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Operation Christmas Child - Relay Center Opens At Escalon Covenant
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Ready to collect the shoeboxes full of gifts for needy children around the world, Cheryl Degerman of Escalon is serving again as the Relay Center Coordinator for Operation Christmas Child, with National Collection Week running Nov. 18 through 25 at the Escalon Covenant Church. Marg Jackson/The Times

Operation Christmas Child is about to get started in full force.

The Escalon Covenant Church, 1155 Escalon Ave., serves as the regional collection site and coordinating the effort again this year is Cheryl Degerman, who said the items collected help make the holidays brighter for children across the country and the world.

National Collection Week runs from Monday, Nov. 18 through Monday, Nov. 25 and the ‘Relay Center’ for collection at Escalon Covenant will be open every day.

Last year, donors from around the region helped pack up and provide more than 750 boxes.

“I don’t really put a number on it,” Degerman said of hopes for the collection this year, adding that every box donated is one more child that will have a happier holiday. “It’s a blessing, the real joy is that we are spreading the message of Christ.”

Participants are asked to pack a shoebox full of goods for either a boy or girl, in a specific age range – from toddlers to teens – and drop it off at the Relay Center during the week. From there, the boxes will be sent off and eventually get into the hands of needy youngsters. A note is also tucked in to the shoebox letting the child know of the gift of salvation and information is provided about a 12-week Christian study program, ‘The Greatest Journey’ which, if completed, will earn the child a Bible in their native language.

“We go to 80 countries,” Degerman added of the boxes, with over 500,000 going through and completing the Bible study program over the years.

“Of those, 300,000 made professions of faith,” Degerman said of the ‘shoebox’ impact. “That’s the greatest gift of all.”

Relay Center hours for the drop off of shoe boxes are Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 18 and 19 from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.; Wednesday, Nov. 20, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.; Thursday and Friday, Nov. 21 and 22, 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.; Saturday, Nov. 23, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Sunday, Nov. 24, noon to 2 p.m. and Monday, Nov. 25, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Since international relief organization Samaritan’s Purse started Operation Christmas Child in 1993, more than 100 million boys and girls worldwide have received the boxes.

“It is such a blessing to be a part of this,” Degerman said of having the local Relay Center in Escalon again this year, noting that it is a way for people to reach out with love and touch children around the world.

Items that can be packed in the boxes range from hygiene items including hand towels, comb and brush, toothbrushes, and a bar of soap; school supplies including solar calculators, pens, erasers, colored pencils; and fun age-appropriate items such as stuffed animals for the younger recipients to puzzles and Rubik’s Cube for the older children. Hand held games, T-shirts, jewelry, a water bottle or thermos are a few other suggestions. Donors are also asked, if possible, to include $7 with each box to help pay for the shipping.

Samaritan’s Purse is based in North Carolina and there are Relay Centers across the country, with boxes having many different destinations. Donors can include a note with their name and return address, as recipients will often send a note of thanks.

Age ranges are 2- to 4-years old, 5- to 9 and 10- to 14-years old, with boxes needed for both boys and girls in those age groups.

Degerman said it’s always exciting to be at the Relay Center and see the shoeboxes come in, with a virtual wall of boxes collected by week’s end. The Escalon site serves as the collection for communities including Escalon, Riverbank, Oakdale, Ripon, Farmington, Valley Home and more.

To get involved or for more information, contact Degerman at 209-988-4262.

Brightly colored ‘Operation Christmas Child’ Shoeboxes are available at the Relay Center or simply use a regular shoebox.