Christmas in a box

Published 1:02 am Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Beverly Laurant and Diane Lazarus, in the background, prepare shoeboxes to be sent to needy children around the world, at the drop-off location at Parkway Baptist Church in Natchez Tuesday. The location will be open for drop-offs through Monday.

NATCHEZ — A team stationed at Parkway Baptist Church is packing crates full of boxes containing personal care items, toys, school supplies and a message of salvation.

Operation Christmas Child, an international ministry of Samaritan’s Purse, gets toys and much-needed items to needy children in countries across the world.

Miss-Lou churches, organizations, businesses and individuals still have an opportunity to get in on the action through Monday. The drop-off point for the Miss-Lou is at Parkway Baptist Church in Natchez.

Boxes are already beginning to stack up at the drop-off location at Parkway Baptist Church in Natchez.

Church member Pat Davis dropped off a shoebox full of personal products and school supplies Tuesday. Davis said she also includes a small toy, depending on if the box is for a girl or boy.

“I love to know children are getting to hear the gospel of Christ,” Davis said. “They have so little, and we have so much. What a great opportunity this is to give.”

The team stressed how important school supplies are to the recipients of the boxes. Coordinator Diane Lazarus said she heard the story of a girl who used the same notebook for three years. To reuse the pages, she repeatedly erased what was written, but not with an eraser.

“She erased with a rubber band,” Lazarus said. “From then on, I always sent school supplies.”

The teams said the most common items packed in boxes so far include T-shirts, socks, school supplies, costume jewelry, sunglasses, toys and personal care products. A book is included in each box, which tells the story of salvation printed in 60 different languages.

Volunteer Beverly Laurant said by being involved, she feels like she is following one of God’s instructions.

“The word of God tells us to go and make disciples,” Laurant said. “Well I can’t go, but I can pack boxes and go that way. When you hear how God touches lives and meets needs (through this program), it makes you want to pack more and more.”

Laurant noted that while it is vital to take care of needy members of our own communities first, it is also important to spread the message of Christ throughout the world.

“The poorest of us are richer than them,” Laurant said.

Volunteer Brenda Deer said for the poorest of us at home, boxes can be filled on a budget.

“I am the Dirt Cheap queen,” said Deer, who has participated since the 1990s. “I’m already working on next year’s boxes.”

The volunteers suggested that school supplies can be purchased when they are marked down in July, and little things like teddy bears are inexpensive after Valentine’s Day.

The team said last year, more than 8 million boxes were sent internationally through the organization. At Parkway, 1,430 boxes were packed and sent. From Natchez the boxes are shipped to McComb — the regional drop-off location, from there boxes to go to Atlanta where they are sorted and shipped internationally.

Deer said her husband, Henry, is volunteering at a regional shipping location in Jackson.

“We went to Atlanta last year and prepared them for shipping,” Deer said. “You wouldn’t believe the sight. It’s the most wonderful experience you can have — feeling like you’re helping someone.”

Deer said this year 179 boxes were packed at her church, Emmanuel Baptist, which has a congregation of approximately 35.

Volunteers said people can use their own shoeboxes or plastic boxes, and wrap them too. Donors are also encouraged to include a letter or a photo. Sometimes thank-you letters are returned from recipients.

Donors also have the option of tracking their boxes.

“I tracked mine online,” Deer said. “Mine made it to South Africa and some (Eastern European) countries.”

Boxes need to be packed and labeled for a boy or a girl, in age categories 2 to 4, 5 to 9 to 10 to 14.

Include a $7 donation for shipping and project costs. For more information about the organization, visit www. samaritanspurse.org.

Items that should not be included are used or damaged items, war-related items (toy guns or knives), chocolate or food, out-of-date candy, liquids or lotions, medications or vitamins, breakable items or aerosol cans.

Electronic items should include extra batteries. Other acceptable items are toothbrushes and toothpaste, bar soap, combs, washcloths, hair clips, watches, flashlights, solar calculators, crayons, harmonicas, jump ropes and balls.

“We’re sitting here waiting on you,” Lazarus said.

The local drop-off location is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Saturday, 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday and from 8 to 9 a.m. Monday.

The church is located at 117 Seargent Prentiss Drive in Natchez.