Two large trailers sat in the parking lot of Salem Baptist Church for over a week.
With the help of giving donors and generous volunteers, they were ensured to leave full.
Operation Christmas Child was held at the church from November 18 through 25. Salem Baptist was one of four collection sites in the Roanoke Valley. And even though temperatures did not even reach forty degrees on the final day of the drive, the 12,000 total shoeboxes collected was enough holiday spirit to create warmth all around.
“This really allows the different people and churches in the community to come together for a common purpose,” said Billy Martin, Collections Center Coordinator. “Knowing children will receive them really makes it worth while, and gives you an appreciation for what you have.”
Operation Christmas Child is a project put on by Samaritan’s Purse, an international relief organization. Since 1993 they have delivered more than 100 million gifts to needy children worldwide. Leigh Fisher, Regional Director, was in Salem to see first hand the positive response. Stop In Food Stores took it a step further, bringing 30 of their employees to the site on the final day, donating nearly 1,500 boxes themselves. Martin also said a woman from Vinton individually donated 932 shoe boxes, but wished to remain anonymous. Those boxes contained as assortment of items for children in need throughout the world, including toiletries, hygiene products, school supplies, and toys. They are packaged together in the shoe box, and they go into larger cardboard boxes, which are ultimately assembled onto the trailers, where they are taken to Charlotte, North Carolina before being distributed throughout the globe.
Virginia State Police had about a dozen representatives on hand for the final day helping load the boxes into the trailers. They have been a part of the project for 13 years now. They loaded the cargo on a forklift provided by Homestead Material Hadnling in Roanoke, and it was delivered by Carter’s Towing. Lunch was provided by Mac and Bobs. Network Coordinator Richard Ikenberry says the turnout to help is an imperative part of what they do.
Volunteers from Operation Christmas Child gather together along with Leigh Fisher, Regional Director for the organization.
“We had over 100 volunteers”, he said. “Knowing that it’s a ministry for children overseas and seeing how the children react and the feeling they get…it puts a smile on a lot of faces.”
Martin expected about 12,000 total boxes to be shipped out. He had two trailers packed full that left on Thursday, November 21, and expected the same pair to be crammed again by the end of the day Monday. And while that’s an impressive number, he said the need never goes away.
“One thing that always stood out was going there and seeing children sharing a toothbrush or washcloth. We want to be able to give them their own to use.”