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Roberts church gears up for shoebox effort

When the kids you're buying Christmas presents for live half way around the world in conflict areas, you need to start early.

The Roberts Congregational United Church of Christ is again a site for Operation Christmas Child, a mission project of Samaritan's Purse, a global Christian aid organization.

The mission of Operation Christmas Child is simple, said Megan Frye, organizer at Roberts Congregational UCC. Shoeboxes full of toys and living supplies are sent to areas of conflict or poverty around the world and given to kids for Christmas.

Frye said she started the program in her Sunday School class about five years ago after hearing about it on a Christian radio station. The class managed to send five or six boxes that year.

Last year, the Church collected 108 boxes. This year their target is at least 112.

Samaritan's Purse has a list of things they would like for the boxes, like hygiene items, school supplies, toys and miscellaneous goodies like hard candy and sunglasses. Before the boxes are shipped, Samaritan's Purse includes a book written in language of the destination country.

The organization encourages box donors to include a personal note with the goods. Sometimes the kids who receive the present write back to the donors.

Frye said they have recieved responses a few times from their boxes. Kids usually tell stories about their lives in the letters.

The boxes make their way across the globe any way they can including by boat, camel, donkey, plane, helicopter and anything else, Frye said.

"They get in a lot of places you wouldn't think faith-based programs would get," Frye said. "Most of the places they go, this is the only gift the kids will ever receive."

New to the Church's collection is a Chili Dinner and Packing Party, set for Nov. 9 at 11:30 a.m. Proceeds from the Chili Dinner will help offset the $7 per box cost of shipping them. The public is welcome to attend.

Frye said packing the boxes is an exciting step in the process.

"Kids have fun and adults have fun," she said.

After the boxes are packed, Frye and her helpers take them to the Operation Christmas Child Warehouse outside the Twin Cities.

"I've never seen so many shoeboxes in my life," Frye said of the warehouse.

Knowing the shoeboxes will make some child's day is an inspiration for Frye and others.

Frye, an admitted addict to filling shoeboxes, said she has a spot in her garage reserved for empty shoeboxes. She added that she collects items for them year round.

"When toothbrushes go on sale, they're about 17 cents, so I buy them then," she said. "It's a fun, quick, simple, easy way to make a big impact."

Frye said the small gifts in the shoeboxes can make a difference.

"It's amazing the power of a shoebox, one little gift," she said.

People interested in helping with Operation Christmas Child or donating to the shipping costs can call Megan Frye at 688-6779 or Roberts Congregational UCC at 749-3225.