Westside Baptist Church in Sumter begins annual shoebox gift drive


Westside Baptist Church has again opened its doors as a four-county regional collection center for an annual project to send shoeboxes filled with gifts to children in underserved countries.

Churches throughout Sumter participate in Operation Christmas Child through Westside. Craig Hill, a member of the church and the collection center's coordinator, said churches began delivering gift shoeboxes to Westside this week and that deliveries will be taken through Monday morning, he said.

Westside distributes empty shoeboxes to churches that promote the annual gift campaign. Those churches also generally collect filled shoeboxes from their members and attendees and deliver them to Westside's hub, according to Hill.

Hill said Westside does not have any more shoeboxes available for pickup, but individuals can use any regular shoebox and wrap a rubber band around it. Volunteers on site will handle final closing of shoeboxes, he added. All filled shoeboxes should be dropped off by Monday at 11 a.m. Westside Baptist Church is at 554 Pinewood Road.

Samaritan's Purse, an international Christian relief and evangelism organization and the organizer of Operation Christmas Child, takes boxes to its processing center in Charlotte, North Carolina.

From there, they will be distributed to children in more than 100 countries and territories, according to the agency.

Shoeboxes should be filled with new toys, such as dolls or soccer balls, school supplies and hygiene items, including toothbrushes and other necessities. The organization advises to not include candy, toothpaste, food, liquids, lotions and used or damaged items.

The Samaritan's Purse website, www.samaritanspurse.org, has more specific instructions on packing age-appropriate gifts, Hill said.

Call Westside Baptist at (803) 775-3484 for more information.