Bayonne resident Andrea Powers and her family got involved with Operation Christmas Child even before her church did, seeking to find a way to help kids in as many as 130 countries.
The program, run by Samaritan’s Purse, usually works with local churches and ministry partners to deliver shoeboxes full of items kids need in places outside the United States.
“I didn’t even know there were that many countries in the world until I got involved with this program,” Powers said.
Samaritan’s Purse was founded in 1970 after founder Robert Pierce visited poor children on the Korean island of Kojedo.
The mission for this organization was to meet emergency needs in crisis areas through existing evangelical mission agencies and national churches. Founded in 1993, Operation Christmas Child—an extension of this mission—has delivered shoeboxes full of goods to more than 100 million needy children worldwide.
Powers said her family got involved around eight years ago, but usually had to travel to somewhat remote locations to deliver the boxes she and her family packed.
She eventually got her parish to host a local drop-off center, which then began an outreach program to collect goods for the boxes. This is a mission with a purpose, one that involves evangelism in delivering the word of God, but also delivers practical items that help make the lives of poor children better.
“Last year, the international delivered more than nine million shoeboxes,” Powers said.
A resident of the area for about four years, Powers is originally from New York City, where she initially got involved with the program.
This is the first year her church—the Christian Church of Bayonne—has been involved, even though the project has become a kind of Christmas tradition for her and her family.
“My kids started packing the shoeboxes since they were very little and now they look forward to it,” Powers said. “We know we’re doing a good thing.”
Powers and her children have seen videos of kids opening the shoeboxes in other lands.
“These show us how other people live and what they need, and how blessed we are,” she said. “For us it is not that big a deal; for them it is something very special.”
The program is designed to provide school supplies that kids in many of these countries lack. Many kids in these countries, Powers said, head off to school without those things that most people in the United States take for granted, although the program runs year round. Volunteers pack shoeboxes with a variety of items that include small toys, school supplies, hygiene items, and notes of encouragement from donors. The northern New Jersey area collected more than 22,000 shoebox gifts in 2012.
The process is simple and starts with an empty shoebox (standard size) or a small plastic container.
“You get to decide if you want the box for a boy or a girl,” Powers said. “There are three age groups: two to four, five to nine, or ten to fourteen.”
Boxes should be labeled with both age group and sex. Donations should also include $7 to cover the cost of shipping, and the box should be dropped off at the church.
“You have to keep your eyes open and be intentional,” said Kimberly Castellano, Northern New Jersey Community Relations Team Member. “I’ve been watching sales and emailing friends about good deals. I found crayons, gloves, and hats for 25 cents.”
Christian church of Bayonne is at 131-133 West 24th Street, near Avenue A. For more information go to the church’s website http://thechristianchurchofbayonne.com/.
Al Sullivan may be reached at email@example.com.