Central Iowa residents give thanks by packing gifts of hope for children living in poverty overseas

Staff Writer
Nevada Journal

Central Iowa families, churches and groups are not waiting until Thanksgiving Day to express gratitude. Instead, this week they are giving back by lovingly packing gifts of joy for children around the world living in extreme poverty or affected by war, disease and natural disaster. For many of these children, it will be the first gift they have ever received. On Nov. 14 – 21, [thousands] of Central Iowa residents will pack shoebox gifts filled with a “Wow” item — like a doll or soccer ball — and other fun toys, school supplies, hygiene items and notes of encouragement. Operation Christmas Child, a project of the international Christian relief and evangelism organization Samaritan’s Purse, will deliver the gifts to children in need overseas. In the Central Iowa area, 19 sites will serve as collection points for shoebox gifts to be dropped off by local residents.

“We have so much to be thankful for here in America. Most of us have a roof over our heads, beds with pillows to sleep on and food on our table. But for many children living overseas, tough living conditions and extreme poverty have left them with little hope,” said Heather Rowley, Church Relations coordinator of Urbandale. “It is amazing to see the joy on children’s faces when they receive these gifts. It can be a tangible reminder that they are loved and not forgotten, despite their difficult circumstances.”

After being dropped off at Central Iowa collection sites, these boxes will make the long journey overseas, traveling by any means necessary — boat, plane, train and even elephant — until they reach the hands of children in need. In 2016, Operation Christmas Child hopes to collect enough shoebox gifts to reach more than 11 million children, with 28,000 coming from the Central Iowa area. Since 1993, the project has delivered shoebox gifts to more than 135 million children in over 150 countries and territories.

It’s not too late to get involved, and anyone can participate in this life-changing project for children around the world. Although this week is National Collection Week, shoebox gifts are collected year-round at the Samaritan’s Purse headquarters in Boone, N.C.

With a computer or mobile device, anyone can conveniently pack a personalized Operation Christmas Child shoebox gift on the Samaritan’s Purse website. These gifts of hope will go to children in some of the hardest-to-reach countries. Go to samaritanspurse.org/occ to select toys and gift items, write a note of encouragement and “pack” them in a shoebox.

Participants can follow their box online to discover where in the world their gift is delivered by using the donation form found at samaritanspurse.org/occ.

Operation Christmas Child is a project of Samaritan’s Purse, an international Christian relief and evangelism organization headed by Franklin Graham. For more information on how to participate in Operation Christmas Child, call 515-250-2079 or visit samaritanspurse.org/occ.