DOLLAR BAY - Churches throughout the Copper Country are busy preparing for collection week for Operation Christmas Child, a program through Samaritan's Purse that provides shoebox size Christmas gifts to children around the world.
Families and churches can participate in the program by filling shoeboxes with gifts and taking them to a participating church or the Copper Country relay center at Bethany Baptist Church in Dollar Bay.
Boxes can be filled with notebooks, pencils, sharpeners, solar calculators, sunglasses, soap, a toothbrush and toothpaste, small toys and candy that won't melt and can be filled for boys or girls who are 2-4 years old, 5-9 years old or 10-14 years old.
Operation Christmas Child shoebox
"For us it's basic, but for some of the kids who receive boxes, it makes a difference in them going to school and them not going to school," said Tyler Mace, local coordinator for OCC at Bethany Baptist Church.
Besides filling the box with toys and supplies, families can also write letters to the children.
"The most important part is a letter that you write to the child. There will be (missionaries) there who speak English, so a letter and photograph make a big difference," Mace said.
There is also a suggested $7 donation to help with the cost of shipping the box to the children in various countries, including Bolivia, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Philippines, Romania, Russia, Sudan and Zambia. Shoeboxes from the Upper Peninsula were shared throughout Zambia last year.
Families who want to follow their box to its final destination can scan the QR code from their OCC brochure and donate the $7 shipping fee online at samaritanspurse.org/occ. Once the boxes are shipped, families who donated online will get an email detailing the destination country of the box.
"For children opening the boxes, it's like opening up a package of love. There is a lot of joy involved," Mace said. "Some children describe it as, 'look at what my American friend gave me.'"
Churches and organizations participating in the Copper Country include Bethany Baptist Church in Dollar Bay, Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Hancock, Grace United Methodist Church in Houghton, Evangel Baptist Church in Houghton, Redeemer Free Lutheran Church in Ontonagon, North Point Church in Lake Linden, the Copper Country Christian School in Chassell and Michigan Technological University campus groups His House, CRU and InterVarsity.
Boxes filled by individuals, churches and organizations will be donated to Bethany Baptist Church during the week of Nov. 12-18 before being shipped to the collection center in Manistique.
Bethany Baptist Church will be collecting boxes from 3 to 6 p.m. Nov. 12-16, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 17 and from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Nov. 18.