Bev Yarborough of Saco, left, helps Janet Besso of Biddeford pack a shoebox during a special packing party for Bible Baptist Church members in Saco last weekend. The church will serve as an Operation Christmas Child shoebox collection site for children overseas from Nov. 13 to Nov. 20. ED PIERCE/Journal Tribune

Bev Yarborough of Saco, left, helps Janet Besso of Biddeford pack a shoebox during a special packing party for Bible Baptist Church members in Saco last weekend. The church will serve as an Operation Christmas Child shoebox collection site for children overseas from Nov. 13 to Nov. 20. ED PIERCE/Journal Tribune

SACO — A church in Saco is launching its most ambitious Christmas charity project ever later this month when it will once again serve as a collection site for Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes.

Operation Christmas Child donors start with an empty shoebox, and fill it with gender-specific gifts by age such as school supplies, stuffed toys, rubber balls and hygiene items to send to children living in poverty overseas. ED PIERCE/Journal Tribune

Operation Christmas Child donors start with an empty shoebox, and fill it with gender-specific gifts by age such as school supplies, stuffed toys, rubber balls and hygiene items to send to children living in poverty overseas. ED PIERCE/Journal Tribune

Bible Baptist Church at 146 Ferry Road in Saco will collect shoe boxes filled with toys, gifts and school supplies, letters of support and well-wishes, to be sent to children across the world from Nov. 13 to Nov. 20. The church hopes to send out 200 shoe boxes this year and held a packing party for volunteers last weekend to fill shoe boxes with items that church members have collected since last December.

Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes are packed with gender-specific gifts by age such as hygiene items, school supplies, stuffed toys, and inflatable rubber balls to send to children living in poverty overseas. ED PIERCE/Journal Tribune

Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes are packed with gender-specific gifts by age such as hygiene items, school supplies, stuffed toys, and inflatable rubber balls to send to children living in poverty overseas. ED PIERCE/Journal Tribune

“We’ve been collecting shoe boxes at the church for 20 years and this is our third year as a drop-off location,” said Kim Martens, a church member from Biddeford. “We started looking for clearance items in January and for me this is a year-round project. The program has grown substantially since we started doing this and we’re hoping this is our biggest year so far.”

Martens said she derives a feeling of satisfaction from working with volunteers packing shoe boxes and then seeing photos of children in other countries receiving their gifts which have been donated by church members or people in the community.

“Operation Christmas Child brings hope to children in very difficult situations or living in poverty,” she said. “Some children may have never received anything from anyone. It sends a message to these children that there are people out there who love and care about them.”

Sponsored internationally by the charity Samaritan’s Purse, making a donation to Operation Christmas Child is easy. Families or individuals can start with an empty shoebox, fill it with gender-specific gifts by age such as stuffed toys, inflatable balls (preferably with an air pump), hygiene items or school supplies. Donors can even order a $9 shipping and tracking label to track their shoebox gift to its donation and delivery site worldwide. 

“Last year our shoe boxes went to children in Ghana,” said Bev Yarborough, a church member from Saco. “It’s hard to imagine, but some kids have never gotten a gift in their life and we’re changing that and making a difference.”

Shoe boxes are collected and shipped to more than 100 locations across the globe in war-torn and poverty stricken nations.

Donors are asked not to pack candy, toothpaste, used or damaged items or war-related items such as toy guns, knives or military figures. Seeds, chocolate, food, liquids, lotions, medications, vitamins, breakable items or aerosol cans also should be avoided because of customs regulations.

Shoebox age groups are Boys ages 2 to 4; Girls ages 2 to 4; Boys ages 5 to 9; Girls ages 5 to 9; Boys ages 10 to 14; and Girls ages 10 to 14. 

Each shoebox should contain a “wow” toy, hygiene items, school supplies, fun toys and games and a $9 donation for shipping costs. Donors are asked to include a personal note and photo if they wish.  If a donor chooses to just make a financial donation, they can also do that.

Linda Digan of Saco attended the packing party for church members and said she had personally packed 13 boxes already.

“I’ve been collecting all year and when it started getting near summer, I started packing,” Digan said. “The smiles of the faces of the children when they receive them are so wonderful.”

Besides joining in the packing party for church members, Digan and other Operation Christmas Child volunteers spent time outside Big Lots in Biddeford on a Saturday morning in October collecting donations for shoe boxes.

“We really want to thank Big Lots for helping and everyone who donated was really generous,” Digan said. 

The underlying lesson Digan said she’s taken away from participating in the program is that she’s learned that giving to others is so satisfying.

“It just makes you feel good that kids in remote areas get gifts,” Digan said. 

Shoe boxes for donation to Operation Christmas Child can be hand-wrapped or boxes can be obtained prior to collection at the church.

For more information about the program, call 284-7338 for specific drop-off times and directions to Bible Baptist Church. 

— Executive Editor Ed Pierce can be reached at 282-1535 ext. 326 or by email at [email protected] 


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