FAIRMONT - Giving to needy children around the world and spreading the word of God is the motivation behind "Operation: Christmas Child."
The program is now in its 20th year. Churches and organizations around the area collect and pack shoeboxes full of needed items and toys to send worldwide.
Cheryl Champine coordinates local collections for Operation: Christmas Child at United Methodist Church in Fairmont.
Cheryl Champine arranges a box full of items for Operation: Christmas Child at United Methodist Church in Fairmont on Thursday. A “packing party” to help fill the shoeboxes will be held at the church on Nov. 20.
"We've done this for the past five years, and we've served as a collection center for the past three years," she said. "We collect local boxes here, and we send them to Worthington, and from there they go to the Twin Cities."
Minneapolis is one of seven hubs in the country for Operation: Christmas Child.
The boxes contain items for basic hygiene, school supplies, and gifts and toys.
"The first thing we concentrate on is the hygiene products," Champine said. "Toothbrushes and toothpaste. We collect the big tubes of toothpaste or put in two travel-size ones. We also collect soap and washcloths, and put those in plastic bags, so the smell of soap doesn't contaminate everything. We've learned that one of the things the children do when they open that bag with the soap; they like to just smell it because it smells so good."
For donations of hairbrushes and combs, it is recommended to find those with wider teeth.
Next, Champine concentrates on school supplies.
"If they don't have the items they need, they aren't allowed go to school," Champine said. "A lot of times, the families can't afford the school supplies because their month's pay is the same as a box of crayons."
Smaller notebooks are needed because most regular-sized notebooks will not fit into the shoeboxes. Crayons, pencils, markers and erasers also can be donated.
Finally there are the toys. Items that are encouraged include stuffed animals and dolls; things that light up or make noise; balls or jump ropes.
Clothes such as T-shirts and dresses, socks or ball caps also are welcome.
"We don't accept any used or dirty items," Champine said. "We also don't want anything that's fragile or breakable, and no liquids."
Toys such as guns, or war or violence-related items. are not allowed. There is also no use for gift cards.
"We only accept hard candy, because things like chocolate can melt and make a mess," Champine said.
Collection week for Operation: Christmas Child is Nov. 18-25. A packing party for the boxes at the United Methodist Church is scheduled for 5 p.m. Nov. 20. Items will be packed for both boys and girls in age groups from 2-4 years old, 5-9 years old and 10-14 years old.
"When people pack boxes, they need to indicate if it's for a boy or girl, and what age group," Champine said. "We encourage them to include a photo of themselves or their family, and include a return address, so the child can send a thank you letter."
For those who are bringing their own packaged boxes to ship, there is a $7 donation for shipping the box. This can also be paid online at samaritanspurse.org
"We are accepting donations for the shipping," Champine said.
Time also can be donated to help pack the boxes during the packing party Nov. 20.
"It's best to have one adult for every two children that are here helping," Champine said. "Otherwise, the children start playing with the toys themselves."
Donated shoeboxes can be dropped off at United Methodist Church until Nov. 25. The packing party on Nov. 20 is sponsored by Thrivent Financial for Lutherans and Fairmont area churches. For more information, contact Champine at (507) 236-9810 or United Methodist Church at (507) 235-5579.