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It's been called a blessing in a box. And the Taylor County community has been a part of that blessing for years.
Campbellsville University will once again serve as the community's relay station for the Operation Christmas Child effort.
OCC is a nationwide effort, coordinated through Samaritan's Purse, to give packed shoeboxes of gifts, toiletries and candies to impoverished children in several countries around the globe.
The CU collection station opens today and will stay open through next Monday.
Located at the former Fisher Auto Parts building near CVS, the station will be open today and Thursday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., tomorrow and Wednesday from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Sunday from 1 to 3 p.m. and next Monday from 9 to 11 a.m.
OCC began in 1993. That year, 28,000 shoeboxes were mailed. Last year, after 20 years, the OCC effort reached 100 million shoeboxes sent to children.
Dr. Ted Taylor, director of CU's Big Maroon Club and spearhead of the OCC effort, said anyone can participate in the OCC effort. Taylor said churches, individuals and organizations can donate money or boxes to the effort.
Last year, Taylor said, more than 5,200 shoeboxes were collected in Taylor County. This year, the goal has been upped to 7,500.
Taylor said the OCC effort continues to grow and bring the community together.
"It unites people," he said. "It unites our campus and it unites our community."
And although children receive the boxes of presents, Taylor said, everyone who participates benefits.
Taylor said CU is the only school in America to serve as a relay station. CU's involvement with OCC began 10 years ago when freshman First Class students began participating as a part of a community service effort.
"How can we partner for the gospel?" he said officials thought about.
Thirty-six boxes were collected. Last year, OCC leaders became excited when CU students collected 1,200 boxes and asked the university to operate the relay station.
"So that says a lot about CU students," Taylor said. "Our students have hearts for kids around the world."
Taylor said the OCC effort is very personal in that boxes are hand-delivered to the children.
" ... In an area of the world that needs encouragement so badly," he said. "It's so personal. You're choosing a boy or girl to bless."
Taylor said the OCC effort means a lot to his family. Each year, the Taylor family donates a box in honor of each of their five grandchildren. The cost, he said, equates to about $20 for each.
"That's a pretty powerful package for $20. That's so little really," he said. "But this is really our international family, too. For $100, look what a blessing this is for my family."
Taylor said there are many different fundraisers and programs this time of year and those who donate money have to trust that administrators use it correctly. But with OCC, he said, a person can buy items and pack them themselves.
People today can be very narcissistic and self-entitled, Taylor said.
"Just for a while, we turn from ourselves and really just try to focus on blessing a child," he said. "And there's something in doing it in a shoebox. I don't know, it's just different. It's being taken by shoes and feet to children around the world."
Those wanting to participate in OCC can bring their boxes of gifts to the relay center. Those packing boxes should choose whether their box will be for a girl or boy and for what age group, from 2 to 4, 5 to 9 or 10 to 14.
When dropping boxes off at the site, Taylor said, $7 should be paid to ship each box. But those who want to participate should know that all boxes will be shipped to the children regardless.
"No box stays here because of a lack of shipping," Taylor said.
After all boxes are collected, Taylor said, they are taken to Boone, N.C. and then shipped to other countries. Last year's boxes collected in Taylor County ended up in Africa.
The children who get the boxes will receive one in their lifetime. Some of those who have received boxes have spoken to CU students, Taylor said, about how much they appreciated it. Attempts to reach one before press time were unsuccessful.
Along with toys and hygiene items, Taylor said, those packing OCC boxes can write to the child who will receive the box. He said many of those who have received boxes have gone on to accept Christ in their life.
"It's packed with love and care," he said. "So, it's not just dropping boxes off. It's following up on these decisions with Christ by being discipled."
Taylor said CU officials have placed a lighted sign on North Columbia Avenue that will state the hours the relay station is open each day.
To find out more about how to pack boxes and to track boxes that have been mailed, visit www.samaritanspurse.org.
For more information about OCC, call Sherry Bowen at 789-5029.
If You Go
Campbellsville University will once again operate the community's Operation Christmas Child collection station.
The relay center, located at the former Fisher Auto Parts building near CVS, will open today. Hours are:
Monday, Nov. 18 - 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Nov. 19 - 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Nov. 20 - 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Thursday, Nov. 21 - 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 22 - 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 23 - 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 24 - 1 to 3 p.m.
Monday, Nov. 25 - 9 to 11 a.m.
For more information, call Sherry Bowen at 789-5029.
Favorite Shoebox Items
Soap and washcloths
Personal photos and notes
Hard plastic cups or bowls
Wooden or metal spoons
Hats and sunglasses
Simple clothes and jewelry
Balls and dolls
Simple hard candy
Musical toys and noisemakers
Cars, trains and trucks
Jump ropes, purses, backpacks
Items Not Recommended
Jolly Ranchers and gummy candy
Lip-gloss or chapstick
Flimsy or breakable toys