Samaritan's Purse, an international relief organization based in Boone, N.C., is being helped in its mission this holiday season by Back Mountain residents. The far-reaching charitable hand of the organization's holiday drive, dubbed Operation Christmas Child, gets support from smaller, more local roots.
Cross Creek Community Church on Carverton Road in Shavertown is a relay center for this year's collection, marking the third year the local church has been a collection center for the Back Mountain.
Operation Christmas Child is a shoebox collection. Participants fill a shoebox or small plastic tote with items for children ages 2-14 in countries all over the world. The boxes are stuffed with necessities such as soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, bandages and clothing. Some of them include small toys, hard candies, notebooks and pencils or other small, non-food and non-liquid items.
Each family or organization can stuff its box with whatever its members would like. Many of the local churches that participate include a letter from the church to the child. Some have even gotten thank-you notes from the recipients.
Once the boxes are filled, they are taken to a relay center, like Cross Creek, where they are packed for shipping.
Our goal is to put at least 14 in a shipping box, said Tammy Gray, a volunteer at the church. The plastic containers are harder to pack but I think they have more value. Kids can use them to carry water and things like that.
Gray said church members heard a story about a young girl whose village was flooded. Fortunately, the girl's Bible and her precious possessions were saved because she had kept them in a plastic container in which she had received gifts.
Jenn Sgori, another volunteer at Cross Creek, put a paddleball, toy cars, a toothbrush, tooth paste, a comb, a brush and a letter to the child in the box her family prepared.
Volunteers from the church will load up their pickup trucks with the shipping boxes full of donations and transport them to the regional location at Moosic Alliance Church in Moosic.
There, regional coordinator Linda King will have all the boxes from NEPA loaded into tractor-trailers for shipment to Boone. And then it's off to the world.
Samaritan's Purse has volunteers from all over that will hop planes, trucks, boats and even elephants to make sure these shoeboxes reach children around the world who need them most.
Cross Creek was the relay center, but other churches from the area donated this year, including Dallas Baptist Church, Huntsville Christian Church, Fellowship Church, Alderson United Methodist Church, Muhlenburg Christian Academy and others from outside the Back Mountain.