By Dawn Krebs
TREASURE COAST -- Residents of the Treasure Coast were busy in November not only stuffing turkeys, but shoeboxes, as well.
The shoeboxes are part of Operation Christmas Child. Every year, volunteers from local churches, youth groups and community clubs fill shoeboxes with toys, school supplies and more for children in need overseas.
"While the program focuses its efforts around the Christmas season, children all over the world receive these shoeboxes year round," said Paula Grossmann, area coordinator for the Treasure Coast.
Children in more than a dozen countries will receive the boxes donated here on the Treasure Coast, including those in Belize, Ecuador, Ghana, India and Madagascar. In all, children in more than 100 countries will receive the shoeboxes.
Collection sites in Fort Pierce, Stuart, Port St. Lucie and Okeechobee received approximately 14,000 shoeboxes from the community. Volunteers take the shoeboxes and place them in larger shipping boxes, where they travel to a processing center in Atlanta, one of 11 in the United States.
"Last year, the organization collected 7 million shoeboxes," Ms. Grossmann said. "This year, Operation Christmas Child will see the delivery of 100 million shoeboxes."
Ms. Grossmann is not only active in collecting the boxes, but in distributing them, as well.
"I will be traveling to Kenya at the end of April to help hand out boxes there," she said.
At the collection site in Fort Pierce, more than 900 shoeboxes were donated last year. This year, shipping cartons sat stacked by the door as a call came in that 200 more shoeboxes were on their way from donors.
"We are seeing more and more people donating," said Carolyn Swayze, a volunteer for the collection site at Indian River Presbyterian Church in Fort Pierce. "It's wonderful to see it at this level."
To learn more about Operation Christmas Child, call Ms. Grossmann at (772) 336-3663 or go online to www.samaritanspurse.org.