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With a new local drop-off coordinator but the same heart for children in need, Operation Christmas Child is once again looking to make a difference around the world this holiday season.

First Baptist Church of Pulaski is once again serving as a drop-off location for the project, which will be accepting shoeboxes during National Collection Week, Nov. 15-22. However, volunteers have already been hard at work packing shoeboxes and preparing long before the drop-off site opens its doors.

“We have had several groups and businesses get involved this year,” said local coordinator Amanda McMilin. “We have had some homeschool groups gather items and participate in packing parties, volunteer fire departments look for ways to get involved as well as local schools and school organizations reach out for ways to help. That’s one the biggest blessings of this ministry for me — seeing people come together to love on others in the name of Jesus, no matter what church or organization they are involved with.”

McMilin is in her first year as a coordinator after taking over for Jenn Williams, who will now be taking on a new role with the area team, also serving seven other counties that partner with Giles County and the local effort.

Operation Christmas Child is a project of non-profit Samaritan’s Purse, which seeks to pack gift-filled shoeboxes containing items such as school supplies, toys, hygiene items, clothing and stuffed animals among other fun presents for children in need around the world. Since 1993, the project has packed more than 188 million shoeboxes for children in more than half of the world’s countries to provide love and the hope of Jesus Christ each Christmas season.

Those interested can learn more about packing their very own shoebox at samaritanspurse.org/occ or take part in the “Build a Box Online” feature in which individuals can pick from an array of items to include in their shoebox gift and pay a flat rate to have their shoebox assembled for them on-site. This feature can be found at samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child/buildonline.

McMilin wants those interested to know that no matter what avenue they choose to participate, it is not too late to get involved and make a difference in the life of a child.

“It’s not too late to pack a box,” she said. “We still have the pre+printed boxes available to fill at FBC Pulaski, or any shoebox will be just fine. Items can still be donated to help us fill as many boxes as we can this season. Most needed things now are small toys and activities such as marbles, playing cards, craft kits, small dolls and stuffed animals.

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Former shoebox recipient Yuliya Shubina recently told the story of how her life was changed by the shoebox gift she received as a child in Central Asia during an event at First Family Church in Columbia.   Submitted

Also, donations to Samaritan’s Purse to help cover the shipping costs for these boxes are always a huge blessing this time of year. There are also opportunities to serve during National Collection Week at our drop-off location at FBC Pulaski. I would be glad to find a place for anyone to serve, but most importantly, pray for those children who will receive these boxes, that through this tangible gift, they could come to know the saving power of Jesus.”

Local volunteers recently had an opportunity to hear from a former shoebox recipient about just how much the project means to the children who receive these gifts. Yuliya Shubina spoke at an event in Columbia last month about how the shoebox gift she received as a young child changed her life and how she was eventually able to meet the very girl who packed a shoebox for her after immigrating to the United States years later.

Drop-off hours at the FBC Pulaski location during National Collection Week will be 5-7 p.m. Monday-Friday, Nov. 15-19; noon-2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, Nov. 20-21; as well as 8-10 a.m. Monday, Nov. 22.

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