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Shoeboxes Begin The Journey Of Hope, Joy For Youngsters
Packing up shoeboxes at Heritage Church in Escalon on Saturday morning, Nov. 21 were volunteers, from left, Teresa Cabral, Pam Mendez and Martha Leer. The boxes headed to southern California on Monday, Nov. 23. Marg Jackson/The Times

While they don’t know exactly where the shoeboxes will end up, volunteers with Operation Christmas Child in Escalon know they will be gratefully accepted.

The annual Samaritan’s Purse holiday program, Operation Christmas Child, saw the collection of hundreds of shoeboxes from Escalon and the surrounding area over the past few weeks. Pam Elsholz, longtime coordinator for the effort in Escalon, said the boxes were headed out to Fullerton, in southern California, on Monday, Nov. 23 for the first leg of their journey. Eventually, each shoebox will end up in the hands of a needy child, bringing some hope and joy for the holiday season.

Elsholz said the numbers this year showed 168 boxes donated by the Heritage Church congregation in Escalon and 264 more donated from the community, either through other churches or private citizens, to total 432 boxes.

She said others may have also contributed to the local effort, but there was an option to build a shoebox online this year, which some may have chosen to do because of the convenience.

“Every box counts,” Elsholz said.

She was on the job Saturday, Nov. 23 as a small team of volunteers worked to box up items for the shoeboxes, some going to girls and some to boys, in a variety of countries around the world.

Those working the midday shift Saturday included Elsholz, Teresa Cabral, Martha Leer, Barbara Lyle and Pam Mendez.

“We pray over them on Sunday,” Elsholz said of the Heritage Church family praying that the boxes safely reach their destination and bring a smile to the recipients.

For many years, the Philippines has been the destination for boxes from this area but Elsholz said she wasn’t sure that was where they were headed this year.

“Monday, the first went to Manteca to be loaded up and then they went to Fullerton,” she explained. “They have a new processing center there that’s permanent.”

Along with being able to pack shoeboxes online, donors this year can also ‘follow’ their shoebox and see what country it goes to and when it arrives.

Small toys, toiletries, school supplies, even a few small clothing items can be packed into the boxes; age appropriate suggestions are provided and the goal is to give each child a gift to open on Christmas.

Numbers were down somewhat throughout the region, officials said, but Elsholz noted that every box will bring a smile and those that donated can be assured their gift will be remembered and appreciated for years to come.

Children in more than 100 countries around the world have benefited from the Samaritan’s Purse - Operation Christmas Child outreach effort.

Stationed at the ‘drop off table’ for shoebox donations, coordinator Pam Elsholz, left, and volunteer Barbara Lyle check some paperwork on Saturday at the Heritage Church drop off location. Marg Jackson/The Times