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A group of churches in DeSoto County have joined a national effort called Operation Christmas Child as drop-off points for the holiday project connected with Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse program.  

A number of DeSoto County churches are drop-off sites for Operation Christmas Child, a project with the faith-based Samaritan’s Purse program, initiated by evangelist and missionary Franklin Graham, the son of the late evangelist Billy Graham.

According to Samaritan’s Purse’s website, the list of churches includes: Heartland Church in Southaven, Longview Heights Baptist Church in Olive Branch, Parkway Baptist Church in Hernando, and First Baptist Church in Horn Lake.

During the week of Nov. 18-25, the churches will collect gift-filled shoeboxes for children in need around the world. Operation Christmas Child’s shoebox gifts included school supplies, hygiene items and fun toys for children living in poverty overseas.

County leaders in the project hope to collect 15,000 shoebox gifts to reach children in need this year. Samaritan’s Purse’s goal for its global effort this year is 11 million shoeboxes.

“We are honored to join the nationwide effort to collect gift-filled shoeboxes for children who may have never experienced the true meaning of Christmas,” said volunteer Nina Bolden, who has participated in Operation Christmas Child for several years. “Through these simple gifts and a message of hope, children learn that God loves them and has not forgotten them.”

For more information on how to participate in Operation Christmas Child or to view gift suggestions, call 662-292-1052 or visit samaritanspurse.org/occ. Participants can donate $9 per shoebox gift online through “Follow Your Box” and receive a tracking label to discover its destination. Those who prefer the convenience of online shopping can browse samaritanspurse.org/buildonline to select gifts matched to a child’s specific age and gender, then finish packing the virtual shoebox by adding a photo and personal note of encouragement.

Samaritan’s Purse, an international Christian relief and evangelism organization is headed by Franklin Graham. The mission of Operation Christmas Child is to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to children in need around the world and, together with the local church worldwide, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has collected and delivered more than 146 million gift-filled shoeboxes to children in more than 160 countries and territories.

Bob Bakken is Managing Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune.