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Program brings Christmas to the world's children

By Linda Sailer

Everyone has the opportunity to bring Christmas to a small child living in a Third World country through the simple gift of a shoebox filled with a few toys, school supplies and hygiene items.

Jodeen Myers from St. John Lutheran Church is spreading the word about Operation Christmas Child to families, churches, civic groups, schools and businesses.

“Every box is a box of joy, hope and a smile for a child living with war, poverty, natural disaster or disease,” she said.

The concept is simple. Pick up a red and green shoebox at St. John Lutheran Church in Dickinson. Fill it with small toys, school supplies, hygiene items and maybe a note to the child and photo of yourself or family.

Return the shoe box to St. John the week of Sunday, Nov. 17, for shipment to the region’s four assigned countries: Kenya, Madagascar, Zambia and India.

Last year, Operation Christmas Child collected 1,103 shoeboxes in southwest North Dakota.

Myers has set a goal of 1,300 for this year’s collection.

“I know it’s a lofty goal, but we have new folks in town from other states who have never heard of the outreach ministry,” she said.

The ministry is sponsored by Samaritan’s Purse, headed by Franklin Graham, president and CEO of the board. Started in 1993, Operation Christmas Child has collected more than 100 million shoeboxes for distribution around the world.

“If you line up the shoe boxes, they would span more than 20,000 miles, almost enough to circle the globe,” she said.

Myers introduced the program to Dickinson in 2006.

“I’d say the first year we collected several hundred,” she said. “It’s grown every year. It’s been fun to see the progression as a lot of the smaller communities are participating.”

The Roughrider Country Kiwanis Club of Dickinson has been a long-time supporter of the program, with Diane Melbye as group’s coordinator.

“It’s a good fit for Kiwanis,” Melbye said. “We are all about children. ... Think globally but act locally. It’s what we can do from our local group to support global missions.”

Melbye recently gave a presentation about the program to her friends with the Dickinson Rotary Club. The club responded to her invitation by giving a donation to fill 15 boxes, she said.

The fun continues, as she’s now inviting the Kiwanis members to match or exceed their 16 boxes from last year.

The need for shoeboxes continues to increase as more foreign countries are allowing Samaritan’s Purse to distribute them, Myers said.

“They will make a huge impact on another child in a country thousands of miles away,” she said. “The children may never have received a gift before.”

Myers will take the donated shoeboxes to Bismarck, then to Minneapolis for shipment overseas.

“They go by plane, trucks, boats and bikes,” she said. “I’ve even seen camels and elephants with boxes strapped to the sides.”

If the red and green boxes are depleted, families may use a regular shoebox, or better yet, a plastic shoebox that can be reused.

If unable to shop for the items, the public may make a donation for shipment. It costs $7 per box for shipping. Checks should be made out to Samaritan’s Purse.

For more information, contact Myers at 701-227-3506 or at the church at 701-225-6747. Promotional items can be ordered free of charge from Samaritan’s Purse website at www.samaritanpurse.org.

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