Tri-Citians donated 12,643 shoe boxes of toys, simple clothing and toiletries to Operation Christmas Child last month.
"That's way higher than our goal of 12,500. We always set it higher than we think we'll meet so that's awesome," said Tricia MacFarlan, area coordinator for Samaritan's Purse in the Tri-Cities. Operation Christmas Child is a project of the Christian international relief organization Samaritan's Purse.
Those boxes, along with others collected nationwide, have already been processed and shipped to children in more than 100 war-torn and Third World countries. But anyone with a computer and access to the internet can still contribute a box right up to Christmas, MacFarlan said.
Just go to www.samaritanspurse.org/occ and click on "Build-a-Box."
The virtual boxes come with some basics -- soap and toothpaste, crayons and a coloring pad, pencils and a notebook. Every child gets those.
You get to choose the fun things -- small musical instruments, yo-yos, stuffed toys, watches, socks, sunglasses and more.
"What they have to offer depends on what's been donated that year but some things, like balls and stuffed animals, are always available," said MacFarlan.
Those boxes will be filled at Operation Christmas Child headquarters in North Carolina and sent on.
"I was skeptical when they first introduced Build-a-Box online. I'm old fashioned and like to do things hands on but the program works very well," she said.
Each Build-a-Box requires a $30 donation to cover the cost of the contents and shipping.
"It's a really good deal. Most of us, I've found, when we pack an Operation Christmas Child box at the last minute spend at least $30," she said.
Even donating online you still get to choose whether it's for a girl or boy and what age group. And you can write a personal letter and upload a photo to be enclosed.
"Don't skip that last part. The kids love to know who cared enough to send them a gift," MacFarlan said. "For many, your box may be the only present they've received in their life."
For more information on Operation Christmas Child or Samaritan's Purse, go to www.samaritanspurse.org/occ.
-- Loretto J. Hulse: 582-1513; firstname.lastname@example.org