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Local churches filling shoe boxes with gifts

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By Jesef Williams

 Think of all the children around the world whose conditions are so dire that they don’t have clean water and other necessities, let alone toys to play with.

There’s a great deal you can do here in Lancaster County to change that, ensuring that some of those youngsters will have a little more joy and reason to have hope.  You can donate to Operation Christmas Child, an annual program of Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical Christian organization that heads outreach initiatives worldwide.  With the Christmas Child program, people are asked to fill shoe boxes or comparable plastic containers with toys, school supplies and hygiene items that will be sent to needy children in other countries.  Two places in Lancaster County serve as drop-off spots – Lancaster Second Baptist Church and Kershaw Second Baptist Church. This year’s collection drive started Monday and runs through next Monday.  Larry Helm, who oversees the effort at Lancaster Second Baptist, said the church’s goal is to collect 2,688 shoe boxes this year. In 2007, the church brought in more than 2,440 boxes.  “It’s a major deal,” Helm said of the initiative.  “Many of these children have literally nothing,” he said. “These boxes are sometimes the only ray of hope. It means so much to them.”  Sue Pitts pulled up to the church parking lot Tuesday morning with a trunk full of boxes – 42 to be exact.  The collection came from her church, Rich Hill Baptist Church in Heath Springs. This is the church’s second year participating in the program.  Pitts said she was inspired to contribute after watching a Samaritan’s Purse video capturing children’s reactions when they receive the boxes.  “It touches your heart,” Pitts said. “This shows them that people care. It’s a way of showing God’s love.”  After the collection period ends Monday, the boxes are taken to Rock Hill and then to Charlotte, where they are processed and prepared for shipment.  Helm said some children receive the boxes around Christmas but many don’t arrive until after the new year.  For details about Operation Christmas Child, visit www.samaritanspurse.org or call (800) 353-5949.  You may also send a shoe box gift to: Samaritan’s Purse/Operation Christmas Child, 801 Bamboo Road, Boone, NC 28607.