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Jeanie Groh column: This year, pack a box for a child in need

My weekly Walmart excursion took at least three times longer than normal as I waded slowly through the toys and children’s clothing sections.

What seemed like a simple task – fill a shoebox with all sorts of goodies for a boy or girl in need – ended up being a lot harder than I remembered.

It’s hard to narrow down all of Walmart into one, small shoebox.

Growing up, one of my favorite Christmas traditions was packing shoeboxes full of gifts, goodies and hygiene items for children in need on the other side of the world through Operation Christmas Child.

My mom would take me on a special shopping trip to Walmart and let me fill a shoebox with everything I could smoosh inside. We had our staple items – a bar of soap, a brush, socks, hard candy, hair bows (for the girls, of course) and at least one really cool toy.

Filling those shoeboxes has stuck with me through the years. I think what made the difference was when I realized that there were children around the world who had never received a Christmas present before.

Samaritan’s Purse, the organization Operation Christmas Child is under, hopes to collect 26,700 shoeboxes from the Salisbury area alone this year, and 10 million shoeboxes overall.

Since the project started in 1993, the organization has distributed gift-filled shoeboxes to more than 113 million children in more than 150 different countries.

This year, students at Salisbury Academy, North Hills Christian School and Catawba College are collecting shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child, along with dozens of churches.

Both Salisbury Academy and North Hills are also sending students to the Operation Christmas Child distribution center in Charlotte to check the boxes and prepare them for shipping.

Beverly Fowler, Salisbury Academy’s head of school, said Operation Christmas Child fits perfectly with the school’s mission and goals.

“One part of our mission statement is community service,” she said, adding that the school stresses both local and global service among its students.

Not only do the students have an opportunity to discover the similarities and differences between themselves and children in poverty-stricken nations, but it teaches them “the importance of putting others first,” Fowler said.

Each week at chapel, school staff and volunteers have shown photos and shared stories about other countries and Operation Christmas Child.

In addition, the project allows them “to connect with the global community,” Fowler said. “We can track and see where those boxes are sent.”

Tracking the boxes allows the students to learn more about the countries where their boxes are sent.

This week is National Collection Week, and churches and schools across the nation are collecting packed shoeboxes. The following locations are Rowan County’s drop-off spots and will be collecting boxes until Monday.

• In Faith, you can drop off your filled shoeboxes at Shiloh Reformed Church, 100 Main St. They will be accepting boxes 11 a.m.-noon and  4- 7 p.m. Thursday, 4-7 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.- 3 p.m. Saturday, 1-5 p.m. Sunday and 10-11 a.m. Monday.

• South River United Methodist Church in Woodleaf is also a drop-off for Operation Christmas Child. The church is located at 2880 S. River Church Road, and will accept donations from 5-7 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 10 a.m.-noon on Saturday, 12:30-2:30 p.m. Sunday and and 8-9 a.m. Monday.

• Memorial United Methodist Church, at 1100 West C St. in Kannapolis, will be collecting shoeboxes from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, 1-4 p.m. Sunday and 9 a.m.-1 p.m.Monday

• Salisbury residents have two Operation Christmas Child drop-off locations – Catawba College and St. John’s Lutheran Church.

The college is located at 2300 W. Innes St., and will be collecting boxes from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, 1-2 p.m. Sunday and noon-1 p.m. Monday. The public can drop off boxes at the Maintenance facility (with the smokestack behind the Student Center) between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Thursday.

St. John’s, 200 W. Innes St., will be collecting boxes Thursday from noon-2 p.m., Friday from 1-5 p.m., Saturday from 1-2 p.m., Sunday from 1-3 p.m. and Monday from 9 a.m. -noon.

For more information about Operation Christmas Child or packing a box, visit http://www.samaritanspurse.org/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child.

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