Several members of Parkway Church of Nazarene packed 145 shoeboxes for the Operation Christmas Child program Sunday evening, Nov. 10.

The collection of toys, school supplies, apparel, crafts, toiletries and more for the program has been taking place all year long, according to church member Ashley Barnette.

Operation Christmas Child is a gift giving program where children in impoverished countries receive a shoebox filled with toys, necessities and religion books in their native language. The program is organized by Samaritan’s Purse, an Evangelical humanitarian aide organization.

Youth church members put together fishing kits for boy shoeboxes, and sewing kits, crafts and jewelry for girl shoeboxes. Barnette said the goal of Operation Christmas Child is for girls and boys in third-world countries to feel blessed upon receiving a shoebox.

“Most of the kids who receive the boxes, they may have never received any kind of gift ever, so it’s really exciting for them” she said.

Barnette noted other important items included in the shoeboxes such as reusable cups, coloring books, socks, stickers, soap, toothbrushes, games, stuffed animals and extra supplies in case a child has a sibling.

“Little random things that to us and our kids, it’s not a big deal, but to these kids who receive this, (it) is the most amazing thing that they could receive,” Barnette said.

Since religion books provided in each shoebox, children are able to participate in Bible study in their country, according to Barnette. Members of Samaritan’s Purse will continue to keep in contact with the children and their families to provide them with additional resources.

“They have missionaries who follow up with them throughout their life, which is pretty cool. They can go to classes and get more education, and get information about healthy living, and loving God and loving others,” she said.

Barnette and her husband Andy participated in this program when they were living in Nashville, Tenn. They moved to St. Clair two years ago.

When Barnette talked about the program to her children and to youth church members last year, she said they were interested.

“I was really excited about it. When she explained it more, I wanted to help people,” said Ella Hogan, youth church member. “I though it was a really cool thing to do.”

Hogan said she helped put together the sewing kits and hygiene kits.

“I’m glad that more people are doing this because where we used to live, we did this all time,” said Ali Clark, youth volunteer. “I didn’t think that it would be this big. Ashland is two hours away and if it’s gotten to all the way over here, I’m curious about how far out it goes.”

Clark brought toys, stickers and puzzles for the shoeboxes. She added that she is looking forward to “Knowing that this is going to go to someone who needs it more.”

In 2018, a total of 57 shoeboxes were packed by church members. Barnette said that the collection of items for the shoeboxes was improved this year, which is how they were able to pack more than twice as many more.

“Every month, we decided on an item that we would ask our congregation to provide. One month it was flip flops, one month it was school supplies. It’s amazing how it all kind of just multiplied,” she said.

“We did get donations from different companies, which was exciting,” Barnette added.

The cost to ship a shoebox is $9, however, through fundraising and with the help from Samaritan’s Purse, shipping costs are covered, according to Barnette.

Once the shoeboxes are packed and ready to be shipped, they are taken to a collection site located at First Baptist Church of Union. From there, the shoeboxes are delivered to a distribution center in Atlanta, Ga.

After the shoeboxes are inspected at the distribution center, Barnette said they are sent to children worldwide.

For more information about Operation Christmas Child, visit samaritanspurse.com/occ.