CHARLOTTE – Residents can get into the holiday spirit early by giving a gift in the form of a shoebox.
Operation Christmas Child, a project part of Samaritan’s Purse, is accepting shoeboxes filled with hygiene products, toys and school supplies to donate to children in over 110 countries. The project has been operating since 1993.
Julie Smith oversees the year-round volunteers for Operation Christmas Child in Charlotte. She said Charlotte has one of eight processing centers in the United States.
Smith has traveled to Rwanda with Operation Christmas Child to deliver gifts to children and has seen the tangible impact of donations.
“Some of these children have never received a gift before,” Smith said. “To see their eyes light up when they see that someone has thought about them and loves them, even though it’s someone they’ve never met, is touching.”
Smith described the processing center, located in an old Sam’s Club warehouse, as a “Santa’s workshop.” Boxes are sorted into groups based on gender and age. While Christmas music plays in the background, volunteers inspect boxes for items like liquids and chocolates, which would not be able to be shipped overseas. Smith said volunteers try to keep the integrity of the box.
Smith said anyone is welcome to donate to Operation Christmas Child, whether they donate individually or as a group.
“I know preschoolers that have packed shoebox gifts and I know ladies that are 101 years old and pack shoebox gifts,” Smith said. “I absolutely love that it really is a person-to-person connection.”
She hopes donors and volunteers feel the impact, too.
“I hope that it fills them with the Christmas spirit,” Smith said. “It’s a simple gift, the packed shoebox, but it really does make a big impact.”
A $9 donation with every box pays for collection, processing and shipping, according to the Operation Christmas Child website.
Smith said Operation Christmas Child hopes to collect more than 33,000 boxes from Mecklenburg County. People can drop off boxes at the Charlotte processing center from now until Dec. 25. Other drop-off locations will be open during national collection week Nov. 18 to 25. Visit www.samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child/drop-off-locations/ for details.