This week is National Collection Week for Operation Christmas Child, a project of Samaritan's Purse, an international Christian relief and evangelism organization which provides disaster relief and aid as its primary goal.
Since the start of Operation Christmas Child in 1990, more than 168 million children in over 100 countries have received shoeboxes filled with small toys, hygiene items and school supplies as a means of reaching out to children in their own communities and teaching about Jesus Christ.
Collection week kicked off Monday and runs through next Monday.
Kathy Butler, area OCC coordinator for the Kentucky counties of Hickman, Carlisle, Ballard, McCracken, Graves, Marshall, Calloway and Livingston, and Massac County, Illinois, said the goal this year is to collect 17,888 shoeboxes in this region.
Last year the western Kentucky region collected 17,048 boxes.
"Our goal is to reach people for Christ and help those in need," Butler said. "Operation Christmas Child is a tangible way to share the love of Christ."
Many area churches host packing parties ahead of collection week.
Two hundred boxes were packed Sunday at Friendship Baptist Church in Lone Oak, one of 11 regional dropoff locations. And, in the first three days of collection week, more than 1,300 shoeboxes have been dropped off at the church.
"It's a good mission project to be involved in," said Kathy Baucum of Friendship Baptist. "For every box collected, it is the gospel shared one time and an opportunity for a child to receive salvation."
Anyone can participate by packing a shoebox with items such as toiletries, toys and hygiene items for children in need, ages 2-12, and deliver them to area drop-off locations this week. The shoeboxes are then distributed to children around the world, and also in the U.S.
Drop-off locations in McCracken County include: Friendship Baptist Church, Rickman Road Missionary Baptist Church and Southland Baptist Church.
Other Jackson Purchase drop-off locations include: Briensburg Baptist Church of Benton, Pathway Baptist Church of Calvert City, New Harmony Baptist Church of Clinton, Community Fellowship of Hickory, First Baptist Church of Fulton, Grace United Methodist of La Center, First United Methodist Church of Mayfield and Immanuel Baptist Church of Metropolis.
The western Kentucky region is part of the organization's Mid-South region, comprised of Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas. The Mid-South goal for collection week is 785,000 shoeboxes by Monday.
For more information on the location and times for local drop-offs, visit www.samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child/drop-off-locations.