Stuffed bears, school supplies, toiletries and bouncy balls may seem like trinkets or stocking stuffers for U.S. children, but to children of developing nations, they could mean the world.
Churches in Killeen and Copperas Cove are aiming to collect thousands of shoe boxes full of similar items to be sent around the world to children. For many of the recipients, the shoe box of gifts will be the only thing they receive this Christmas.
Carol Davis is one of the coordinators for the donation drive known as Operation Christmas Child. A member of Skyline Baptist Church, Davis said the church has an internal goal of collecting 225 shoe boxes from its members.
But in total, the church hopes to collect more than 2,000 boxes from the local community.
First Baptist Church collection coordinator, Barbara Perrin, said her church hopes to collect more than 1,000 boxes and already has about 300 from five separate congregations in the area.
“It is just amazing to see what a small shoe box does for a child,” said Perrin.
Davis, Perrin and the other volunteers started collecting boxes Monday. They will continue to accept donations each day until Nov. 19.
Each shoe box contains a translated version of the Gospel of John, which Davis said they hope will bring children into the Christian church. “It’s a way of getting the Gospel to the children,” Davis said.
The large majority of toys are sent outside the U.S. to more than 100 countries like Guam and Mongolia, said Davis.
Operation Christmas Child seeks school supplies, hygiene items, small toys, dolls, stuffed animals and clothes.
Donors can pack those items tightly into a shoe box, and take them to the churches at 906 Trimmier Road in Killeen and 300 W. Ave. B in Copperas Cove. Donors also are asked to contribute $7 to cover shipping costs.
Kris Gauze dropped off a box of gifts tailored toward a girl 10 to 14 years old Monday full of “do dads and billy bops” like hair clips and rubber bands as well as a teddy bear.
Gauze said she chose to donate for an older child because she felt like most people would choose to give to younger children.
Margaret Williams, of Church of the Hills in Lometa, dropped off 41 boxes from her congregation at Copperas Cove location Tuesday.
“I feel like this is really a mission,” said Williams. “It teaches them about Jesus and teaches them how much somebody loves them.”
Williams’ church of about 100 people spent two months collecting the supplies for the boxes.
Volunteer and Skyline Baptist member Sis Coleman said she got involved because she loves children.
“You think when I pack this box here it might be the only thing this child gets this year, and they’re going to be so happy,” Coleman said.