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Operation Christmas Child collects 4,570 shoeboxes locally
Operation Christmas Child - Widner.jpg
Jeanene Widner packs a few last-minute shoeboxes on Monday for Operation Christmas Child before the boxes were taken to Livingston on Monday afternoon.

A bounty of gifts may await many of us under the tree, but some children in Third World countries have never received a Christmas present.

That’s where Operation Christmas Child aims to help. The program wrapped up another successful year in Warren County on Monday with 4,570 shoeboxes donated. It’s easy to be touched by the impact a gift-filled shoebox can make.

“There was a boy in Rwanda who watched his family get massacred, but he survived,” said longtime Operation Christmas Child volunteer Debby Young. “He was living in an orphanage when he received one of the shoeboxes and that was his only gift.”

In addition to toys and essentials like soap and socks, the shoeboxes contain literature telling the recipients about the savior Jesus Christ. That message resonated with the boy in Rwanda who saw his family slaughtered.

“He eventually was able to meet the man who killed his family,” said Young. “They prayed together and he was able to forgive him.”

The most important part of the shoebox isn't the toys for the people living in abject poverty.

“For these children in an orphanage, there might be one toothbrush to share among 20 of them,” said Young. “To get their own toothbrush or their own bar of soap, that’s a big deal. They get a whole box that’s just for them.”

Operation Christmas Child was started in the early 1990s with about 20,000 shoeboxes donated its first year. 

Now there are usually between 10 million and 12 million shoeboxes donated each year just from the U.S.

Shoeboxes donated locally are taken to a facility in Livingston and then sent to a distribution center in Boone, N.C. where each box is opened and inspected to ensure the contents are appropriate. 

A final destination of Warren County shoeboxes wasn’t known Monday, but our shoeboxes have been sent to East Africa and Central Asia in the past.