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Shoeboxes can bring joy
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Operation Christmas Child is in full swing with collections pouring in this week at First United Methodist Church. Local residents still have time to donate a shoebox and help make the holiday season a little brighter for a child.
Collections continue every day this weekend before ending Monday at 10 a.m.
“I’ve been making and donating shoeboxes for years, but I don’t think I understood the other side of the ministry until now,” said Makailah Bleedner, who graduated from Warren County High School and is in her sophomore year at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.
Bleedner, 19, was among a group of 20 youth who to traveled to the Philippines in July. They were chosen by Samaritan’s Purse, the organization that spearheads Operation Christmas Child, from hundreds who applied from across the United States. 
“After seeing the effect these shoeboxes have on the children who receive them, I have a new understanding about how wonderful this program really is,” Bleedner said. “I finally got to see the other side of it. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience I will never forget.”
The group worked in Manila, visiting churches and elementary schools to distribute shoeboxes to children. Bleedner says the reaction was always one of excitement.
“It was awesome to see the joy they had and the smiles on their faces,” she said. “It just made their day to know someone loved them. Not only that Jesus Christ loves them, but the person who supplied the box.”
Bleedner is focusing on intercultural studies in college. However, she says her passion is foreign missions.
“That’s where my heart is and that’s why I applied to do this,” Bleedner said. “It wasn’t free. Each of us had to earn the money to pay for the trip. My church and a couple of other people supported me. What remained, I had to pay for myself.”
Locally, Operation Christmas Child shoebox donations are accepted at First United Methodist Church, which oversees the program. Shoeboxes will be collected the next four days at the following times:
• Friday – 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
• Saturday – 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
• Sunday – 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
• Monday – 8:30 to 10 a.m.