Operation Christmas Child will kick its Four Corners donation effort into gear Nov. 13, and drop-off locations will be open in Durango, Bayfield, Cortez, Pagosa Springs and Farmington to receive gift-filled shoe boxes through Nov. 20.
Durango is the central drop-off location for the Four Corners, which means that, on Nov. 20, all regional donations will be trucked into town, combined, then trucked to Denver to be processed, repackaged and distributed for ministry partners in recipient countries.
The region collected 4,684 shoe boxes last year, but this year's donation goal is an optimistic 6,000, said Sally Rowland, area coordinator for the Southwest.
Community members fill shoe boxes with items and drop them off during scheduled times at the location in their area. Donations will join the contribution if the items included are valid. Not everything that helps will be accepted; customs will not accept anything with an expiration date on it. For instance, no toothpaste, food, candy, seeds, etc.
Some items that people have packed in shoe boxes in the past include school supplies, clothing, shoes, shirts, underwear, socks, toys, cups, washcloths, toothbrushes, handmade items (Grace Church makes jump-ropes out of braided old shirts, for example), and fun and lovable items, such as a picture or note to the child that tells them where and who the items came from.
"Sometimes that has the biggest impact. These are children who have probably never, ever received a gift in their life," Rowland said.
Nearly 5,000 drop-off locations in the United States will accept shoe boxes for children affected by war, disease, disaster, poverty and famine. It isn't just a national effort, either - Canada, England, Germany, Austria, Finland, Australia, New Zealand and Japan have joined the outreach seen currently.
"We have relationships with more than 160 countries and each year a little over 100 of them will receive shoe boxes," Rowland said.
Operation Christmas Child has collected and delivered more than 146 million gift-filled shoe boxes, and hopes to reach 12 million children this year globally. Each processing center in the U.S. delivers donations to a different part of the world. The size and scope of the outreach, and the fact that it happens successfully every year, is downright impressive. However, one question remains: Why does Operation Christmas Child happen each year?
"Because it really makes a difference in people's lives," Rowland said. It can give those who have never been treated well another lens to view the world through, which is sometimes the most meaningful thing one person can do for another.
La Plata County will offer drop-off sites at First United Methodist Church and Calvary Presbyterian Church in downtown Bayfield.
For more information, drop-off times and location and gift suggestions, call (303) 745-9179 or visit www.samaritanspurse.org/occ.