The season of giving is here.

The Junction City Church of the Nazarene is now collecting shoeboxes filled with gifts for Operation Christmas Child.

Chair of the JCNaz Missions Department Connie Peck, who is coordinating this year’s Operation Christmas Child effort at JCNaz, said the project was "in full swing” Monday, the first day the church was able to accept drop-offs.

Volunteers received 23 packed boxes within about 20 minutes of opening the drop-off location at the church at 1025 S. Washington St.

This is the church’s second year taking part in Operation Christmas Child.

“We kind of knew what we were doing until COVID and now everything changed,” Peck said. “We have a completely contactless drop-off option.”

People just have to drive up to the church doors, following the signs.

The shoeboxes, packed with small gifts, will be sent to children in third-world countries and sometimes to areas of the United States that are in severe economic distress, according to Peck.

“Most go to outside of our borders,” Peck said. “They also have attached with them the gospel presentation so that those children can also hear about the good news of Jesus and have opportunity to respond to the gospel. Because that’s the real purpose of Christmas is to celebrate the birth of Christ. So we are kind of the means for them getting shipped."

While many Christians enjoy packing the boxes and volunteering with the project, she has a special connection with Operation Christmas Child.

Her daughter is a missionary in Albania and has personally helped deliver the shoeboxes there.

“She was able to be in on the distribution of shoeboxes there, before we ever did it here,” Peck said. “And so it was a tremendous opportunity for us to see firsthand how it works when they receive them. So it gave us a lot more motivation to do them. So that’s been kind of fun.”

Prior to her daughter taking part in the program overseas, Peck had heard about the program but never participated in it.

“When my daughter was first in Albania and got to help distribute these, I was like ‘oh, wow, let me look into this,’” she said. “I started looking into opportunities for us to be able to, you know, do more. And that was something that definitely kept coming back on our radar. So we are in the second year of being able to do that and it’s just been huge. We’ve been able to mobilize some of the FRGs at Fort Riley, we’ve got some of the chapels as well as churches all around our area that are getting on board with us."

For Peck, it’s all about offering “children all over the world the opportunity to hear the good news of Jesus.”

COVID-19 may have changed some things about the project, but it isn’t about to stop the people responsible for it.

“Even this year, (volunteers) know that this is a desperate year and we want to make sure that these kids are able to at least get a gift and hear about Jesus,” she said. “In the midst of dark trouble in the world with COVID, we need it now more than ever.”

Last year, JCNaz collected a total of 535 shoeboxes for the project. This year, Peck hopes volunteers can exceed this number.

“We hope we at least do that many and then some,” she said.

She is unsure if they will reach that goal, because many donors are choosing to build their shoebox online on the Operation Christmas Child website.

Peck packed a shoebox herself for a child between the ages of 5 and 9. She filled the box with crayons, a coloring book, a stuffed animal and practical items such as a toothbrush, hair care supplies and water bottle.

There is a limit to what can be put in a box.

Nothing liquid can be shipped, so toothpaste, liquid soap and hand sanitizer can’t go in the boxes. Food, even hard candy, is also a no-go. Nothing war-themed or that involves guns or weapons is allowed, because many of the children live in war-torn parts of the world.

However, bar soap, shampoo bars, solid deodorant and similar hygiene items are welcome. Many people send small toys, such as balls and yo-yos.

“Just all sorts of fun things that the kids like,” Peck said.

Boxes can be packed and dropped off all this week, until next Monday.

Drop-off times are today from 4 until 6 p.m., Wednesday from 3 until 6 p.m., Thursday from 4 until 6 p.m., Friday from 5 until 7 p.m., Saturday from 9 until 11 a.m., Sunday from 5 until 7 p.m. and Monday, Nov. 23, from 9 until 11 a.m., all at JCNaz.

If someone would like a box to fill, they can request one from the church. Just stop by any time this week and pick one up, Peck said.

People can also use their own shoeboxes, if they wish.

Operation Christmas Child is a program from Samaritan’s Purse, an organization run by Franklin Graham.

See the website at www.samaritanspurse.org/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child to learn more about Operation Christmas Child and Samaritan’s Purse and to see a full list of what can and can’t be sent in these shoeboxes.

For more information about JCNaz’s effort, contact Peck at 785-210-6569.

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