Lela McWhorter, church relations representative for Operation Christmas Child, told The Times-Gazette on Monday that plans are still on for the annual shoebox collection drive for children all over the world despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Some people think that it’s not going to go on,” she said. “I don’t want them to slack off filling up their boxes because it is still going on, and yes it will be different, but there are differences in everything we know because of the coronavirus.”
She said that Operation Christmas Child, an outreach ministry of Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse, still plans to collect its signature shoe box gifts during the organizations national collection week, still scheduled for Nov. 16-23.
The main drop off location for Hillsboro will be at the Hillsboro First United Methodist Church, located at 133 E. Walnut St.
Some things have remained the same, she said, as far as Hillsboro goes, and she encouraged everyone to continue packing their boxes for the third week of November collection.
“The differences we’re seeing this year is everyone will be wearing masks and gloves, if necessary, because we want to be as safe as possible,” she said.
Another major difference that will affect the number of shoeboxes that are wrapped and ready for shipment was the death of longtime supporter Ruth Meranda, who passed away at the age of 97 on March 27.
McWhorter said Meranda had a “personal best” quota of wrapping at least 1,000 boxes annually, and that for the seven years that preceded her death she wrapped more than 6,200 boxes.
With all the reports of closings and postponements due to the COVID-19 pandemic, McWhorter said she’s been out and about encouraging those participating in Operation Christmas Child to continue obtaining and filling their shoeboxes for the November collection.
“When a person brings in a box, or 50, or whatever, we will check you in,” she said. “Then we’ll see that they are marked correctly, rubber banded and then they go into a carton to be shipped out.”
She said there are some prohibited items that cannot go into an Operation Christmas Child shoebox, such as any food items which now includes candy, toothpaste, “war-oriented” or military-appearing items, medicine items or money.
“Don’t hide coins inside the shoebox because money may do more harm than good,” she said. “We’ve had reports of children being harmed when a coin was discovered and another child or adult wanted it for themselves.”
She said to place the money required for shipment, which is $9 per shoebox, on top of the box when it’s packed for shipment.
“What we personally like to put in the shoeboxes is a small notebook, and school items like pens, pencils and erasers in a little zip lock bag,” she said. “Put inside something to love, like a stuffed animal of some kind along with a toy, and personal items like soap and a small washcloth, and if you have room, anything else that would be appropriate that you can put in there.”
She said they would take either the preprinted boxes that can be ordered from Samaritan’s Purse or any ordinary unwrapped shoe box.
“People can go to SamaritansPurse.org and order boxes from there, and there’s a blank so you can tell them how many you want,” McWhorter said.
Shoe boxes can be ordered by going to https://samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child/order-pre-printed-shoeboxes/.
Shoe boxes can be packed virtually online at https://samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child/buildonline/, which is a personal way to give gifts directly from home by choosing from a variety of items, then adding a letter and photo.
The organization recommended that shoebox orders be placed by Nov. 1 so they could be shipped and received in time for National Collection Week.
For those wanting shoebox quantities under 10, McWhorter said she could be reached by phone at 937-763-0870, or by email at email@example.com.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.