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Group collecting items for children in need

(Source KSWO) (Source KSWO)

LAWTON, OK (KSWO) - With Christmas rapidly approaching, this week people all across Southwest Oklahoma are collecting shoe boxes full of items to deliver to kids in need all around the world.

Operation Christmas Child is a worldwide event that takes shoe boxes full of hygiene products, school supplies and toys to needy kids. This year, the organization is expected to ship off around 12-million shoe boxes, with more than 6,000 of those coming from Southwest Oklahoma.

The shoeboxes are sent everywhere imaginable, with the ones from Southwest Oklahoma being sent anywhere from Mexico to Ecuador and Guatemala to the Dominican Republic With everything going on with ISIS recently, the Middle East will also be a popular destination for the packages this year.

Tuesday, Loni Robbins of Peace Church near Indiahoma delivered 60 full shoeboxes to the Southwest Oklahoma headquarters in Lawton.

"We're offering hope and love through a shoe box and what we’re hoping is the end result of children will see they are loved and they are appreciated and that in the end, they will find Christ as their savior,” Robbins said.

Robbins and her church are just one of the several groups from the area coming together to pack boxes to send to those that she says need them the most.

"A lot of these kids live in war ravaged countries, they're living in poverty, a lot of these children don't have much,” Robbins said. “It's a small gesture that brings extraordinary results and can bring eternal results for these children. So, it's very important for us to be able to help in this small way to get this message out that there is love and there is hope for these children."

Samantha Sessums has been packing shoe boxes since she was 7 and is now the area coordinator for the Southwest Oklahoma branch of Operation Christmas Child. She says the entirety of the operation is run exclusively by volunteers, from the people packing the presents to those who travel all over the world to deliver them.

"It's hard when you're in Lawton, Oklahoma to think you are making a difference in the world but what I love about this program is I know I'm making a difference to some kid,” Sessums said. “I may not physically see it but I know when I collect a box and when I ship the box it's making a difference. Those kids are going to learn about Jesus because we packed a box for them."

Operation Christmas Child is always looking for volunteers and Sessums says she encourages anyone able to volunteer for one simple reason...the kids.

"Some of these kids never receive anything so they are excited about receiving soap or school supplies, some of the stuff we take for granted,” Sessums said. “Stuff if I was to give my nephew for Christmas he'd be like what is that but they are you know, ecstatic to receive it."

While shoeboxes are only collected for a week each holiday season, the work is not restricted to that week. At the First Baptist Church, they had an event where they packed 1,200 shoe boxes, which they had been working the entire year to collect enough materials to fill.

Operation Christmas Child will collect shoeboxes until Monday, November 21st at the First Baptist Church on B Avenue.  If you'd like to pack a few yourself, you can see suggestions on items here. They are open Wednesday through Friday from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m., Sunday from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m., and Monday from 9:30 a.m. until 2 p.m.

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