BERLIN – Local volunteers for the Operation Christmas Child campaign are gearing up for another successful holiday season.
The program, run by Samaritan’s Purse International Relief, joins volunteers around the world to fill shoeboxes with gifts for underprivileged youth.
In the past five years, the Southern Delmarva team has given away more than 46,000 shoeboxes, according to the group’s area coordinator Carole McKee.
“I tell my team that the people we reach with these shoeboxes could fill two football stadiums,” McKee says.
Now in her fifth collection year, McKee says donations have grown 20 percent annually, with the exception of one year, where donations grew 2 percent.
The year before McKee joined, the local team saw 6,000 donations.
Following years had 8,200, 10,000, and 10,200 donations, respectively.
Last year, that number grew to more than 12,000.
This number was added to the 1.1 million boxes the Mid-Atlantic region gave in 2015.
These donations come from individuals, churches and other local organizations throughout the region.
Currently, the team is working with Chick-fil-A, Salisbury University and 350 churches in the Delaware and Maryland region.
However, McKee stresses that anyone can participate.
This year, participants have until Nov. 14, the start of National Collection Week, to pack their shoeboxes.
These boxes can contain school supplies, toys, games, balls, kits, hygiene items, and more.
Participants have the option to provide for boys or girls of three different age groups, McKee says.
The gifts can then be tailored to suit that child’s group.
Since its start in 1993, Operation Christmas Child has filled 135 million shoeboxes for kids in 150 countries.
The international program donated 11,000 shoeboxes in its first year, McKee says.
Last year, however, the program donated 11 million boxes.
For the 2016 holiday season, Operation Christmas Child says it hopes to collect enough shoeboxes for 12 million kids.
The Southern Delmarva team has nine drop-off locations this year, including: Crisfield, Seaford, Salisbury, Cambridge, Millsboro, Pocomoke and more.
After the collection week, McKee says the shoeboxes are shipped out to various countries, after processing.
Participants can track these boxes by donating money for a label, found on the program’s website.
McKee says the team’s kickoff took place Sept. 17 and will run through Nov. 21, at the end of the national collection week.
“We had a team picnic to get them enthusiastic and revved up and ready to go,” McKee says.
The group’s eighteen members, including three new volunteers, are responsible for visiting churches, community organizations, and other groups in an effort to start packing parties and other collection efforts.
Southern Delmar’s team is part of a global operation that has 500,000 volunteers, 170,000 of which are in the U.S.
For more information on this event, contact Carole McKee at [email protected].
Information on gift restrictions, age groups, and tracking labels can be found on the Operation Christmas Child website.