Community Outreach Director Patricia Bennett, right, on Friday fills gift boxes with assorted items, as do volunteers for the Samaritan’s Purse project Operation Christmas Child in Albany. The boxes will be collected through Nov. 19. (Nov. 9, 2012)
ALBANY, Ga. -- Through Nov. 19, a lot of activity is expected to take place at the former Coca-Cola building on Pine Avenue. Collections are being accepted there this week for filled shoeboxes from throughout the area as part of Operation Christmas Child.
Coordinators say the facility handles 5,000 boxes coming in from the greater Albany area, and a total of 9,000 boxes from a region within 100 miles of Albany.
The boxes, generally filled with items such as school supplies, small toys, hygiene products, clothing and flashlights, are distributed to children in 130 different countries with labels specifying the gender and age group for which each box is appropriate.
A personal note can also be included, and those wishing to track their boxes can do so with a $7 shipping fee. The boxes coming into Albany will be packed into cartons and shipped to Atlanta, where they will then be sent to their destination countries.
Sherwood Baptist Church has been a collection center for the program for six years. This will be the second year church officials are operating the project from the Pine Avenue facility.
"We do this because we care about the children in the world," said Connie Thomas, an Operation Christmas Child volunteer and the collection center coordinator. "It provides hope to kids who would have none otherwise.
"It doesn't touch just the children, but their whole families."
Those wishing to fill a standard size shoe box or small plastic container for Operation Christmas Child may drop it off at the former Coke facility by Nov. 19. Officials ask that individuals not include toy weapons, food items, liquids, medications or breakable items in the boxes.
Last year, roughly 9 million boxes were delivered worldwide. The project, which has been in existence since 1993, is likely to distribute its 100 millionth box this year, Thomas said.
For many who donate, officials say, the cause is ultimately about what people can do from home to have a global impact in a tangible way.
"For me, our goal is to get bigger and bigger each year," said Patricia Bennett, community relations director for Operation Christmas Child in the Albany area. "(Most times) people give to a charity and (their donation) disappears somewhere. My family has been doing (Operation Christmas Child) for 12 or 13 years, and one year we got a letter back (from a child who received a box).
"It's the connection of knowing that you are touching a child. You know you are touching lives in a far place in the world."
While the United States collects many of the boxes, England, Canada and Germany also participate in Operation Christmas Child, Thomas added.
For more information on the project and how to contribute, visit www.samaritanspurse.org.