• 36°

Organizers ramp up collections for Operation Christmas Child

Operation Christmas Child is underway in Vicksburg.

While it may look a bit different this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the outreach program that touches the lives of children across the globe by offering them shoeboxes filled with Christmas gifts will continue.

As in years past, First Baptist Church will serve as the collection site for Warren County. This year, however, people bringing filled boxes to the church will be asked to stay in their car, Operation Christmas Child Director for Warren County Hester Pitts said.

“What we are going to have, literally, is a drop-off center where people stay in their cars and we will come out and meet them,” Pitts said. “What we are trying to do is keep everybody from having to come into the building and keep everybody safe.”

Operation Christmas Child is a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse, a non-denominational Christian program. Since its inception in 1993, more than 178 million children in more than 150 countries have received an Operation Christmas Child shoebox.

For some children, Pitts said, the boxes they receive will be the only Christmas gift they receive, and for some, the shoebox will be their first-ever gift.

Although this year has been a struggle for so many, Pitts is hoping this will not affect the Operation Christmas Child outreach program but will in fact encourage generosity, since so many have personally experienced challenges that have come with the pandemic.

“We are really encouraging people to, please, give more than you have done in the past if possible,” she said. “Especially since the pandemic stymied many of the mission trips that had been scheduled.”

For those interested in packing a shoebox that will be presented to a child, Pitts said, boxes can be filled with a variety of gifts for either a girl or boy from ages 2 to 4, 5 to 9, or 10 to 14.

“We are recommending people do either the 2 to 4 or the 10 to 14-year-old age groups,” Pitts said. “The 5- to 9-year-old group gets so much.”

Suggested toy items for the shoeboxes include small cars, balls, dolls, stuffed animals, harmonica and yo-yos.

“The children really love the stuffed animals,” Pitts said.

School supplies for the shoeboxes could include pens, pencils, pencil sharpener, crayons, coloring books and writing pads, as well as hygiene items like a toothbrush, soap, comb and washcloth. Other suggested items include ball caps, socks, T-shirts, toy jewelry and picture books.

“Please do not include used items, toy guns, knives or other war-related items,” Pitts said. Also, there can be no perishable food items, toothpaste, hard candy, liquids, medicine, or breakables in the shoeboxes.

Any size shoebox will be allowed, Pitts said, adding there are some retailers who sell plastic boxes that can be used.

Boxes and lids should be wrapped separately with a rubber band securing them together. A note should be placed on top stating if it is a box for a boy or girl and the age group.

“You are encouraged to enclose a note to the child and a photo of yourself or your family,” Pitts said. Those families bringing boxes are also encouraged to bring a $9 check to help cover additional materials and shipping costs.

Neither the letter nor the check is mandatory, but if a check is included, it should be made out to Samaritan’s Purse and placed on top of the gift items.

Drop off times will be offered from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 16, Tuesday, Nov. 17 and Wednesday, Nov. 18; from noon to 4 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 20; and from 9 to 11 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 19, Saturday, Nov. 21, Sunday, Nov. 22 and Monday, Nov. 23, which is the last day to drop off boxes.

Pitts said volunteers helping at the drop-off site will be wearing personal protective equipment and gloves, which has been recommended by Operation Christmas Child. Volunteers, along with signage at First Baptist Church Vicksburg, 1607 Cherry St., will help direct cars to the drop off-site.

Once the boxes have been collected, they will then be shipped to Jackson and then to Atlanta.

For more information, call 601-636-2493 or 601-415-7334.

About Terri Cowart Frazier

Terri Frazier was born in Cleveland. Shortly afterward, the family moved to Vicksburg. She is a part-time reporter at The Vicksburg Post and is the editor of the Vicksburg Living Magazine, which has been awarded First Place by the Mississippi Press Association. She has also been the recipient of a First Place award in the MPA’s Better Newspaper Contest’s editorial division for the “Best Feature Story.”

Terri graduated from Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations.

Prior to coming to work at The Post a little more than 10 years ago, she did some freelancing at the Jackson Free Press. But for most of her life, she enjoyed being a full-time stay at home mom.

Terri is a member of the Crawford Street United Methodist Church. She is a lifetime member of the Vicksburg Junior Auxiliary and is a past member of the Sampler Antique Club and Town and Country Garden Club. She is married to Dr. Walter Frazier.

“From staying informed with local governmental issues to hearing the stories of its people, a hometown newspaper is vital to a community. I have felt privileged to be part of a dedicated team at The Post throughout my tenure and hope that with theirs and with local support, I will be able to continue to grow and hone in on my skills as I help share the stories in Vicksburg. When asked what I like most about my job, my answer is always ‘the people.’

email author More by Terri Cowart