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It could be the only present some children get this year. And Campbellsville residents have the opportunity to give those in need Christmas gifts by packing their kindness and love in shoeboxes of gifts.
Campbellsville University students, faculty and staff are serving as the county’s Operation Christmas Child relay station organizers.
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.
CU’s relay station, located at its Theater Arts Studio, the former Fisher Auto Parts building at 307 N. Court St. near CVS Pharmacy, is open today through next Monday. Banners and signs will be hung.
Boxes will be accepted today and Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m., on Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Sunday from 1 to 3 p.m. and Monday, Nov. 19, from 9 to 10 a.m.
After boxes are collected, they will be packed and taken to a collection center in Danville. After that, they will go to Boone, N.C., or Atlanta, Ga., where they will be processed and shipped. “It’s an opportunity to serve the children of the world,” Dr. Frank Cheatham, senior vice president of academic affairs at CU, said. “[For some] this is the only Christmas present they get.”
After being processed, boxes are delivered via several forms of transportation, said Sherry Bowen, secretary for the School of Theology at CU and assistant coordinator of CU’s relay station effort.
“They literally do transport them by camel, boat,” she said. “It’s amazing to see that.”
Dr. Ted Taylor, a professor of Christian studies at CU and the director of the university’s leadership/character development institute, is serving as relay center coordinator.
“It’s passing along faith, hope and love to children in a shoebox,” he said.
Last year, 3,806 boxes were collected in Taylor County. Taylor says this year’s goal is 5,000. And the CU campus goal is to collect 2,500, which Taylor said shows that students, faculty and staff are dedicated to helping others.
“There’s a child who was getting nothing and they get this box,” Cheatham said. “For one year, they get a Christmas present.”
Nationwide, this year’s goal is to reach 100 million shoeboxes mailed to children around the world. Since 1993, about 94 million have been sent so far.
Along with gifts, toiletries and candies, Taylor said, those packing OCC boxes can also include a religious message or letter to the recipient.
“They’re presents given to children with a gospel presentation,” Taylor said. “And I like it because it’s becoming nondenominational.”
CU’s involvement with OCC began as a servant leadership project in 2005 as part of its FIRST CLASS initiative. FIRST CLASS is a program for freshmen to introduce first-year students to the CU campus and to learn about becoming a servant leader.
“It fits,” Taylor said.
The OCC initiative also goes along with CU’s Vision 2025, its effort to prepare Christian servant leaders.
Taylor said CU collected 30 boxes its first year participating. Last year, more than 1,000 boxes were collected.
He said several students who are now involved with CU’s relay station received boxes when they were children.
They now want to give back, he said.
Taylor said the experience has helped some students change their attitude from focusing on “what about me” to
“what about them.”
“A little change in their perspective,” he said. “It’s bringing our campus together on a united project.”
Taylor said CU residence life staff set a goal of collecting 200 boxes. They already have 300, he said.
Baseball and softball players have pledged 50 boxes, he said, and admission to some games on Thursday will be free for those who bring a box.
Taylor, who is sending boxes in honor of his grandchildren, said he has been told that CU is the only school serving as a relay station.
“That’s a pretty good honor and says a lot about our school,” he said.
Bowen said she believes OCC shows children that there is hope and they aren’t forgotten.
“We’re just glad that we can be a part of it,” she said.
Those wanting to donate shoeboxes to OCC can use a shoebox or plastic container. Bowen says those who give boxes are asked to donate $7 per box to cover shipping costs. When paying the $7 online at www.samaritanspurse.org comes the ability to track boxes.
“And you can find out what country your box goes to,” she said.
Items included in boxes could be toys to school supplies to hygiene items.
“For them, a pencil, a notebook, a wash cloth, candy,” Bowen said. “They love it if you send a note, a picture.”
Taylor said some who have participated in OCC before included photos and their address along with their gifts. He said some later received letters from those who were given their box.
Items that shouldn’t be included in boxes are anything war-related, chocolates or other food items, lotions, out-of-date candies, liquids, medications, vitamins, any type of breakable items or aerosol cans.
OCC provides labels to mark the age and gender of the child who should receive the box. Bowen said CU still has some OCC boxes available for those in need of one.
She said it’s good to use plastic boxes, which the children can reuse for many purposes, such as carrying water.
“The kids love it if they’re colorful,” she said. “They’ll choose a colorful box that’s little over one that’s big.”
Cheatham said he believes CU is willing to continue organizing the relay station, if they are asked.
“It’s a good fit for us,” Taylor said.
“Everybody’s really took a real interest in it,” Bowen said.
Taylor said participating shows that the CU campus and community are dedicating to helping children not feel forgotten around the holidays.
“I just think it’s a reflection of the kind of kids we have in Campbellsville,” he said. “If they didn’t have it in their hearts ... this wouldn’t happen.”
For more information about Operation Christmas Child, call Bowen at 789-5029.