Westside Baptist Church needs help filling boxes during Operation Christmas Child

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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 under-served countries.

Churches throughout Sumter participate in Operation Christmas Child through Westside. Craig Hill, a member of the church and the collection center's coordinator, spoke Monday after the church's grand kickoff ceremony. Churches will be delivering gift shoeboxes to Westside for a week, through Nov. 25, 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 still has about 2,000 empty shoeboxes available for other churches or individuals to pick up if they want to participate this week. Pick-ups can be made daily during. 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.

Other counties in the Santee area have their own drop-off locations before gift boxes are sent to Westside. Those counties include Clarendon, Lee and Williamsburg.

Last year, Hill said Westside collected just more than 10,000 boxes.

"We'd love to see more this year," Hill said. "These shoeboxes are being used to spread God's love to children all over the world."

Call Westside Baptist at (803) 775-3484 for more information, or visit Samaritan's Purse's web site at www.samaritanspurse.org.