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LAMBERTVILLE — Cheryl Beal says she takes her orders from God in collecting shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child.
Two years ago, Mrs. Beal felt she was told to set a goal of 300 shoe boxes.
Last year, she and members of her church, Bedford First Church of the Nazarene, put together 400 boxes.
Last weekend, the church held a packing party to finish up the 1,000 shoe boxes, each stuffed with a toy, clothing item, toiletries, and school supplies, that they collected over many months.
“We are a really small congregation and 1,000 boxes seemed pretty impossible. But I felt strongly the Lord is telling me 1,000,” said the 58-year-old grandmother, who has coordinated the collection efforts at her church for about eight years.
Her church is among the local shoe box collection sites set up during the national collection week for the faith-based program, which distributes the boxes to needy children in more than 100 countries around the world.
Each box contains a clothing item, such as a shirt, shorts, shoes, socks, or underwear, hygiene item, toy, and candy.
“Most of these kids don’t even know what gifts are. They are totally amazed when they open the box,” Mrs. Beal said.
Collection sites will open tomorrow for anyone who wants to drop off their shoe boxes. The centers in the Toledo area and times for collection are:
●Bedford First Church of the Nazarene, 7866 Douglas Rd., Lambertville — today, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.; Tuesday, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.; Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.; Thursday, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m; Friday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to noon; Sunday, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., and Monday, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
●Pilgrim Church, 1375 W. Sylvania Ave. — today, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Tuesday, 10 a.m. to noon; Wednesday and Thursday, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.; Friday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Sunday 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Monday, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
●Holland Free Methodist Church, 6605 Angola Rd. — today through Saturday, 10 a.m. to noon and Sunday, 12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.
The shoe boxes will be boxed at the churches and other collection sites and sent to eight distribution centers throughout the country, and then, using whatever means necessary — trucks, trains, airplanes, boats, bicycles, elephants, and even dog sleds — the gifts will be delivered to children worldwide. For many children, the shoe box might be their first such gift ever received.
“It’s amazing to think that small items we often take for granted in the U.S. ... can bring excitement and hope to a child living in extreme poverty overseas,” said Bonnie Freeman, regional director for the Great Lakes Area. “This simple shoe box gift is an opportunity to change a child’s life.”
Operation Christmas Child is a nonprofit organization that has reached more than 100 million children in 130 countries with holiday gifts since 1993 and hopes to collect another 9.8 million gift-filled shoe boxes this year.
“People have the opportunity to not only do the shoe boxes but the important part is the Gospel is being presented with the shoe boxes and the literally millions of children who have had the opportunity to have Jesus as savior,” Mrs. Beal said. “These boxes are life-saving for the kids. It just doesn’t meet a physical need for a short time but it meets a spiritual need.”
Mrs. Beal’s church has come up with the $7 shipping cost for each box through donations and fund-raisers.
She and her husband, Joe, provided items such as soap, toothbrushes, combs, pencils, coloring books, crayons, notebooks, and candy for more than 100 shoe boxes in this year’s shipment.
The couple began searching for bargains at stores in April to find the items and Mrs. Beal baked and sold nearly 80 cakes to raise $1,900 toward shipping costs.
“I watched for sales and grabbed items throughout the year,” she said.
For more information on Operation Christmas Child visit samaritanspurse.org or call 1-800-567-8580.