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Local Operation Christmas Child is helping kids, one shoebox at a time

SPRINGVILLE — Your shoebox may start off in Western New York, but this Christmas, it may end up in Ghana, Haiti, the Philippines or a point beyond or in between.

Operation Christmas Child has sent gift-wrapped shoeboxes full of toys and personal care items to scores of countries across the globe, according to Sandy Thies, a collection center coordinator in Sinclairville, N.Y., now in her sixth year as coordinator.

“I’ve never gone across the country ... but my shoeboxes have, and they’ve been around the world!,” said Thies.

The program, which has dropoff sites at the First Presbyterian Church in Springville and the Odasagih Bible Conference and Retreat Center in Machias, collects shoeboxes packed with toys and school and hygiene supplies and distributes them, along with religious literature, to children and families, around the world.

Samaritan’s Purse, the evangelical Christian aid organization that runs Operation Christmas Child, accepts donations for the program at its Boone, N.C., headquarters all year round. However, the week of Nov. 18-25 marks the organization’s biggest push for collection.

“It’s not too late to get involved,” said Thies, who noted that the program has seen growth, in recent years. “Last year we received 7,596 boxes” at the Sinclairville collection center. “This year, we’re hoping to hit 8,000,” she said.

Last year, the organization delivered its 100 millionth box, according to www.samaritanspurse.org.

The Sinclairville center receives donations from smaller, local collection sites – like those in Springville and Machias – and ships them off to Boone. There, all donations are collected and distributed worldwide.

Mary Ann White, a full-time volunteer with Operation Christmas Child and a director at Odasagih, said she is “positively sure” the organization will make a special effort to distribute items to children and families in Philippines, the island nation recently ravaged by Typhoon Haiyan.

According to its website, Samaritan’s Purse has already “deployed a disaster response team” to the Philippines.

This year marks the 15th year the First Presbyterian Church has been involved in the program, and the 14th for Odasagih. White said the program is an opportunity to get kids into the holiday spirit.

“It’s something we can do, not just adults, but as a way to get children involved with helping another child. It’s something they really want to do, for another individual,” she said. “It takes them out of their own comfort zone, out of their own little world,” and gives them the opportunity them to help someone abroad.

“It’s a contagious spirit,” White said.

More information about the program, including instructions for packing a box, can be found on the web at www.samaritanspurse.org/occ. OCC can also be contacted by phone at 1-800-567-8580, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/OCCshoeboxes or on Twitter at @OCC_shoeboxes.

Donations are accepted at the Odasagih Bible Conference, located at 3204 Hazelmere Ave., in Machias, from Nov. 18-24, 8 a.m.-5 p.m., and on Nov. 25 from 8 a.m.-12 p.m.

Collections for the Springville area will be accepted at the First Presbyterian Church at 38 North Buffalo St., in Springville, Nov. 18, 6-8 p.m.; Nov. 19, 5-7 p.m.; Nov. 20, 9-11 a.m.; Nov. 21, 2-4 p.m.; Nov. 22, 5-7 p.m.; Nov. 23, 9-11 a.m.; Nov. 24, 1-3 p.m. and Nov. 25, 9 a.m.-11 a.m.
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