Imagine – if you can – waking up on Christmas morning and not having one present to unwrap. This is an unfortunate reality for many kids around the globe and is why Pioneer Church in Winters takes part in Operation Christmas Child every year to ensure many children have a present on Christmas.
Created by the Samaritan’s Purse – an evangelical Christian humanitarian aid organization – in 1993, Operation Christmas Child is a program that delivers donated shoeboxes full of toys to children around the world for Christmas. To date, the organization has delivered around 186,000,000 shoeboxes since its inception.
“Last year they delivered nine million boxes to the most remote corners of the world, with nearly eight million from the United States. They go to about 170 countries and some are even delivered by camel,” said Pioneer Church member and local program organizer Jane Williams. “Our church has been doing this for several years. Last year we dropped off about 45 boxes. We’re just a little church that feeds into bigger churches. Then all of the boxes go to a facility in Los Angeles for processing and are sent out.”
Originally, shoeboxes were used as the gift boxes that contained the toys. Since not all shoeboxes are the same size, the organization now gives out foldable boxes that that are much more uniform and easier to load and ship.
“We have a ton of these nifty green and red boxes that stack wonderfully,” said Williams. “Last year we put out a big weatherproof tub in front of the church with boxes and little brochures attached to the box. We’re doing the same thing this year for people who want to donate. They can just stop by and help themselves to a box.”
Once one has the box assembled and filled with toys, there’s just a small nine-dollar shipping fee to be added to the donation. Luckily, the church fundraises to help cover these expenses if money for donors is tight.
“There are kids in the world that may not ever get a gift or present because they live in a difficult situation, or their family can’t afford it. The idea of a child getting nothing at Christmas isn’t right,” Williams said expressing why she has such passion for the project. “If we can see there’s nine million kids that wouldn’t have gotten a gift receive a box full of toys, then it’s an important thing to do. For some it might turn their life around. At the very least, a child will get a gift.”
Pioneer Church is kicking off another year of Operation Christmas Child and accepting donations – both monetary and in boxes. For more information, contact Williams directly at 559-760-0706 or her partner in charitable crime, Dianne Gale at 530-574-7654.
The church is located at 205 Russel St., and the deadline for donations is Nov 16. Perhaps one of the coolest parts of this whole enterprise is that one can track where in the world Santa is delivering their shoebox online. Simply log onto operationchristmaschild.com to for the details.
With the help of the town – and other selfless-natured communities like Winters – there will be presents and smiles abound around the world this Christmas season.