Lodians bring cheer to children in need through Operation Christmas Child
Every year during Operation Christmas Child’s National Collection Week, volunteers across the country take part to collect shoebox gifts for children in need.
At least two Lodi-area churches have joined in the effort this week and have been designated as collection sites: St. Peter’s Lutheran Church and Horizon Community Church, which has locations in both Galt and Lodi. Samaritan’s Purse delivers the shoe boxes filled with toys, school supplies and hygiene items to children in need.
According to Dale Munsch, who is helping to coordinate the collections at St. Peter’s, the church has been acting as a drop-off site for the Operation Christmas Child program for four years. He said they got involved with the program after Samaritan’s Purse and other organizations reached out to them.
“It’s just a great program, giving kids around the world
that don’t have anything a box of different gifts for Christmas. It also does an outreach to them as far as sharing the message of God with them. It’s a great event,” Munsch said.
St. Peter’s collects boxes from its members as well as other churches and organizations. The boxes are then sent to a bigger regional collection agency in Manteca. The church has at least 20 volunteers assisting with the box collection.
Last year, St. Peter’s collected a total of 700 boxes. In previous years, they have reached up to 1,600 boxes.
This year is Horizon Community Church’s second year participating in Operation Christmas Child. According to Mary Agans-Ice, a member of Samaritan’s Purse, the church got involved when she asked her pastor if he would consider making Operation Christmas Child one of the church’s projects. He accepted, and last year the church held its first packing party and became a collection site.
This year, the church will be holding a packing a party once again this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at its Galt location. This past Sunday, the children of the church held their own packing party.
“We’re sharing the love of Jesus. We’re doing it with a tangible gift and we’re bringing people together,” AgansIce said. “It could really impact a child’s life knowing somebody, somewhere — who doesn’t even know them — cares enough to send them a Christmas gift. That’s what we’re doing.”
Last year, the church had a goal of collecting 2,000 boxes. Between the boxes they packed and donations from other churches, businesses and individuals, they were able to collect 3,149 boxes. Faith Community Church, which sent 600 boxes last year, has been one of their biggest contributors.
This year’s goal is to collect 5,000 boxes. According to Agans-Ice, the church packs about 60 percent of the boxes that are collected and the rest are donated. Almost 50 volunteers are involved with making the packing party a success. Kohl’s Department Store, Boy Scouts, Lodi Academy and several other Lodi schools are just a few groups she expects to be involved with Saturday’s party.
“It really impacts children’s lives and we can do it from the comfort of our church. It’s like sending a mission in a box and we don’t have to leave town. It’s just a great thing to do for kids,” Agans-Ice said. “There are never enough shoeboxes and it’s amazing that they get distributed all over the world. They get distributed by camel, by commute, by plane, by trucks, by elephants. These go to the most remote places and these people get these simple gifts like a tooth brush and it does impact their life.”
This year, Operation Christmas Child hopes to collect enough shoebox gifts to reach 12 million children, with 12,541 coming from the San Joaquin County California Area Team.
For more information on how to participate in Operation Christmas Child or to view gift suggestions, call 714432-7030 or visit samaritanspurse.org/occ. Participants can donate $9 per shoebox gift online through “Follow Your Box” and receive a tracking label to discover its destination.