MANNINGTON — While many people in Marion County are preparing Christmas gifts for friends and family members, others are also preparing gifts for children around the world.
Operation Christmas Child is an international project by Samaritan's Purse that aims to provide children in third-world countries with Christmas gifts, and there are several drop off locations for gift packages in Marion County.
"You can send a tangible gift to third-world countries overseas to very, very needy children," said Deronda Efaw, who is the Operation Christmas Child coordinator for First Baptist Church in Mannington. "Most of them are either orphaned or in extreme poverty. They have no support system whatsoever; it's the most underserved children in the world."
According to Efaw, First Baptist Church has been a drop off spot for Operation Christmas Child since 2002, and she herself has packed gifts every year since. She now gets dozens of shoeboxes, so she can pack gift packages for kids of each gender in each age group.
"You pick a boy or a girl and an age group, and then you can send anything that will fit in a shoebox that's not liquid or war-related or anything like that," Efaw said. "And they ask for them to pick out one thing that is a 'Wow' item. Something such as a doll or a soccer ball with a pump, a stuffed animal or something like that."
Efaw said the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the delivery methods of the shoeboxes this year, but primarily only in the U.S. Her church will do curbside pickup of donations, rather than having people drop them off inside.
"It's going to be a little different this year, it's curbside drop off," Efaw said. "You just bring it to the drop off location and then we take it from your car and do everything right there."
She said people who are shipping boxes need to include $9 for shipping, and once they are shipped, they are delivered to kids using any method necessary.
"They are flown to the country of destination," Efaw said. "They will go in by boats, camelback, horseback; any way they can possibly get them to the children is how they get them there."
Efaw said the coronavirus pandemic has touched lives everywhere, so people in other countries have it difficult as well. She said packing gifts through Operation Christmas Child is a way for her and others to provide some kind of relief in the middle of the difficulty.
"This is such a desperate time, so I can only imagine what it's like in a third-world country where there's no support system for them," Efaw said. "This is an important time to reach those kids with the gospel, because those children are frightened and their families are struggling."
Efaw also recommends anyone who packs a shoebox include a letter or even a photo of the sender in the box, so the receiver can understand that someone who doesn't even know them cares for them.
"This is something I can do in the comfort of where I live, and try to do missionary work out in the country," Efaw said. "This is my opportunity to participate and let the children out in this world know there is hope and love for them.
"When you pack your shoebox, something the kids really enjoy is if you put a little note or letter, some people put a picture of themselves," Efaw said. "It just means so much to them to know that someone out there that they don't even know wants to share this with them and give them love and hope."
Efaw said drop off times at First Baptist Church in Mannington are from 3-6 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, and from 9 a.m.-noon Wednesday and Saturday.
Norma Rittenhouse, Operation Christmas Child coordinator for First Methodist Church, said drop off times for Central United Methodist Church in Fairmont are from 6-8 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, from 10 a.m.-noon Saturday and from 1-3 p.m. Sunday.
For more information on drop off times, call Efaw at 304-203-7263, or Rittenhouse at 304-216-3883.