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Send cheer around the world this year

Sears doesn’t bother sending its annual Christmas wish book to most of the world.

And that’s not because the people of the world can just read it online.

No, most of the world won’t be buying in bulk from Sears this holiday season, and many of the world’s children won’t have a very merry Christmas.

Christmas — whether it’s celebrated in their community or not — will be just like any other day for millions of children worldwide.

It will be a day of hunger, fear and uncertainty.

Don’t worry, you aren’t reading the newspaper version of a Save the Children commercial, and I’m not applying to be the new Sally Struthers or Alan Sader.

But maybe I do have one of those “for less than a dollar a day” pitches coming.

My first exposure to Operation Christmas Child was four or five years ago at Parkway Baptist Church.

The children’s program with which I assist at the church devoted a night to packing shoeboxes as full as possible with toys, goodies and hygiene items for children around the world.

Since then, the project has grown at our church and at dozens of others in the region and across the country.

Last year more than 8 million shoeboxes jam packed with Christmas cheer were sent overseas.

At the local drop-off location 1,430 boxes were prepared and sent off.

Yet, some children still got nothing.

Operation Christmas Child is a project of Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian organization headed by Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham.

The project aims to send shoeboxes of small, but plentiful, gifts to children who might not have otherwise received anything.

Videos at www.samaritanspurse.org prove that the toys elicit untold joy for millions of children.

That itself is reason enough to head down to the local dollar store and buy enough goodies to pack a box crammed full.

But much more important to the organization and those of us who pack the boxes is the door the toys open.

Each box comes with a booklet sharing the true message of Christmas — in the appropriate language — and missionaries in each country are given the opportunity to tell children about Jesus.

It’s a gift far more important than a pink, stuffed bear.

Hundreds of Miss-Lou residents have already packed a shoebox this year for a needy child overseas; in fact, the members of Highland Baptist Church packed 500 boxes.

But there’s still time to pack more.

Parkway is serving as the area’s drop-off site, and will be open to accept boxes from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Saturday, 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday and from 8 to 9 a.m. Monday.

From there, the boxes will go to McComb, Atlanta, and ultimately around the world.

Any old shoebox will work, though some local churches have pre-made boxes available. Those small plastic storage containers that are roughly the size of a shoebox are also accepted.

If you wrap your box, wrap the lid separately, so the box can be opened before it is shipped.

Include hygiene items — toothbrushes and toothpaste, soap, etc. — small toys and goodies, school supplies and hard candy. Cram it full, if you can, since this may be the only gift your child receives.

If you include a small note with your address they may write back.

For more info visit www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/OCC. Christmas can be merry without Sears after all.

Julie Cooper is the managing editor of The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at 601-445-3551 or julie.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.