Lo­di­ans bring cheer to chil­dren in need through Op­er­a­tion Christ­mas Child

Lodi News-Sentinel - - Local - By Danielle Vaughn

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.

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