Christmas is arriving early as First Baptist Church of Thomson is serving as a collection point for Operation Christmas Child.
"I hope we can help the churches and people who are doing shoeboxes so they won't have to drive all the way to Augusta," said Jo Montgomery, who is coordinating the project in Thomson.
Operation Christmas Child is a project of Samaritan's Relief, headed by Evangelist Franklin Graham. Each year, the project delivers gift-filled shoeboxes to needy children in third-world countries.
"It's a wonderful ministry," Ms. Montgomery said. "The more I do it, the closer to my heart it becomes."
Participants fill shoeboxes with school supplies, toys, necessity items and hard candy. Operation Christmas Child delivers them to countries suffering from natural disaster, war, terrorism, disease, famine and poverty.
"We can't imagine what it's like growing up without the basic needs. We take things for granted. Our children take things for granted," Ms. Montgomery said.
She said she heard a man who was on the Peru distribution team last year say that every location they went to distribute boxes, had children waiting outside the building who never got in to receive a box because there was not enough.
"That is so heartbreaking," Ms. Montgomery said. "So, I'm asking everybody to pack one more box than they normally pack. If they're planning on packing two, pack one more. We don't have enough shoeboxes yet."
Last year, Thomson-area residents brought 1,070 boxes to First Baptist Church, Ms. Montgomery said.
"I'd like to do more than that this year," she added.
Tracking technology allows donors to follow their box to its destination country. The donor may include a letter in their box, if so desired. Step-by-step shoebox packing instructions are available at www.samaritanspurse.org. or, boxes with instructions are available from First Baptist Church.
For more information, or to volunteer with the collection process, call Ms. Montgomery at (706) 595-1395.
Shoeboxes will be accepted at First Baptist Church of Thomson, 523 Jackson St.:
Monday, Nov. 16: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Wednesday, Nov. 18: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Thursday, Nov. 19: noon to 4 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 20: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 21: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 22: 2 to 4 p.m.
Monday, Nov. 23: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.