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Christmas events for kids starting soon

Christmas time is a special time for children, so it is no surprise that local groups are working to make this holiday season extra special for youngsters.

Throughout the world there are children who struggle for food and shelter. For these children a Christmas present is likely more than they dare expect. That’s where Operation Christmas Child comes in.

Operation Christmas Child is a project by a relief organization called Samaritan’s Purse, which was founded by Billy Graham. Operation Christmas Child is an opportunity for children in places affected by war, natural disaster, poverty and famine to receive Christmas shoeboxes full of gifts that could make a world of difference.

“The children these shoeboxes are going to are really the poorest of the poor. They go to the darkest places there are, where people just don’t want to go,” said area coordinator Barb Schmidt.

For this charity, standard sized shoeboxes are filled with a variety of items and then sent to these children. The shoeboxes can be filled with a mix of hard candy, dry hygiene supplies like tooth brushes, school supplies and many other items, though the group encourages that there be one item like a toy or something soft that the children can take out immediately and enjoy. These items may be shipped overseas, so beware of customs that forbid foods and liquids.

“You can put in school supplies, hygiene items. When I say those, they don’t sound very interesting, but if they have a pencil and some paper they may have the opportunity to go to school when they might not have been able to otherwise, which could be a step up out of the poverty level. Hygiene items are in high demand,” Schmidt said. “Thinking that this might be the only gift that they get, I tend to want to put toys in there, too.”

Operation Christmas Child has been operating locally for 20 years. Last year the nine-county north central Minnesota area donated 8,056 shoeboxes. The goal this year is 10,000 shoeboxes. Financial donations are also accepted to cover shipping costs as well as donations of loose “filler” items.

Official collection dates are Nov. 18-25 at the Life Center of the Riverview Church at 306 Barclay Ave. in Pine River, next to The Cottage Cafe, as well as Lakewood Evangelical Free Church in Baxter.