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Operation Christmas Child kicks off

Pieces of Oxford will soon travel around the world through Operation Christmas Child.

Local coordinator Mae Stone said the effort brings joy and hope to millions of children around the world through gift-filled shoe boxes. This week is the group’s gift drop-off blitz.

“Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has delivered over 124 million gift-filled shoe boxes to children in over 100 countries,” Stone said. “The Oxford relay center at the Wesley Foundation collected 4,545 shoe boxes last year. Our goal this year is 6,000.”

Over 125 churches and organizations in Oxford have participated in Operation Christmas Child since residents joined the worldwide effort and began collecting shoeboxes in 2001. The effort continues to grow, Stone said, with another relay center joining the Wesley Foundation — First Baptist Church.

It allows churches to spread the gospel to places that may not have heard it, Stone said.

“It is a way I can spread the love of Jesus Christ by reaching out to children in His name,” she said. “Since 2001, the Oxford community has collected 39,971 gift-filled shoe boxes that have been delivered to children around the world.”

Beth McCullen has been the group’s area coordinator for Northeast Mississippi since February and also emphasizes the role of the church in the Christmas season for shoebox recipients.

“I consider it a privilege to serve alongside many others who have a desire to share Christ with those who have not heard,” she said. “We want these children to know that there are people who care, but more importantly, they have a savior who loves them and has not forgotten them.”

McCullen said Operation Christmas Child is a division of Samaritans Purse and offers residents opportunities to volunteer, whether big or small.

“Citizens of Oxford have many opportunities to volunteer such as packing and dropping off shoeboxes, working at one of the drop off locations, or serving as year-round volunteers,” she said. “OCC is always looking to expand the ministry and adding drop off locations is a perfect way to involve the community and expand.”

This is the group’s National Collection Week, which runs until Monday, and if interested in volunteering, contact McCullen at ehmccullen@hotmail.com.

Collection week sites

This week, until Monday, boxes will be collected at the Wesley Foundation and at First Baptist Church.

At Wesley: hours are from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. until Friday. On Sunday, noon to 2 p.m.; Monday, 9 to 11:30 a.m.

At First Baptist Church: 8 to 10 a.m. and 3 to 7 p.m. through Friday. On Sunday, 1 to 3 p.m.; Monday, 8 to 10 a.m.

Both locations will be closed on Saturday due to the Ole Miss/LSU ballgame.  For more relay center collection information, contact Tim Carter at First Baptist Church at 662-816-8338 or Mae Stone at the Wesley Foundation at 662-801-8511.