Operation Christmas Child begins Monday

By Tammy Keith Published November 14, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
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Shane and Anna Wanamaker and their three sons, from the left, Luke, Jack and Reed, start packing Operation Christmas Child boxes in early November and make it an extended family celebration. Last year, the family packed 500 shoe boxes. The drop-off location for the boxes, which opens Monday, is at Fellowship Bible Church, 1051 Hogan Lane in Conway. Already-wrapped boxes are available at the church.

CONWAY — Lindsay Hammers of Conway said her daughter, Hallee, is just 2, but she’s learning about giving by filling a shoe box.

Hammers is a member of Fellowship Bible Church in Conway, which is the drop-off location again this year for Operation Christmas Child in Faulkner County.

Boxes will be collected Monday through Nov. 25 at the church, 1051 Hogan Lane.

Shoe boxes filled with small gifts, school supplies, hygiene items and hard candy are sent to needy children in 100 countries worldwide.

It’s a project of Samaritan’s Purse, a nonprofit disaster-relief ministry led by Franklin Graham, son of the Rev. Billy Graham.

“We started it with her last year, and we love it,” Hammers said of sharing the project with her daughter.

“We’re packing over 100 boxes in our small group,” she said. “It’s really fun because we get the kids involved.”

Hammers said the children are told the meaning behind sending the boxes, and the project teaches them about giving.

“She picked out her wrapping paper she wanted on the box,” she said of her toddler. “It’s great; it’s been a really good learning experience for her, as well as for our family.”

Regular-size shoe boxes can be filled for a boy or girl in any of three age categories: 2-4, 5-9 or 10-14.

The church has a group of women who wrap almost 2,000 shoe boxes, so people can pick up one at the church already made. The top and bottom of the boxes must be wrapped separately.

Drop-off hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 7-9 p.m. Wednesday; 1-7 Sunday; and 9 a.m. to noon Nov. 25.

A $7 donation is suggested to cover the cost of transportation. Shipping donations can be made on the Samaritan’s Purse website, or a check made out can be placed in the shoe box.

Also, if postage donations are made online, a bar code can be printed to place on the box to find out where it goes.

The area goal is 8,001 boxes.

Dawn Wilson of Conway, local collection coordinator, said she gets excited each year during collection week.

She is the wife of the Fellowship Bible Church pastor, but she emphasized that “it’s a communitywide project,” not just a church project.

“It’s super, super fun. We see new people every year,” she said.

“We have one young man who works all year on making his box. He wraps the inside of the box, as well as the outside; it seriously could float down the Nile,” she said, laughing. “We look forward to [seeing him].”

One family in the church, Shane Wanamaker, his wife and children, have made packing the shoe boxes an extended-family celebration.

Hammers said that last year, they packed 500 boxes.

“It blows me away,” Hammers said.

Wilson and her family started packing two boxes, and it’s grown.

“We do about a dozen boxes every year,” she said of her family. “A lot of people like to do it where they’re doing all middle-age boys or something; I kind of like a little bit of variety.”

Wilson said she often finds items on sale and buys several, such as some “super adorable pink water shoes for girls.”

She said videos of children getting their boxes can be viewed online at www.samar

itanspurse.org, and she saw a little boy enjoying a harmonica that he’d gotten in a box.

“That’s my big expense every year. We buy really good harmonicas,” she said.

In another video, a young man from Ecuador said getting pencils in his Operation Christmas Child box enabled him to go to school.

“This year, the Duck Dynasty guys are packing boxes,” she said, and a video is online. “It’s hysterical. There’s a whole episode on Uncle Si packing his box.”

In addition to the Samaritan’s Purse website, more information on the project is available by calling Wilson at (501) 269-0434.

Senior writer Tammy Keith may be reached at (501) 327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

Niche Publications Senior Writer Tammy Keith can be reached at 501-327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

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