Volunteers at Canby Alliance, Bethany and other local churches are again leading the charge this week to ensure millions of children receive a tangible message of hope and love this season through the work of Operation Christmas Child.
A project of the Christian international relief organization founded by Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, OCC collects and delivers colorful shoeboxes filled with toys, school supplies and hygiene items to children affected by poverty and war around the world.
As of 2022, the outreach has served more than 198 million children in 170 countries and is expecting to cross the 200 million mark soon. And, every year, at least a couple thousand of those boxes start their journeys right here in Canby.
Since 2014, Canby Alliance Church has served as an area collection site. It’s officially known as the Hazel Knopp Memorial Relay Station, named in honor of lifelong CAC member Hazel Knopp, who was involved with the church’s children’s ministry and passed away in 2007.
“Hazel’s heart was to share missionary opportunities with kids and find ways for kids to be involved,” said Susan Buck, who now leads the drop-off site. “When they asked if we would host the collection site, I asked if we could name it after Hazel because of her commitment.”
The church is a hive of activity the week before Thanksgiving, which area organizers and volunteers know as Collection Week. Buck and her team collect pre-packed shoeboxes as well as donations (toys, school supplies, money for shipping, etc.), while other volunteers pack boxes from raw materials that were donated.
Although the volunteers do not know where the boxes will end up or who will receive them, they are packed and designated with a gender and one of three age ranges (2-4, 5-9, 10-14) in mind.
Similar “packing days” take place at other churches and participating organizations, including Bethany Church, where member Kara Kenagy leads another large effort in memory of her grandmother, Ruth Fultz, another longtime OCC organizer who passed away in 2014.
Buck herself has been involved with the effort almost since its inception in 1993, long before she met Hazel Knopp or joined Canby Alliance Church. When her own children were old enough, they eagerly joined in the fun, and it became a family tradition.
“For me, it is a way of always putting giving and sharing Jesus ahead of the holiday rush,” Buck said. “I had kids and being a missionary wasn’t really an option for me, but this was being a missionary to kids around the world, without even really having to leave my home.”
Shoeboxes are being collected at Canby Alliance Church, 900 North Juniper Street, Monday through Friday, November 14-18, from 4 to 7 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, November 19 and 20, from noon to 4 p.m., and the final day, Monday, November 21, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
If you’d like to volunteer or have questions, call or text Buck at 503-931-3513. For more information about how to pack a box, participate online, donate money to help with shipping expenses or find additional drop-off locations, visit the website at sampur.se/2ITKyFC.
To hear more from Buck, see her recent interview in the Now Hear This: Canby podcast, “Episode 405: Pack In Action”:
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