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Local area kicks off shoe box drive

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

The goal is to collect 6,200 shoe boxes at Pinecrest Baptist Church, in McDonough, among the more than 25,000 in anticipated collections, from churches around the Southern Crescent.

Across the Southeast region, organizers with the Operation Christmas Child (OCC) project are hoping to collect upwards of 620,000 shoe boxes.

The OCC project is an international Christian relief and evangelism ministry, coordinated through the Boone, N.C.-based, nondenominational organization, known as Samaritan's Purse.

It allows churches and community groups to collect shoe boxes, filled with school supplies, toys, clothing and personal hygiene products, that will be sent to needy children in countries suffering from natural disaster, war, terrorism, disease, famine and poverty, said Gabe Walker, OCC's regional manager for the Southeast, which includes Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi.

Walker said the ultimate goal for OCC, for this year, is to collect 8.5 million shoe boxes from the United States, and 11 other participating countries, to be delivered to needy areas of the world.

"The project [established in 1993] is growing, especially in the McDonough area," said Walker. "It's really encouraging to see the awareness grow."

Since its inception, the OCC project has delivered more than 77 million gift-filled shoe boxes to needy children in some 130 countries. Walker said about a dozen churches throughout a nine-county area, south of Atlanta, will participate in the OCC National Collection Week, Nov. 15-22.

The regional manager added that his involvement with OCC began as a volunteer in 2003, when he was a youth pastor at Salem Baptist Church in McDonough.

"It's a very simple way to, not only help children around the world, but also to spread the gospel," he said. "It means the world to children who are in desperate situations and, in many cases, have nothing."

Jim English, a member of McDonough's Pinecrest Baptist Church, said he has volunteered for the past two years, packing shoe boxes for children in impoverished circumstances.

"I've traveled overseas, and I've seen kids who have absolutely nothing," said English, noting his first-hand experiences on mission trips abroad.

"To give these kids hope and to show them that someone is thinking about them, that's why we do it," he continued. "And they get to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. That's why we do it."

English's church will serve as both a relay (donation) center, and a collection point for this year's OCC project. His role will be as OCC's relay center coordinator at Pinecrest Baptist Church, as well as its McDonough-area collection center coordinator.

Pinecrest Baptist Church will collect donations of items, shoe boxes, and money, and will act as a central docking location for other churches in the area, to send their donations. Organizers noted that, once the shoe boxes leave the McDonough church, they will be sorted and sent by sea, air, and land, to reach suffering children around the world.

This year's Southern Crescent relay centers include, but are not limited to: Pinecrest Baptist Church, located at 175 Foster Drive in McDonough, (678) 432-2015; New Hope Baptist Church, at 551 New Hope Road in Fayetteville, (770) 461-4337; Smyrna Presbyterian Church, at 2920 Ga. Highway 212 S.W. in Conyers, (770) 483-8962; First Baptist Church of Locust Grove, at 2950 Tanger Blvd. in Locust Grove, (678) 333-1624; First Baptist Church, at 116 Poplar Street in Griffin, (770) 468-1676; First Baptist Church of Jonesboro, at 147 Church Street in Jonesboro, (678) 492-5092; and Stockbridge Community Church, at 4401 Ga. Hwy. 155 N. in Stockbridge, (770) 474-0084.

For additional information on how to participate in OCC, and what relay centers are nearest you, call 1-800-353-5949, or visit www.samaritanspurse.org.