BENSON — It’s Monday afternoon and a family of four is sitting cross-legged on the floor in the First Baptist Church of Benson sanctuary packing shoe boxes with gift items.
Andrew and Sarah Ogilvie and their two daughters — Maddison, 11, and Cora, 5 — are filling the boxes with an assortment of items that will be distributed to impoverished children living in impoverished countries.
It’s part of Operation Christmas Child (OCC), an international Christian-based campaign launched in 1993 by Samaritan’s Purse. Supported by churches, civic organizations, businesses and individuals throughout the country, OCC has grown every year since its inception nearly 30 years ago.
“My husband and I have been working with Operation Christmas Child for 10 years now, and we really find this project rewarding,” Sarah said. “This year, along with all the other things we’re packing, we pushed for toothbrushes as a priority item because there are stories about whole families sharing one toothbrush. We’re packing multiple toothbrushes in the boxes so there’s enough for parents and other family members,” she said.
First Baptist held a recent packing party where 250 boxes were filled with hygiene products, school supplies, socks, shirts and a toy.
“We’re here today doing quality control, making sure the boxes are packed with an even distribution of items,” Andrew Ogilvie said. “First Baptist is the OCC collection point for Benson and surrounding areas. The goal is to collect 1,000 boxes this year.”
Benson residents and former business owners Dan and Pat Barrera are the drop-off coordinators for the Benson area location.
“This is the first year that we’ve served as coordinators, and we’re thrilled by the wonderful community support this project is receiving,” Pat Barrera said. “Several local churches have doubled the number of boxes they contributed last year. With COVID causing so many challenges, we weren’t sure what to expect.”
The Benson drop-off location includes the communities of Sunsites, Dragoon, St. David, Pomerene, J-6 and Mescal, as well as Graham and Greenlee counties.
To date 450 boxes have been collected through First Baptist Church alone, with other churches and businesses expected to follow with deliveries later this week.
“We’re hoping to hit that 1,000 goal” Pat Barrera said. “We’re especially grateful to our local Ace Hardware store for donating 144 plastic boxes for this. And Ace employees filled 29 boxes for our distribution, so the community support we’re receiving is greatly appreciated.”
The shoe boxes started arriving at First Baptist last Monday, Barrera said.
“The community can continue to drop them off until 10 a.m. Monday, November 23rd,” she added. “On Sunday, we’ll be taking two horse trailers filled with shoeboxes to the Southeast Arizona central drop-off location at Calvary Chapel, 1155 E. Wilcox Dr. in Sierra Vista.”
The Barreras are planning to travel to an OCC regional processing center in North Carolina in December where they will be preparing the boxes for international delivery. Samaritan’s Purse has set a goal of 11 million shoeboxes, with more than 100 countries benefiting from the distribution.
Along with the donated gift items, children receive a small booklet about Jesus, written in the child’s language.
“Long after the gifts in the box are gone, the children will know about the Gospel message of Jesus Christ,” said Andrew Ogilvie. “The gifts are great and the kids love receiving them, but learning about the Gospel is the most important part of this project.”