Christmas child back, looking for donations
MANISTIQUE – Operation Christmas Child has returned for the season, and one local organizer is spreading the word about the charity. This year, the infamous shoeboxes, filled with small gifts for children in need, will be collected from Nov. 12 – 18.
According to Rudy Lawrence, collection site coordinator for the Upper Peninsula, Operation Christmas Child was introduced to the area approximately 15 years ago. Looking for another charitable drive in which to participate, Lawrence and his wife stumbled across the charity while visiting their daughter in North Carolina. During the trip, the couple attended their daughter’s church, which happened to be presenting on Operation Christmas Child.
“When it got over, I leaned out to look at her (his wife) and she looked at me and it was instant,” he said. “We thought it would work well.”
In the first year the charity was in the area, Lawrence said they collected 38 shoeboxes. This number steadily increased each year, he added, with 76 boxes collected the next year, and 137 the year after that.
“Since then, it has escalated each year to last year, when we sent over 7,500 shoeboxes,” Lawrence said. “That’s a significant number … it’s pretty monumental.”
Following the increase in collections, Lawrence said the local group decided to establish their own collection site in the U.P., rather than driving the shoeboxes to Traverse City. Now Manistique serves as the collection site for the entire U.P., he added.
One reason the charity has been successful – the flexibility of donations. People can fill the shoebox with small items like a box of crayons or other school supplies, small toys, hygiene items or other general need items. Lawrence said, in most cases, the monetary value of something like a box of crayons is equal to one underprivileged family’s income for one month.
“It’s something everyone can do; it’s reasonable – you can do it in different ways,” he said. “It’s not asking for a Rolls Royce to be mini-sized to give to these kids, because these kids get nothing.”
Currently, there are 12 relay centers in the U.P., Lawrence explained, meaning locations in which donated items are gathered. From there, FedEx volunteers trucks on the last Sunday of collection week and brings shoeboxes to Manistique. Boxes are then loaded into a truck, taken to the distribution point in Minneapolis, Minn., and shipped to either foreign or domestic locations.
Most of the items in a box amount to $12-$20, Lawrence said, and are tagged for either a girl or a boy in age ranges of 2-4 years, 5-9 years, and 10-14 years old. While the charity sometimes ships boxes domestically, Lawrence said they often go to foreign locations lacking in charitable support systems.
“You have to respect the fact that, here, in our country, we have a network that takes care of that,” he said. “This doesn’t exist in other countries.”
The U.P. belongs to the Great Lakes Regent of Operation Christmas Child, which covers five states.
“Each year, we try to shoot for a goal higher than the previous year,” he said. “In the Great Lakes District, their goal was 550,000, and they beat that last year. This year, their goal is 625,000.”
Locally, shoeboxes will be distributed and collected by various churches, clubs, schools, and other social organizations, Lawrence explained. Individuals may also participate by contacting 341-5687.
The drop-off location in Manistique is Lagasco Enterprises Inc., located at 6124 W. U.S. 2. Hours of operation are Nov. 12-15, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Nov. 16-17, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., and Nov. 18, 12 – 7:30 p.m.
In Newberry, the drop off location is the Comfort Inn, located at 13954 Hwy M-28. Hours are Nov. 12-17, 7 a.m. – 9 p.m., and Nov. 18, 7 – 9 p.m. For Newberry donations, contact site coordinator Jan Goldthorpe at (906) 293-3218.
For more information on how to participate in Operation Christmas Child, visit www.samaritanspurse.org/occ.