Anna Pape of Chazy, right, hands a shoe box of donated items to Rita Alford, coordinator for the Operation Christmas Child collection center at the First Assembly of God in Plattsburgh.
Operation Christmas Child will accept donations locally at First Assembly of God, 164 Prospect Ave., Plattsburgh, weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Monday, Nov. 21; from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19; and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 20.
According to Samaritan’s Purse, shoe boxes or small plastic containers may be filled with school supplies, toys, hygiene items and letters of encouragement.
For more information, including instructions on how to pack a shoe box, visit www.samaritanspurse.org/occ or call 563-5799.
The countdown until Christmas may be something that officially begins with many people after Thanksgiving, but the countdown to help underprivileged children in developing countries through one specific effort is one that is already under way.
Operation Christmas Child, which provides shoe boxes of school supplies and other gifts to children across the globe, is nearing the end of its national collection week, The philanthropic effort headed by Samaritan's Purse, an international Christian relief and evangelism organization, began collecting donations Nov. 14 and will wrap up its nationwide effort this Monday, Nov. 21.
Rita Alford, coordinator for the Operation Christmas Child collection center at the First Assembly of God in Plattsburgh, said she’s impressed with the amount of donations received this week.
“We’ve gotten over 200 shoe boxes so far,” said Alford. “That’s a pretty good start.”
Operation Christmas Child was started more than 20 years ago by a couple in Wrexham, Wales, who first decided to help underprivileged children in Romanian orphanages. The effort grew in 1993 when the Rev. Franklin Graham, international president of Samaritan’s Purse, adopted Operation Christmas Child.
First Assembly of God has been involved in the effort for more than 10 years, said Alford, with support growing each year.
“We’ve mainly had people from the Plattsburgh area [donating],” said Alford. “But, it’s grown. We have people who come from Morrisonville, Cadyville, Peru, Keeseville — even Malone.”
“Last year, we donated 5,094 shoe boxes,” she continued. “Every year it’s been a little bit more.”
What’s added to Alford’s amazement of the generosity of the community is the ability of people to dig deeper into their pockets despite the state of the national economy and in addition to helping those affected locally by Hurricane Irene.
“We have people in Ausable and Keene who were hit so hard themselves,” said Alford. “I think that will have an effect [on donations], but people continue to donate. It’s a great thing to see how generous people are.”
Anna Pape of Chazy has been donating locally to Operation Christmas Child for the past four years after coming to the area from New Hampshire where she contributed to the cause there. What motivates her, said Pape, is thinking about how privileged she was as a child.
“I never wanted for anything. I had a very blessed childhood,” said Pape. “When I think about kids in other countries who have very, very little, and how they are delighted with simple things we may take for granted, it’s a good feeling to know shoe boxes of things like paper, pencils, hair barrettes and even a Slink can mean a lot to them.”
Judy Burnell of Plattsburgh donated to Operation Christmas Child for the first time this year, saying she was compelled to do so when she learned of the project and who it helps.
“I just realized there are so many children in this world who are underprivileged and don’t get gifts,” said Burnell. “I wanted to do at least a couple shoe boxes ... It’s such a worthwhile thing.”
“I just wish I could see these kids when they open their gifts,” she added.