Palestine residents joined charitable people nationwide last month to provide shoeboxes filled with toys, clothing, personal care items, and arts and crafts to millions of needy children worldwide.

Since 1970, “Samaritan's Purse,” a non-denominational, evangelical Christian organization, has helped meet the needs of victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine.

Along with delivering famine relief, responding to natural disasters, and providing medical knowledge and supplies worldwide, Samaritan’s Purse acts as a missionary organization, promoting the Christian Gospel.

Their “Operation Christmas Child” campaign, an effort to spread Christmas joy to needy children, provided 8.8 million children – many of whom have never received a gift – with a shoebox full of presents, prayer, and hope.

Donors fill a cardboard or plastic shoebox with various items, including hygiene products, toys, and games. Suggestions for what to pack are provided on the Samaritan’s Purse website.

The box, along with $9 to cover shipping and handling, is dropped off at an area collection point, where it is processed and on its way to a child in need.

Carla Jackson, regional area strategist for the Trinity River area, which covers Anderson County, has worked with Samaritan’s Purse for more than 20 years. The growth of the program and its donations have been staggering, she said.

“When I began, we processed about 40 boxes,” Jackson told the Herald-Press Wednesday. “Now, it's common to do over 2,000.”

Palestine-area residents donated more than 1,800 shoeboxes last year.

Carol Harris, a Spanish teacher for Neches Independent School District, was part of the collection team that processed the Palestine donations at the Evangelistic Temple in Palestine, where her husband, Jason, is the pastor.

“This is a great opportunity for people to share the Gospel all over the world,” Harris, 45, told the Herald-Press. “We're honored to be the donation point, but it was a community effort from people and churches all over.”

Providing personal gifts, and even personal notes, to children, rather than just cash is thrilling, said Jackson, 57.

“I've had the opportunity to travel on district trips to Ecuador and Colombia,” she said. “I'm going to Zimbabwe next.

“To see the impact of these gifts on children – many of whom live in poverty, near trash dumps, and have never received a gift before – is priceless. They know someone cares.”

For information on Samaritan's Purse and Operation Christmas Child, visit:

https://www.samaritanspurse.org/