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Operation Christmas Child collection through Nov. 24 in North Fort Myers

By Staff | Nov 16, 2008

Many local residents, including parishioners and friends of Grace United Methodist Church, work with Operation Christmas Child, the world’s largest Christmas project.

The concept is simple. A simple shoebox filled with gifts valued at around $20 can make a difference in the lives of children around the world, organizers said.

Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child, a project of the international Christian relief organization Samaritan’s Purse, has collected and hand-delivered more than 61 million shoe box gifts to kids in some 130 countries.

Local resident Jessica Cantu is a local force behind the project.

“This will be my fourth year with the project,” she said. “I just think it’s a simple thing we can do to give to children around the world who have nothing at all. It’s been so powerful for the kids who have received them.”

She, her family, friends and fellow church-goers, prepared more than 120 shoeboxes last Thursday evening alone. She recounted something she heard about the charity recently.

“There’s a story about a girl that received a box several years from Bosnia and now she’s in this country making the shoeboxes herself.”

Her shoe box gift, she noted, might be the only gift a child has ever received. “A shoe box can make a difference. It lets children know that someone really does care about them.”

Now through Nov. 24, the Grace Community Center, an outreach branch for the church, will be the official collection point for those who wish to donate a shoebox and be part of the endeavor. Located in the former Winn-Dixie at 4151 Hancock Bridge Parkway N., the drop-offs began Nov. 17 and run through the 24th from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The effort is not only a charitable effort, but a learning one for children here, said organizers.

“This is a wonderful chance to teach children in this country about generosity and compassion, and bring hope and joy to hurting children in other countries,” said Jennifer Chambers, area coordinator for Operation Christmas Child.

She said the children who benefit are children overseas who are suffering from disease, famine, war, terrorism and natural disaster.

Last year,thousands of shoe boxes filled with gifts for children were sent out from our area to children in the U.S. and around the world.