Oskaloosa Area Church Helps Bring Christmas To Others Around The World

These boxes are being prepared for shipment. Operation Christmas Child will send shoe boxes filled with presents to children in 13 different countries this year.

Oskaloosa, Iowa – Thanksgiving may be arriving this week, but many Oskaloosa area residents have already planned for and sent off Christmas presents to others around the world.

According to the Samaritans Purse, the organization behind Operation Christmas Child, “Operation Christmas Child is a worldwide children’s project of Samaritan’s Purse that uses simple gift-filled shoe boxes containing school supplies, toys, necessity items and notes of encouragement, to let hurting children know that God loves them and they are not forgotten.

In 2012, Operation Christmas Child expects to reach a milestone – delivering shoe boxes to more than 100 million children since the project began in 1993. To achieve this, volunteers are leading a nationwide drive enlisting people to help give joy to needy children this Christmas through this simple project.”

Jil Vanutrecht, Relay Center Coordinator for the Oskaloosa area for Operation Christmas Child, said the project is also a good way for children to hear about the gospel.

Vanutrecht said that the giver decides if they want their shoe box to be for a boy or girl and varying age ranges are also available. Recipients can be from age 2 to 14.

Vanutrecht says that this year the group plans to ship to 13 different countries, including the countries of Columbia, China, Uganda “and in-between”. Vanutrecht has participated in the program since high school, “and we actually received our first letter a couple of years ago from a child in Africa.”

You can also include a letter in your shoe box, a picture of your family if you choose, “and sometimes the child might write back,” Vanutrecht said.

According to Vanutrecht, Central Reformed Church has been participating in Operation Christmas Child since 2007. That year, they collected roughly 36 shoe boxes. This year they set a goal of 300 and days before the end of the collection period, they had met and exceeded that goal.

Vanutrecht explained that in 2008, Central Reformed Church became a relay center for the project. That means that the church has facilities open during national collection week. “We accept shoe boxes from the Oskaloosa area churches,” Vanutrecht explained. Beyond Oskaloosa, Vanutrecht said that churches throughout the county and beyond are participating. Local boxes are coming from places like Searsboro, Lovilla, and Eddyville.

Last year, the relay center collected a total of 980 shoe boxes from the Oskaloosa area. “This year, we are expecting to be going over 1000,” Vanutrecht predicted. She felt confident because, on the first day they collected 470 boxes total.

Once the shoe box arrives at the relay center, they are packaged into shipping boxes. Once the collection week is over, they transport the boxes to the collection center in Ottumwa. Once the region is collected in Ottumwa, they are then transported to the processing center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Once in Minnesota, volunteers there will work for just over a week checking the boxes. This ensures the correct items are in each box and add items if needed.

Once the volunteers have completed their work, the boxes are loaded up and shipped around the world to this year’s 13 chosen countries.

It’s too late this year to participate, but for those that did, $7.00 gets you the opportunity ship the box overseas and also enables the child recipient to be enrolled in a 10 week Bible program called ‘The Greatest Gift’.

“So $7.00 will get it shipped anywhere around the world. And so for that small fee, and then you can fill up your box and it will help make a child’s life brighter,” Vanutrecht added.

You can also pay the $7.00 online. If you choose this option, you print off a barcode enabling you to find out via email what country your box arrived in.

The boxes made their way to Ottumwa Monday morning, on their way to their final destinations for Christmas.



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