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Shoeboxes spread holiday cheer

POULSBO — Although Jolly St. Nick’s big night is still two months away, for those involved in Operation Christmas Child the holiday season is practically right around the corner.

Every year around this time, thousands of North Kitsap residents begin scouting for school supplies, hygiene items and small toys — anything small enough to fit inside a shoebox — in anticipation of Christ Memorial Church’s annual Operation Christmas Child drive.

This year, shoeboxes will be collected at three area locations. Boxes can be dropped off at Christ Memorial Church from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday Nov. 17-21. Sound Sew and Vac in Silverdale and the Sherrard McGongle Law Offices in Poulsbo will also be receiving boxes Nov. 17-23.

Community members should double-check with the two businesses for collection times.

Operation Christmas Child, a nationwide project run by the national organization Samaritan’s Purse, has been a local success year after year in large part because of its simple philosophy: Anyone can participate because everyone has a shoebox.

The program aims to take the average shoebox, fill it with toys, school supplies, hygiene items and other goodies, and ship it off to a child suffering from war, natural disaster, poverty, illness or neglect.

“Just about anyone can get their hands on a shoebox,” said Tracy Wall, a member of Christ Memorial Church, which has organized a local drive for the organization for the last several years.

The project has become a holiday tradition for Wall’s family, something her children especially enjoy.

“Children feel powerless, but this is something they can do,” Wall commented.

Aaron, Paul and Brent Henry of Poulsbo, ages 6, 8, and 10, also enjoy participating in Operation Christmas Child, mostly because they can pick out the toys and notebooks to send to their little boy or girl. They also like writing notes to stick in their shoeboxes.

“These will be the only gift these kids will receive in their life,” Wall said. “Such an opportunity of love.”

Last year, volunteers from the North Kitsap area were able to collect 3,517 shoeboxes — about 1,500 more than they collected the year prior. Wall found the outcome inspiring in the face of last year’s economic downturn right here at home.

Nationwide, more than 6 million boxes were distributed to children in about 95 countries last year.

Local volunteers are hoping the trend will continue into this year.

“We can all be self-centered,” Wall said. “But people need to remember to give where they can make a tangible difference ... What you put in that box is so personal and will affect their lives forever.”

To contribute to Operation Christmas Child, individuals need to pick out an ordinary shoe box, which they can wrap in holiday paper with lid separate if they choose. Then, choose an age category (2-4, 5-9 or 10-14) and whether the box will be for a boy or girl.

Some suggestions for filling the box include:

•Toys like balls, stuffed animals, yo-yos and jump ropes

•School and art supplies like pens, pencils, coloring books, writing pads and solar calculators

•Hygiene items like toothbrushes, soap, combs or washcloths

•Hard candy

•Sunglasses

•Socks

•Hair accessories

•Flashlights

•A picture or letter from the person sending the box. Children often write back to individuals who include their name and address in the boxes

Liquids, medicines, perishables, war-related items and used or breakable objects are not allowed.

The box is finished off with an envelope containing a label listing the age group and sex of child for whom the box is intended and a donation of $5 or more to assist with shipping. Labels can be printed at www.samaritanspurse.org and checks are recommended over cash for the donation.

Boxes should be secured on the outside with a rubber band.

For more information about Operation Christmas Child, or for a complete list of suggested items, go to www.samaritanspurse.org and click on the Operation Christmas Child logo.

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