MANKATO — Carolyn Vance has donated shoe boxes full of gifts to Operation Christmas Child before.
One year, she said, she tracked a box that was shipped to a child in the Caribbean. Another one went to a needy child in Africa.
But that’s only part of the fun she and her son, Patrick, experience while taking part in Operation Christmas Child, which involves collecting shoe boxes of gifts for children worldwide during National Collection Week, which began Monday. Vance and fellow volunteer Howard Friesen — who have volunteered at the collection center at Hilltop United Methodist Church the past several years — said much of the fun comes from receiving and packing up gifts.
“For me, it’s just about working with people and knowing you’re helping kids in other countries,” Friesen said, adding that Hilltop United got awfully busy last year when 4,200 boxes were collected.
“It was fun,” Vance said. “Tables were stacked five high with shoe boxes.”
Hilltop United Methodist Church is one of several area churches that collect items for Operation Christmas Child every year, some of which will bring their boxes to Hilltop United on Sunday to be driven to the Twin Cities.
Relay centers in Cleveland, Le Sueur, Blue Earth and Waseca also will bring their collected boxes to Hilltop at the end of collection week.
Organizer Paulette Adams said the church has been a collection site for the past decade.
People can either pack a shoe box themselves and drop it off at the church, or they can donate items small enough to fit inside a shoe box. Either volunteers at the church or the processing center in the Twin Cities will gladly pack them, Adams said.
Shoe box items are needed for both boys and girls in age groups 2-4, 5-9 and 10-14. Adams said useful items include school supplies; hygiene items, such as toothbrushes and bar soap; age-appropriate toys; and clothing.