Through a knock on the door, a church in Western Jackson county was offered the opportunity to serve needy children all over the world by delivering shoe boxes filled with gifts and the good news of Jesus.

Medora Wesleyan Church is the first drop-off point in Western Jackson county for the Operation Christmas Child Shoebox Mission. As a result of the worldwide project, more than 100 million shoe box gifts have been delivered to children in more than 130 countries since 1993.

Richard Rieckers, a member of the church relations team for Southeast Indiana’s Operation Christmas Child, was visiting local churches to encourage shoe box packing.

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“Richard was going around leaving flyers at the churches in the area and I happened to be there,” said Pam Breeden, assistant pastor at Medora Wesleyan Church and the new drop-off team coordinator. “The dog was barking as Richard was backing out of the driveway and I was able to stop and talk to him.”

Rieckers, who lives in Seymour, was wanting to get more churches in the area involved and there weren’t any local shoebox drop-off spots near Medora, Breeden said.

“I told him they could bring their boxes here to the church, not realizing what a big thing it was,” said Breeden. “I learned later that God was opening a door for me and giving our church this opportunity.”

This is the first year for the Medora church to be a drop-off point. It is open to everyone and Breeden is encouraging clubs, groups, individuals and families to fill their own shoe boxes.

“National drop-off week is Nov. 13-20, and our church will be open for two or three hours each day to accommodate everyone who’d like to drop off a filled shoe box,” Breeden said. “Anyone can do this, it’s not just this county. It’s just another location to make it more convenient for people to fill the boxes.”

Breeden said she would love to see every organization and family fill at least one box or challenge others to see how many boxes their group can fill.

“It would be great for more groups to get involved,” Breeden said. “Like, the local Lion’s Club, women’s church groups or maybe the men’s Bible study group could fill a shoe box for a young boy.”

It reminds Breeden of the Angel Tree, only this is more of a ministerial outreach because personal letters can be included in the shoe boxes, she said.

“I’ve been reading where some people even become pen pals with the kids who receive the gifts or with their parents,” said Breeden. “There are just all kinds of opportunities here.”

Besides the hours during drop-off week, people can also drop off shoe boxes anytime the church is open and they are encouraged to bring a shoe box on Sunday and come join in worship, Breeden said.

Nancy Rypma has served as the drop-off team coordinator for several years at Cornerstone Community Church at 1088 Sarasota Drive in Seymour.

The church will once again serve as one of about 5,000 locations across the country where gift-filled shoe boxes for children living in poverty overseas will be collected next week.

Those who don’t have a shoe box may contact either Cornerstone Community Church or Medora Wesleyan Church to obtain one or they may use their own shoe boxes.

“The drop-off in Seymour has been there for many years,” said Linda Hall, Operation Christmas Child, Southeast Indiana volunteer area coordinator. “But Southeast Indiana is a brand new team and we are growing, we’re healthy and very blessed.”

This is the second year for the Southeast Indiana Team to exist. They were split off from the Southern Indiana group with a skeleton team, said Hall who resides in Franklin County.

“We used to belong to Southern Indiana, which was made up of 14 counties,” said Hall. “It was such a large area that they were looking for someone who could step up and take part of it, so I took nine counties and they kept the five with more populated areas.”

Hall was retired and felt like the Lord had been developing skills in her for a reason and felt like the Shoebox Mission was the reason.

“I can work and use my skills to help grow His kingdom through the shoe boxes,” said Hall. “I have my MBA in marketing and was a registered dietician for 40 years.”

Hall is involved and active in a lot of different groups, but felt like God was refining her skills so that when the time was right, she could serve Him and it’s been awesome and a privilege to do this, she said.

Hall said one member on their team received an email from an orphanage director that had taken a picture of a young shoebox recipient with a thank you note she had written.

“We do sometimes get feedback if an email address is included because it costs more money to mail a thank you note,” Hall said.

Last year 1,147 shoe boxes were dropped off at the Cornerstone collection point in Seymour, which was a significant contribution to their total of 9,521 total shoe boxes. The goal for Southeast Indiana this year is to collect 10,487, Hall said.

“We are trying to get about 10 percent more shoe boxes filled than last year and we’ve been working hard and there’s been lots of support,” Hall said. “We’ve opened up three new drop-offs this year so we have our whole nine counties covered.”

Due to customs restrictions, this is the first year that toothpaste, food and candy are not going to be permitted in shoe boxes. Those interested in learning how to pack a shoe box can visit the Samaritan’s Purse website at samaritanspurse.org or call one of the two churches.

“We want to grow more shoe boxes so that we can reach more children,” Hall said. “However, our biggest need is to grow our team and we are looking for more volunteers. Some are year-round.”

There are six different teams available with Operation Christmas Child — church relations, community relations, student, prayer, media and logistics.

“I’m not a missionary and my children are grown,” Hall said. “This gives me a chance to have more children across the ocean, through the Lord, and it’s a blessing.”

Shoe box drop-off information

National Collection Week, Nov., 13 – 20.

Cornerstone Community Church, 1088 Sarasota Dr., Seymour

Nov. 13 & 14, 3 – 7 p.m.

Nov. 15, 2 – 5:30 p.m.

Nov. 16 & 17, 3 – 7 p.m.

Nov. 18 & 19, 1 – 3 p.m.

Nov. 20, 9 – 11 a.m.

Medora Wesleyan Church, 191 S. David St., Medora

Nov. 13 – 15, 9 – 11 a.m.

Nov. 16, 5 – 8 p.m.

Nov. 17 & 18, 9 – 11 a.m.

Nov. 19, 1 – 4 p.m.

Nov. 20, 9 – 11 a.m.

More information:

Linda Hall, Southeast Indiana Volunteer Area Coordinator, 812-637-3637

Pam Breeden, Drop Off Coordinator in Medora, 812-966-2664

Nancy Rypma, Drop Off Coordinator in Seymour, 812-522-7804

On the Web

How to be a volunteer:

www.samaritanspurse.org/volunteerwithocc

Facebook: @OperationChristmasChild

Twitter: @occ_shoeboxes

Instagram: @operationchristmaschild