Stacks of brightly colored red and green Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes filled a meeting room at the Escalon Covenant Church this past week, with the donations then boxed up, taken to Modesto’s Calvary Chapel and from there taken to southern California late Monday.
The boxes will next leave California, some headed overseas, some staying in the U.S.
Local coordinator Pam Elsholz, who was at the collection site in Escalon over parts of several days, said the effort was outstanding, with thousands of boxes going to make the holidays brighter for children that otherwise would not have any reminder of the Christmas spirit. The shoeboxes can be packed with a variety of items, from school supplies to toiletries to little gifts such as matchbox cars or stuffed animals, depending on the age of the child.
“A lot of these boxes are going to where kids don’t know about God,” Elsholz said of another aspect of the shoeboxes. “A lot of these kids don’t even know the history of it.”
Boxes this year are earmarked for children in Bangladesh, Mongolia, Peru, Indonesia, the Philippines and a Native American reservation in Arizona.
There were 11 Relay centers over the two counties, San Joaquin and Stanislaus, and Escalon’s center took in donations from areas including Ripon and Riverbank as well as Escalon and the surrounding areas.
“One church in Riverbank, they have a congregation of about 40, they brought in 102 boxes,” said Elsholz.
Working on the line Saturday morning were Elsholz, Lee McNinch and Maybelle Abplanalp, putting some of the smaller boxes into the large Samaritans’ Purse collection boxes for the trip to southern California. While they were busy, a woman came in and dropped off a ‘Benjamin’ – adding $100 to the effort, which will help defray shipping costs for the boxes.
Last year, Escalon’s Relay center sent out 883 boxes and this year, Elsholz said, they reached 1,037 from the Escalon area.
“We had 17,273 from San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties,” she said after the final totals were tallied on Monday night.
That includes the Escalon area donation and 685 collected at the Relay center in neighboring Oakdale.