Give the gift of a shoebox

Published 9:31 pm Friday, November 4, 2011

Children open their shoebox gifts in this Operation Christmas Child photo from a past year. The ministry, run by Samaritan’s Purse, delivers millions of the shoeboxes to more than 100 countries around the world every year. Their goal this year is 8.5 million.

The simple gift of a shoebox can brighten the life of a child somewhere in the world this Christmas.

Operation Christmas Child, a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse, annually collects more than eight million gift-filled shoeboxes to distribute to needy children in countries around the world. A couple churches in Suffolk are serving as collection centers during National Collection Week, Nov. 14-21.

“It’s a wonderful project,” said Janet Reinke, the collection center coordinator at Nansemond River Baptist Church. “Some of these kids have never received a toothbrush or toothpaste or soap or a teddy bear or hard candy.”

Email newsletter signup

Nansemond River last year processed about 11,300 shoeboxes through its Bridge Road location. Several relay centers as close by as Southside Baptist on Carolina Road and as far away as Emporia feed into Nansemond River’s site.

“It’s amazing,” Reinke said. “By the end of the week, it’s overwhelming, but you are making a difference. It does make an impact, even if you’re not the one handing the box to the child.”

People who send shoeboxes typically fill them with items such as school supplies, hygiene products, small toys, shoes, candy and other small gifts.

When the shoeboxes are handed out to the needy children, the children receive literature in their language about “The Greatest Gift” of Jesus Christ. They also get the opportunity to participate in a follow-up Bible study called “The Greatest Journey.”

“It’s just a joy,” said Paul Light, a year-round volunteer for Operation Christmas Child. “It is a wonderful program.”

Light has gone year after year to processing centers in North Carolina to help sort the boxes and pack them for their journeys across the world.

“The feeling when we get to the warehouse to help with the shoeboxes is amazing,” Light said. “Each shoebox is prayed for. We’ve got lots of stories on what those shoeboxes have done for individual children and families.”

For more information, visit

How to pack a shoebox:

Get your box

Use an empty shoe box (standard size) or a small plastic container. Shoebox-size plastic containers can be used by the recipients to carry water. You can wrap the box (lid separately), but wrapping is not required. Most importantly, pray for the child who will receive your gift.

Boy or girl?

Determine whether your gift will be for a boy or a girl, and the child’s age category: 2-4, 5-9, or 10-14. Print out the appropriate label by downloading the artwork from the Operation Christmas Child website or picking up labels at a local participating church. Mark the correct age category on the label, and tape the label to the top of your box.

Fill with gifts

Fill the box with a variety of gifts that will bring delight to a child. See below for gift suggestions.

Include your donation

Donate $7 or more for each shoebox you prepare to help cover shipping and other project costs. You can write a check to Samaritan’s Purse (note “OCC” on memo line) and place it in an envelope on top of the gift items inside your box. If you or your family are preparing more than one shoe box, make one combined donation.

Drop off at a local church

Place a rubber band around each closed shoebox and drop off at the closest collection center between Nov. 15 and 22.

Gift ideas

  • Toys: Small cars, balls, dolls, stuffed animals, kazoos, harmonicas, yo-yos, jump ropes, small Etch A Sketch, toys that light up or make noise (with extra batteries), Slinky
  • School supplies: Pens, pencils and sharpener, crayons or markers, stamps and ink pad sets, writing pads or paper, solar calculators, coloring and picture books
  • Hygiene items: Toothbrush, toothpaste, mild bar soap (in a plastic bag), comb, washcloth, etc.
  • Other: Hard candy and lollipops (please double bag all candy), mints, gum, T-shirts, socks, ball caps; sunglasses, hair clips, toy jewelry, watches, flashlights (with extra batteries)
  • A personal note: In a separate envelope, you may enclose a note to the child and a photo of yourself or your family. (If you include your name and address, the child may write back.)
  • Do not include: Used or damaged items; war-related items such as toy guns, knives or military figures; chocolate or food; out-of-date candy; liquids or lotions; medications or vitamins; breakable items such as snow globes or glass containers; aerosol cans

Local Collection Centers

Southside Baptist Church

617 Carolina Road

  • Nov. 14: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Nov. 15: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Nov. 16: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., 7 to 8 p.m.
  • Nov. 17: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Nov. 18: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Nov. 19: 9 a.m. to noon
  • Nov. 20: 8 a.m. to noon, 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.
  • Nov. 21: 9 to 10 a.m.

Nansemond River Baptist Church

2896 Bridge Road

  • Nov. 15: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Nov. 16: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Nov. 17: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Nov. 18: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Nov. 19: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Nov. 20: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Nov. 21: 1 to 6 p.m.
  • Nov. 22: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.