Operation Christmas Child collections will start next week, and two local churches are acting as collection sites in St. Charles and Geneva.
During the week of Nov. 18, Hosanna! Lutheran Church in St. Charles and Rejoice Lutheran Church in Geneva will start collecting toys that will be distributed in shoe boxes to children worldwide.
Debbie Cronsell, church coordinator at Hosanna, said she hopes to top last year’s collection of just under 3,400 shoeboxes.
“The first year, we got 101 boxes, but that was before too many people knew what Operation Christmas Child was,” she said, noting that the church has been collecting shoeboxes for nine years. “Then we more than doubled it, and more than doubled it again. ... We’d like to hope every year we’ll get more.”
Cronsell said through the years, other churches, groups such as Boy and Girl Scouts, sports teams and schools have been involved in giving items for the weeklong collection. She said once boxes are collected, they’re taken to a warehouse in West Chicago before heading to Minneapolis to be distributed worldwide.
Items can be dropped off with or without a shoebox, Cronsell said.
The shoeboxes are distributed to children in three age groups for children ages 3 to 14. She said many people pack colored pencils and crayons, while others include candies that won’t melt, toothbrushes, soap and washcloths.
All of the shoeboxes include a small booklet that explains Christmas to children who may not be familiar with the holiday. The booklet is in each child’s native language, Cronsell said.
“A lot of the places [the shoeboxes] go are places where they don’t know anything about what Christmas is or Christianity,” she said. “They may never have received a Christmas gift before. It’s an even bigger gift for them to learn something, that Christmas is not just about giving presents. It’s more about what’s behind Christmas than getting a gift you like.”
National Collection Week for Operation Christmas Child is from Monday to Nov. 25. The goal nationwide is to collect 9.8 million gift-filled shoeboxes this year, according to a news release from the organization.
Locally, shoeboxes and gifts can be dropped off at Hosanna! Lutheran Church, 39W925 Red Gate Road, St. Charles, and at Rejoice Lutheran Church, 0N377 N. Mill Creek Drive, Geneva.
Collection hours at Hosanna Lutheran Church are from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday; 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday; 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday; 2 to 5 p.m. Nov. 21; 3 to 6 p.m. Nov. 22; 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 23; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 24; and 9 a.m. to noon Nov. 25.
Collection hours at Rejoice Lutheran Church are from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday; 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday; 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday; 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 21; 1 to 5 p.m. Nov. 22; 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Nov. 23; 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 24; and 9 a.m. to noon Nov. 25.