There were balloons and pizza and lots of children, but they were packing the gifts instead of unwrapping them. Children at First Baptist Church of Thomson recently held a shoebox-packing party to benefit Operation Christmas Child.
This past summer, the children collected $1,100 during Vacation Bible School for the charity.
"We thought rather than send a check to Operation Christmas Child, we'd rather the kids get the experience of it and pack the boxes themselves," said David Walker, the director of education and children's ministries at FBC.
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 that are suffering from natural disaster, war, terrorism, disease, famine and poverty.
The box-packing party was held Wednesday, Oct. 20 during Royal Ambassador's and Girls in Action time. The children packed 70 boxes with inflatable balls, kaleidoscopes, rubber bracelets, jump ropes, matchbox cars, paddle balls, bags of candy, school supplies, stuffed animals, slinkies, toothbrushes and toothpaste, socks, and/or bars of soap and washcloths.
"This is not a race," Mr. Walker told the children. "So, pack your box carefully because there's a child somewhere in the world who is very needy and who's going to open this box. It might be the only gift they get for Christmas, so pack it with love and care."
First Baptist Church of Thomson serves as a relay center for OCC, and collects boxes during the middle of November and delivers them to another relay center in Augusta. Project coordinator Jo Montgomery said she recently attended a kick-off meeting for relay centers. There, Mrs. Montgomery got to talk to a young lady who once was an orphan in Romania, and the young lady had received a shoebox when she was 12 years old.
"She said you'd be surprised how much the personal hygiene items meant to the children," Mrs. Montgomery said. "She talked of having to share bathwater with a dozen kids, and that they'd swap food for a first place in line for a bath with clean water. I want to help so many like her."
After the boxes were all packed, the RA's and GA's enjoyed pizza.
For more information on packing and donating a box, visit www.samaritanspurse.org. Or call Ms. Montgomery at 706-595-1395.