of a larger 14-county district.
“We split districts up this year,” she said.
The goal is for the smaller districts to gather more shoeboxes and build more support and services to expand the program, said Hall, who lives in the Brookville area.
There’s always a need for more volunteers to help with media and church relations, prayers circles and other needs, she said.
Operation Christmas Child is a part of Samaritan’s Purse, an international Christian relief and evangelism organization headed by Franklin Graham.
Cornerstone is a relay site for shoeboxes. They are then sent to a collection center in North Vernon before being sent to a processing center in North Carolina for shipment overseas.
Shoeboxes will be accepted from 3 to 7 p.m. Nov. 14, 15, 17 and 18; 2 to 5:30 p.m. Nov. 16; 1 to 3 p.m. Nov. 19 and 20; and 9 to 11 a.m. Nov. 21 at Cornerstone.
For information on how to participate in Operation Christmas Child, call 812-522-7804 or visit samaritanspurse.org/occ.
By going online to give the suggested donation of $7 per shoebox gift, participants can follow their box to discover where in the world it will be delivered. They also may pack a shoebox gift online and even upload a photo and note of encouragement.
National Collection Week for Operation Christmas Child is from Nov. 14 to 21.
Shoeboxes will be accepted from 3 to 7 p.m. Nov. 14, 15, 17 and 18; 2 to 5:30 p.m. Nov. 16; 1 to 3 p.m. Nov. 19 and 20; and 9 to 11 a.m. Nov. 21 at Cornerstone Community Church, 1088 Sarasota Drive, Seymour.