East Philadelphia Baptist preps for Operation Christmas Child
East Philadelphia Baptist Church is just one of many groups and organizations this year taking part in the shoebox collection for Operation Christmas Child.
Operation Christmas Child started in 1993 under an organization founded by Franklin Graham called The Samaratin’s Purse, which has been bringing spiritual and physical aid to people around the world since 1970. They’ve helped victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine, with the purpose of sharing God’s love.
Shoeboxes for the children are put together through age categories of 2-4, 5-9, and 10-14. After that, they’re stuffed with gifts such as toys, a stuffed animal, a soccer ball, hygiene items, and school supplies.
Richard Brewer, the drop-off coordinator for East Philadelphia Baptist Church, said he and his wife Linda have been taking part in Operation Christmas Child for around 8 years and are full-time volunteers.
“We have part-time volunteers, and then we have volunteers that work full-time,” Brewer said. “My wife and I are part of this all-year-round.”
Brewer said this year’s Operation Christmas Child shoebox collection has been a lot more challenging due to COVID-19, but the church and organization is still pushing forward to get these shoeboxes to children in need.
“The goal this year is to reach 11 million children in over 100 countries,” he said. “Since the start of Operation Christmas Child in 1993, more than 178 million children in over 160 countries have received a shoebox, and that shoebox may be the only gift they ever receive.”
According to Brewer, once the shoeboxes are packed and ready to go, they’re taken to North Crest Baptist Church in Meridian, and then sent to the processing center in Atlanta, Georgia.
Brewer added that in the past, East Philadelphia Baptist Church usually sends out around 350 shoeboxes per year, and over 3,000 boxes are sent out from all the churches and organizations that participate in Operation Christmas Child for Neshoba County.
“Even though this year has been tough, we’re still aiming to get these boxes to the less-fortunate,” he said.
Brewer said that the church is also holding a barbecue chicken plate donation to help with the shipping fee of the shoeboxes.
“The shoeboxes have a $9 shipping fee, so the money we get from the barbecue chicken plates goes toward paying those fees,” he said.
Linda Brewer, wife of Richard Brewer and member of East Philadelphia Baptist Church with her husband for nearly 20 years, said they were looking for a mission to help with after retirement. Operation Christmas Child came up when First Presbyterian Church stopped doing the collecting, and turned it over to East Philadelphia.
“I remember starting back in 2012 or 2013 when East Philadelphia took over the collecting for First Presbyterian,” Brewer said. “We were glad to be able to do something that helps the children.”
Brewer said the kids who receive the shoeboxes will also get a booklet that talks about Jesus, and they’ll be able to enjoy their gifts while learning about Jesus’ love.
“We’ve been enjoying getting to know the people we’ve worked with and the bond we share with them,” she said. “Knowing that we’re all in this to help the children and that those children will be overjoyed to get their shoeboxes is very heartwarming.”
Brewer noted that the Operation Christmas Child packing party at the church this year was way down because of COVID, but despite the lower numbers, they’re still doing great.
“Even if the numbers are lower, we’re doing what we can to serve the Lord,” she said. “Anything we can send to these children is a success, no matter how big or small it is.”
The drop-off times for Operation Christmas Child at East Philadelphia Baptist Church start next week. Monday, Nov. 16 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 17 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 18 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 19 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday, Nov. 20 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 21 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 22 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., and Monday, Nov. 23 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
For more information about Operation Christmas Child and The Samaritan’s Purse, visit samaritanspurse.org, and call Richard Brewer at 601-416-0583.