Filling the Shoeboxes
The Operation Christmas Child campaign is hoping to reach its 100 millionth child this year. It was launched in the UK at the end of September by Franklin Graham, chief executive of Samaritans Purse, the charity which oversees OCC.
As it has since Willesborough Baptist Church, in Ashford, is playing a major role. Church members Charles and Carolyn Pickford are OCC are co-ordinators for Kent and East Sussex, with responsibility for finding a warehouse and checking more than 20,000 shoeboxes.
The link began in 2005 through the church's Jim and Nicki Archer. The congregation of more than 200 members has been at the forefront of running the warehouse each year, with many people volunteering their time throughout the year to help. The church's craft group, for instance, meets each fortnight to make additional gifts for the boxes, while the church has been involved in overseas missions with Samaritans Purse.
Charles said, 'Every year there is a buzz around the church as we approach OCC.
'It is a wonderful opportunity to actively demonstrate God's love, with outreach into the local communities.
'There is excitement in finding a local warehouse to borrow for 6 weeks, to talking with others about the impact a gift filled shoebox can have on the life of a Child that we shall probably never meet.'
Over the past 22 years Samaritans Purse has delivered 94 million shoeboxes to needy children in more than 100 countries.