Still Time To Give

Initial OCC Donation Numbers Down, But Officals Optimistic

Posted: December 1, 2012

HARRISONBURG - In a year that could prove to be challenging for international philanthropic organization Operation Christmas Child, central Valley-area donations are slightly down from last year.
 
But, officials organization-wide, including local volunteers, agree it’s not over yet. The numbers, they say, are actually quite promising.
 
Operation Christmas Child, a project by Boone, N.C.-based Christian relief organization Samaritan’s Purse, has sent more than 8.2 million shoeboxes, packed with everyday essentials and toys, to needy children in nearly 110 countries.
 
So far this year, 15,385 shoeboxes have been collected from the central Valley collection area, which covers Toms Brook to Buena Vista.
 
Last year, volunteers in the area collected 15,474 boxes, but local helpers said recent changes in the boundaries of the central Valley area and Hurricane Sandy relief efforts likely account for the difference.
 
A Luray collection point that was included in the Central Valley area for years was moved to another district this time around, according to local project spokesman Dave Eshleman. Two new collection spots in the western part of Virginia were added to the local district: Hot Springs and McDowell.
 
Rachael Mills, media relations manager for Operation Christmas Child, said the total from all areas likely won’t be available until Jan. 1, namely because people are still donating money for shoeboxes online.
 
But she’s already noticed a trend elsewhere that hints at a good outcome for this year.
 
Despite severe devastation in Joplin, Mo., due to a tornado that struck the area last year, shoebox numbers from the area jumped dramatically from 6,587 in 2010 to 12,520 in 2011, Mills noted.
 
Joplin has contributed 34 percent more boxes — 16,803 total — this year.
 
Project leaders are hoping to see a similar increase in donations out of the Northeast despite recent extreme weather that left some of the drop-off locations without power for some time.
 
What’s also promising is that local numbers of shoeboxes and volunteers continue to rise in general, according to area coordinator Kim Wilkins.
 
“I have seen an increase in the number of churches that participate every year,” she said. “The message is getting out there, and the passion is getting out there for answering the call to minister to children all over the world.”
 
Wilkins became involved with the project when, in 1993, Operation Christmas Child leaders asked the Harrisonburg telemarketing company she was working for to call local churches requesting participation.
 
“I packed my first box that year,” she said. “I only did one. …  Then the passion caught on.”
 
She got her church, Broadway Baptist, involved and started going to project meetings.
 
“The rest is history,” she said.
 
During her 5-year tenure as area coordinator, she’s visited the Charlotte, N.C., processing center four times and the Dominican Republic — where many boxes are sent — once.
 
“The reception from other countries …  was amazing to see,” she said. “After that, the passion has grown exponentially for me.”
 
To build a box online, visit www.samaritanspurse.org and click “Operation Christmas Child” under the “What We Do” tab.
 
For more on local efforts, visit www.occsva.org.
 

Contact Candace Sipos at 574-6275 or csipos@dnronline.com.
 


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