PUBLISHED: 1:20 PM on Wednesday, October 12, 2005
Community reaches out to give from the heart

Courtesy photo
  Alyssa Fischer, Aaron Marble and Braden Files pack boxes to be sent to children in Russia.
Families across Southeast Alaska, coast to coast nationwide, and from 10 other countries are participating in Operation Christmas Child, which last year sent 7.8 million gift-filled shoe boxes to needy children worldwide.

People of all ages are spending time filling shoe boxes with toys, school supplies, candy, hygiene items and notes of encouragement for hurting children overseas.

Operation Christmas Child, the world's largest international children's Christmas project, will hand-deliver millions of shoe boxes to children in more than 120 countries suffering from natural disaster, disease, war, terrorism, poverty and famine.

In Southeast Alaska more than 2,800 boxes were filled last year, with 2,116 coming from Juneau.

Families, scout troops, school classes, churches, civic clubs and businesses are filling their shoe boxes this month.

The Alaskan boxes are sent to the Russian Far East every year.

"For many of these children, the shoe box will contain the first gifts they have ever received," said Justine Emerson, Southeast Alaska coordinator. "The boxes go to children in orphanages, small villages, schools for the handicapped, children living on the street, and many others who are thrilled that someone cared enough to pack a box just for them."

Suggested gifts are small toys, stuffed animals, T-shirts, baseball hats, postcards of Southeast Alaska, flashlights and batteries, school supplies and paper, hard candy, hygiene items like toothbrush and toothpaste, family photos and notes of encouragement.

Brochures with information and box labels are available at Hearthside Books, Northern Echoes and Udder Culture.

Boxes may be dropped off at Chapel by the Lake 1-5 p.m. on Nov. 13 and noon-5 p.m. on Nov. 14-18. For information, call Emerson at 586-3321.

Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child, a project of international Christian relief organization Samaritan's Purse, has hand-delivered more than 38 million shoe box gifts to youngsters in some 120 countries who have endured difficult life circumstances, such as young survivors of the horrific tsunami in Southeast Asia in 2005, school children attacked by terrorists in Beslan, Russia in 2004 and Ugandan children devastated by the HIV-AIDS pandemic in 2002.

"This is a great way, not only to bring hope and joy to a hurting child's life, but to also teach children in this country about generosity and compassion," said Jim Harrelson, international director of Operation Christmas Child.