Photo by Charity Maness/Fall River County Herald Star
Malisa Niles, Shoebox Christmas central drop off coordinator, stands before a display of Christmas shoeboxes just waiting to be filled
By Charity Maness
HOT SPRINGS – Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child has begun in Fall River County with multiple churches throughout the county participating in the Shoebox Christmas created to reach children around the world with love and the word of God.
Started in 1993, the program was designed to not only share the message of the season but also to bring Christmas joy to youth around the world by filling shoeboxes with toys, toiletries and more to gift to children in need.
“We collected 322 boxes last year,” said Malisa Niles, Operation Christmas Child – Shoebox Christmas central drop off coordinator with Southern Hills Evangelical Free Church. “We hope to collect 400 this year.”
That number doesn’t seem too out of reach as the collection in 2021 was 250. With the numbers growing yearly, the impact our county is making in the lives of children in need around the world is growing too.
Niles has committed to this program for more than a decade, knowing in her heart of hearts that every box collected is a special gift to a child; a gift just for them.
The shoeboxes can be packed with socks, toothbrushes, crayons, yo-yo’s, shoes, stuffed animals and more. Enclosing a hand written note is also welcome.
Boxes are designated by age and gender: boy or girl, 2-4 years, 5-9 years and 10-14 years.
If you would like to participate in Shoebox Christmas you can fill your own shoebox with fun items for a child or pick up a Christmas Shoebox at Southern Hills Evangelical Free Church on University in Hot Springs across from the High School.
The final collection day will be Nov. 20.
This year a group from Hot Springs will head to Denver with the boxes collected to the processing center.
“We will work a couple of shifts and see how our boxes are processed,” said Niles.
With more 100 million boxes collected worldwide this task can be daunting and rewarding at the same time.
“Last year all our boxes went to Mexico,” said Niles, “this year, we just don’t know.”
But no matter where they go Niles is warmed with the knowledge of the lives our community will touch with a simple shoebox.
For more information on how to get a box, what to pack, or how to help, call Malisa Niles at 605-745-6687. Or visit one of the many local participating churches: United Churches, Edgemont Baptist, Living Outreach Church, Southern Hills E-Free, Joy Community, and Hot Springs School Federation of Christian Athletes.
For more information on Operation Christmas Child visit samaritanspurse.org/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child/