Thanks for supporting Operation Christmas Child

Dear Editor:

Operation Christmas Child National Collection Week was November 15-22, 2021.  Another amazing year of shoe-box collection occurred at the curbside drop-off located at Trinity Baptist Church.

A hallmark of our Lake Area Region is a heart of generosity.  I clearly saw this through Operation Christmas Child, an evangelistic ministry of Samaritan’s Purse. I am the Team Leader for the Keystone Heights Central Drop-off Location.  The 2021 global goal is 9.7 million shoeboxes filled with school supplies, hygiene items and fun toys.  The shoe-box gifts will be delivered in over 100 countries. The record-breaking number of 6,709 shoeboxes poured in locally to bless poor children all around the world!  Three other drop-off locations transported their cartons of shoeboxes to us since we are the Central Drop-off location for the Santa Fe Region Area (Alachua, Bradford, Putnam and Union counties).   The grand total amounted to 14,846 shoeboxes!  After inspection at the Atlanta Processing Center, these gift boxes will be delivered to many countries, including Chad, Togo and Uganda.  An army of volunteers is required to pack, collect, inspect and deliver shoeboxes to the delighted children, many of whom have never received any gift before.

I am thankful for each hand involved locally in this worldwide ministry.  I am always thrilled to see the donors with beaming faces and precious testimonies. Our community unequivocally rises to the occasion.  Stores and restaurants advertised with colorful posters.  Starke Beall’s Outlet Store donated countless numbers of empty shoeboxes to wrap and pack.  Red and green decorative OCC shoe boxes (known as Gospel Opportunities or GO boxes) were offered at Clyde’s Cozy Corner Café and Johnny’s Bar-B-Q.

McDonald’s once again donated Happy Meal toys as fillers.  Ladies crocheted hats and purses.  Handmade embroidered outfits and dresses found their way into the shoeboxes.  Hundreds of handmade wooden cars added fun to the gift boxes.  Johnny’s Bar-B-Q graciously advertised Trinity Baptist Church as the Drop-off for shoeboxes on its famous sign.  The Lake Region Monitor published photos and articles.  38 volunteers served to collect, count and pack the shoeboxes over eight days.  Strong men loaded 928 cartons onto three semi-trailers. Deserving recognition are the 39 churches and Christian ministries, seven civic and school groups, and 12 individuals and families who joyfully packed the 6,709 shoeboxes.  Shoeboxes came from 16 locations:  Florahome, Gainesville, Grandin, Green Cove Springs, Hampton, Hawthorne, Jacksonville, Keystone Heights, LaCrosse, Lawtey, Melrose, Middleburg, Raiford, San Mateo, Starke, and Waldo.

Moments of reflection with prayer were offered as each church, group and individual came in with their gift boxes.  It did not matter if it was one box or 100 boxes; we prayed over every one because each gift box represents one child who will receive it and also hear the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Selfless donors, you did another terrific job!  You are helping to change the lives of 6,709 boys and girls, ages 2-14.  Our global world has allowed us to touch the lives of many children in desperate need of hope.  Many emails and several letters were received this year from recipients of shoeboxes in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, the Philippines, and South Sudan.  Corine, big sister of Geoffrey who received a shoe-box, emailed: “I thank the people that sent the gift to my country.  Thank you so much for all you do for the children of the world.  May God bless you abundantly.”

Words of thanks are hardly enough to the Lake Area Region for your continued sacrificial giving of shoeboxes.  We are the hands and feet of Jesus when we give these wonderful gifts.  Pray for the children who will receive our shoeboxes packed in 2021.  Imagine the looks of wonder as the children open these treasure boxes!   Whenever the shoeboxes arrive, it is Christmas!  We celebrate each beautiful shoebox packed in this region with caring hearts.  A sincere thank you from my heart to each donor.  Merry Christmas!

So very grateful,

Diane Michel

Team Leader Keystone Heights Central Drop-off Location

Operation Christmas Child