There's a lot of love and good will wrapped into the holidays and Operation Christmas Child sends the message of caring to children thousands of miles away.
Each year, Samaritan's Purse sponsors Operation Christmas Child — an event the organization calls the world’s largest Christmas project of its kind.
The Athens Collection Center at 1700 S. Palestine St. is sponsored by One Hope Church. The center is a major contributor to the campaign. Several churches around the area take part each year with members of their congregation, young and old, helping get the presents ready.
Shelia Smith is heading up the Athens operation this year. Her husband Eddie Smith volunteers.
"Last year we had over 15,000 boxes," Eddie Smith said. "We're hoping that will increase this year."
It can get quite busy at times at the drop off point.
"I've got a trailer truck out there right now, seven carts shy of being full," Eddie Smith said. "We're going to have to get a second truck."
Curbside drop-off available at the location, not far from UT Health Athens.
Eddie Smith said he's been involved with the project for more than 10 years.
OCC reports that during National Collection Week through Nov. 23, area shoebox donors will contribute to the 2020 global goal of reaching 11 million children.
For those who are including Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts as part of their holiday, more than 4,000 drop-off sites are now open. They'll be filled with toys, hygiene items, and school supplies.
Operation Christmas Child has been collecting and delivering shoebox gifts to children worldwide for more than two decades.
OCC is a project everyone can still be part of, even with COVID-19 restrictions. There’s still time for individuals, families, and groups to transform empty shoeboxes into fun gifts. The project partners with local churches across the globe to deliver these tangible expressions of God’s love to children in need.
Here's the schedule for the One Hope Church
Monday Nov. 17 through Friday, Nov. 20: 3 p.m. to 5 p.m..
Sat. Nov. 21: 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Sun. Nov. 22: 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Mon. Nov. 23: 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.