Churches in the area are packing shoe boxes in support of the Samaritan’s Purse program Operation Christmas Child. The program allows area churches to provide shoe boxes filled with toys, hygiene items and school supplies for children in the U.S. and countries around the world.

The shoe boxes are collected at drop-off centers throughout the area and then sent to the recipients. Drop-off centers are collecting shoe boxes until Nov. 20 and Hebron Baptist Church of Bells is participating this year.

“We just did it with my family for a while,” Hebron activities coordinator Cindy Ferguson said. “We have been doing this since my kids were little, so probably around 12 years.”

Ferguson was pleased when the idea was introduced at her church this year.

“At our last activities meeting, Rachel Marsh mentioned something about the church being involved in Samaritan’s Purse,” Ferguson said. “Our church reacted overwhelmingly. Hebron is such a giving church. Their hearts just opened wide.”

Ferguson ordered 100 boxes and the church went to work.

“We’ve stuck pretty much to the gift suggestions they have online at Samaritan’s Purse,” Ferguson said. “Our members have had a ball with it. Our kids especially love doing this. They love shopping for the recipients and packing their boxes. We’ve gotten pretty creative, and you’d be surprised at how much you can pack into a shoe box.”

Hebron’s boxes contain socks, toothbrushes, combs, papers, pens, stickers, crayolas and water colors, and even clothes.

Ferguson stresses the importance of Operation Christmas Child when she describes the reaction on the receiving end.

“I get choked up just talking about it,” she said. “It touches my heart for us to put these boxes together and to help these kids that do not know the Lord. They don’t have anything. They get tickled over a pair of socks, a toothbrush or a hairbrush.”

Ferguson admires the Hebron response this year and the church intends to have future involvement with Samaritan’s Purse.

“We have a small church, and for people to have opened up their hearts to this organization like they have is great,” she said. “I’m impressed that we had so many who participated, and I’m hoping that next year will be even bigger and better.”

Operation Christmas Child has more than 150,000 volunteers each year. More than 146 million shoe box gifts have been delivered to children in more than 160 countries and territories, with plans to deliver another 12 million this year.