Send Christmas joy to underprivileged children through a shoebox

Published 12:15 am Wednesday, November 8, 2017

LAPLACE — This month, St. John the Baptist Parish residents are invited to donate shoeboxes filled with toys and necessities to benefit underprivileged children around the world who may have never experienced the spirit of Christmas.

First Baptist Church in LaPlace is accepting shoebox donations Nov. 13-20 in association with Operation Christmas Child, a national Samaritan’s Purse project dedicated to brightening the lives of children affected by war, disease, disaster, poverty and famine.

Drop-off times can be found online at along with a list of other drop-off locations in the New Orleans area.

Individuals are welcome to donate, and local churches are invited to host their own Operation Christmas Child drives and deliver shoeboxes to First Baptist Church prior to Nov. 20 at 10 a.m., according to Nancy Holley, project coordinator.

Shoeboxes will be delivered to boys and girls 2 to 14 years old in more than 130 countries worldwide and can include fun toys, hygiene items and school supplies.

Inflatable soccer balls with pumps, stuffed animals, Hot Wheels cars, crayons, socks, shoes and T-shirts are popular, Holley said.

Several items can be included in shoeboxes, but candy, toothpaste, perishable food and war-related toys are off-limits due to transportation and cultural concerns, she said.

Those who donate clothing are advised to refrain from including winter coats, according to Holley, because many shoeboxes go to countries with warm climates.

Any shoebox will do, but specially marked Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes can be picked up at First Baptist Church, 120 Ormond Blvd.

Additionally, participants can go online to to pay a highly recommended $9 shipping fee and receive a tracking label to print out and place on the shoebox, Holley said. An email update in late January will reveal which country the box was shipped to.

Last year, Holley’s donation went to the nation of Chad in Africa.

Other shoeboxes collected in the New Orleans area were shipped to the Philippines, the Central African Republic, the Middle East and Peru.

Some boxes are carried to remote villages via animals such as donkeys, Holley said.

“It’s a really good feeling to know a child is getting a shoebox,” she said. “It’s something really special and exciting for them. Some of them have never seen soccer balls and Hot Wheels.”

New Orleans Area Coordinator Rita Hanson said those who donate may include a personalized note to a child along with a picture of themselves or their family.

There are also options to select items and create a shoebox online, Hanson said.

Shoeboxes from all drop-off locations will be transferred to New Orleans Baptist Seminary Nov. 20, where they will be loaded into a semitruck and delivered to either Dallas or Georgia to be sorted and sent around the globe.

Last year, 10,210 shoeboxes were collected from regional drop-off sites, including First Baptist Church in LaPlace, Hanson said, and her personal goal is to collect 15,000 this year.

She said Samaritan’s Purse aims to reach 12 million children worldwide this holiday season, and the gifts often make a lasting impression on the children on the receiving end.

Hanson became involved with Operation Christmas Child after hearing a radio ad in 2009. In the years since, she’s taken the reins of the project and has raised awareness for it by speaking at churches around the region.

“I saw all the volunteers loading boxes that first year, and I was really impressed,” Hanson said. “I was really excited.”

She said she enjoys watching people become inspired by giving to others.

“The most rewarding part is seeing people come in after hearing about it from articles or on the radio,” Hanson said. “It’s seeing the Holy Spirit work in people’s lives.”

Operation Christmas Child is only one project directed by Samaritan’s Purse, a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization that also provides disaster relief assistance and marriage counseling for military families, among other projects.

Hanson said children in regions receiving shoeboxes can also partake in a 12-lesson religious outreach program called The Greatest Journey.

To find Operation Christmas Child drop-off locations and times, create a shoebox or read inspiring stories of children who have benefitted from the program, visit

To connect with local coordinators, email Hanson at or call First Baptist Church at 985-652-6219 and ask to speak to Nancy Holley.