Fill children’s hearts by filling boxes

Operation Christmas Child accepting boxes next week
By Shelby Harrell Staff Writer | Nov 11, 2013
Photo by: Donated photo Bill and Becky Jerrell visit with children in Ecuador in 2012. While on the trip, the Jerrells were able to watch children receive gift boxes through Operation Christmas Child.

Making a difference in the life of a child can be as simple as just packing a shoebox — at least, that’s what millions of people believe when they participate in Operation Christmas Child.

For 20 years, people all over the country have been filling shoeboxes with toys, school supplies and a message of love and sending it to children in need all over the world.

Operation Christmas Child, a project of Samaritan’s Purse, is an annual tradition in which individuals, schools, churches and businesses pack shoeboxes with gifts and send them overseas. For the children in need, each shoebox is more than just a gift — it opens up a world of opportunities for the child, their family and their community.

Since the project began, more than 100 million shoeboxes have been given to children  in more than 130 countries.

National Collection Week Takes place from Nov. 18-25 this year. During this week, Haywood County residents and organizations may take their shoeboxes to First Presbyterian Church in Waynesville or First Baptist Church in Canton, where the boxes will later be taken to the state-wide collection center in Franklin.

Haywood County has been involved with the program for many years, and is on board once again. Last year, Haywood collected 3,600 boxes and is expected to donate more boxes this year, said Haywood County volunteer Bill Jerrell.

“We’re really hoping it will be over 4,000 this year,” Jarrell said.

Jerrell and his wife Becky have been the Haywood County Operation Christmas Child volunteers for the past two years. The couple has become a big advocate for the program after being involved with the program since 1997.

“Once you put a box in a child’s hand, you’re changed forever,” Jerrell said, adding that he and his wife watched children open the boxes when they traveled to Ecuador in 2012. “We realized we wanted to get more involved, so that’s what made us want to do more volunteering.”

Last year alone, more than nine million Christmas shoeboxes were collected worldwide and were delivered to more than 100 countries this past year. With National Collection Week approaching, Jerrell is encouraging more people and businesses to get involved.

He said Western North Carolina’s goal this year is to collect 16,001 boxes.

“We really feel that Haywood County can account for at least one-fourth of the goal,” Jerrell said.

This year, Jerrell said the program was emphasizing the positive effects — or “gospel — that the boxes provided after they are sent.

“Our focus has been on what happens after the shoebox,” Jerrell said. “What the box does is open up the opportunity for children to get plugged in with the gospel. … You realize for some of them, they don’t know that someone loves them and that God loves them. But that’s the message we’re trying to emphasize this year.”

Anyone who is interested in participating should find an empty shoebox or a small plastic container and fill it with items and toys for the selected age and gender. Boxes should be tailored for a girl or boy, and should include items appropriate for one of the three different age groups — ages 2 to 4, ages 5 to 9 and ages 10 to 14.

Some suggested box items include school supplies, small toys, hygiene items, and accessories like T-shirts, sunglasses or jewelry in addition to a personal note and/photo.

Boxes may not include any used or damaged items, war-related toys (toy guns, knives etc.), liquid items, perishable items, medications, aerosol cans or vitamins. Items must also fit securely in a closed shoebox.

To help cover the cost of shipping over seas, $7 is requested with each box donation. The money can be donated online at, and online donors will be able to track the box overseas.

Once a box is full, donors should place a rubber band around each closed shoebox and drop it off at a collection center. Donors may also mail their shoebox gift to Samaritan’s Purse, 801 Bamboo Rd. Boone, NC 28607.

“Most of these children have never received a gift,” Jerrell said. “You don’t just give children a box of nice things, you change their life.”

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