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Festive Shoeboxes Carry Gifts, Messages Of Hope
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Adding a few more shoeboxes to the growing collection at Heritage Church on Saturday were project coordinator Pam Mendez, left, along with volunteers Tess Detton-Largent and Kathy Bowman. The local collection effort wrapped up Monday, Nov. 21. Marg Jackson/The Times

This year’s Operation Christmas Child effort in Escalon concluded successfully, with the last of the boxes dropped off at the collection site, Heritage Church, on Monday, Nov. 21.

Coordinator Pam Mendez, overseeing the local operation for the first time this year and a volunteer with the program for many years, said more than 1,100 boxes were donated locally.

Many church groups bring in boxes, some residents ‘adopt’ a few children and fill boxes for them, and the Sierra 4-H group in Oakdale traditionally donates to the Escalon effort as well. That, said longtime former coordinator Pam Elsholz, is because the leader of the Sierra 4-H is her “nail lady” and helps with the Escalon effort.

“They packed 53 boxes for us,” Elsholz said. “And they sent a lot of filler items to help with other boxes.”

In fact, it was a total of 1,111 boxes that left Heritage Church on Escalon Avenue on Monday bound for Manteca, where they were to be added to more from throughout the region for transport to southern California. After going through the processing center there, boxes can go to any number of locations, including some being sent overseas, to help provide a little holiday cheer for children in need.

Those taking part in the program, which is operated through Samaritan’s Purse, can choose to fill a box for a boy or girl and can also choose the age range.

Suggestions for filling the box include putting in school supplies such as pens, pencils and sharpeners, crayons and markers, coloring and picture books; some non-liquid hygiene items such as toothbrushes, washcloths and bar soap; accessories like hats, sunglasses, hair clips; toys such as yo-yos, jump ropes, toy cars; and a ‘wow’ item such as a doll, stuffed animal, musical instrument or shoes. A personal note to encourage the shoebox recipient is also welcome, along with a photo of the shoebox giver.

Many filling the shoeboxes also include a $9 donation, which helps to offset the mailing costs and some also choose to ‘follow’ their box through to its destination, to see what country it is sent to.

The Operation Christmas Child effort has been providing the shoeboxes to youngsters around the world for 25 years.

“It has gone really well this year,” said Mendez.

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Putting together another shoebox for the Operation Christmas Child effort are volunteers Pam Elsholz, left, and Martha Leer, adding small items to help insure a child has a blessed Christmas this year. Marg Jackson/The Times