As back-to-school specials begin to dominate many shoppers' attention, area Operation Christmas Child (OCC) leaders say it's also a great time to shop for items that can easily be packed into "Christmas Shoeboxes."
The gift boxes will be sent to needy children in about 100 war-torn or devastated nations.
"For just a few cents each, people here can buy a lot of crayons, markers, flip-flops, note-books, pencils ... all sorts of school things to send children who have literally nothing," said Tricia MacFarlan of Richland and OCC area coordinator. "It's one way to send some love to a lot of hurting children and let them know there are people in the world who do care about them."
Nino Kapitula, 24, of Richland, received an OCC Shoebox filled with gifts when she was 10 and living with her family in Moldova. In it was a box of crayons; she'd never had color crayons.
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"I got into trouble because I tried to eat them," she said with a laugh.
She was the only one in her school who had crayons.
Donors are asked to fill a shoebox with gifts including small toys (no war themes), personal hygiene items, candies (nonchocolate), clothing, and school supplies. Donors are asked to include $7 per box to help pay for the shipping costs.
Last year, donors from the Mid-Columbia and Eastern Oregon filled and gave 12,642 Christmas Shoeboxes; they were among 243,000 collected in the Pacific Northwest and 6.5 million gift boxes nationwide.
Operation Christmas Child is a worldwide children's project of Samaritan's Purse, a nonprofit Christian relief and evangelism organization. Shoeboxes will be collected around the region in November.
For more information on how to be involved, pack shoeboxes or restrictions, contact MacFarlan at MacFarlanOCC@gmail.com or Fay Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.