PLATTSBURGH — A gift can come in any form, but for millions of children receiving one for the first time in their life, it will come in a shoe box from Operation Christmas Child.
The First Assembly of God Church at 164 Prospect Ave., Plattsburgh has been helping Samaritan’s Purse collect shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child since 1999, said Rita Alford, the effort’s regional director and church secretary.
Packed with school supplies, necessity items, toys, letters of encouragement and hope, Alford said, boxes are gift-wrapped and sent by any means possible to be hand-delivered by thousands of volunteers to children in more than 100 countries.
Depending on the country’s resources and customs regulations, volunteers throughout the globe utilize boat, donkey, tractor-trailer, cars and even yaks and camels to deliver the packages, which aren’t all there by Christmas, Alford said.
But to the children, that doesn’t matter.
“Many of them have never had a gift,” Alford said. “It gives a child hope.”
Hoping to hit a milestone, Alford said, Operation Christmas Child aims to reach more than 100 million shoe boxes distributed worldwide to victims of disease, famine, war, disaster and poverty since the organization began in 1993 by collecting 9 million shoe boxes this year.
“Even with that total since 1993, it still wouldn’t be enough for every child in India under 14 years old to receive a gift,” she said.
SAW THE JOY
During a volunteer trip to hand out the boxes in 2009, Alford witnessed first-hand the impact the packages had on the children.
“I had the privilege to travel to the Dominican Republican, and the joy on their faces is indescribable. When you go to places like that you are so humbled by how much we have and how little they have. The smile and joy stays with you forever,” Alford said.