ANTIOCH -- James Hayes knows what it's like to be a homeless child who receives a box with a few personal necessities and holiday toys. What matters isn't what fills the box, but the idea that somebody took the time to fill it.
"It's not about the gift," said Hayes as he worked the Antioch Church on the Rock Operation Christmas Child donation center. "It's about the love, the compassion and the understanding that went into that box."
The Church on the Rock, 50 Walton Lane, is collecting shoeboxes filled with gifts for needy foreign children through the weekend. Two dozen local churches will bring their own collected shoeboxes to the Antioch church by Sunday, but anyone can drop off a packed box. The collection center is opened daily through Sunday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.. Last-minute givers can drop off a package Monday between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. as the church finishes packing cartons headed for a regional pickup site in Dublin.
Here's how to donate:
1. Choose a plastic or cardboard shoebox (standard size, please.)
2. Choose a boy or girl and age group (2-4, 5-9, 10-14.)
3. Pack with toiletries, small toys and stuffed animals, school supplies and hard candies.
4. If possible, add $7 in cash or a check to help pay shipping. Just put it in the box near the top.
5. Include a note and/or photo if you would like.
6. Wrap the box if you would like, but wrap the lid and box separately so packers can check contents for travel-appropriate goodies.
7. Drop off at Antioch Church on the Rock, where volunteers will help you affix the appropriate label.
Church on the Rock members are hoping to send more than 3,000 boxes to the regional center to join an anticipated 100 million boxes to be shipped around the world through the nonprofit Samaritan's Purse run by Franklin Graham, the son of the Rev. Billy Graham.
Cyndi Minard, coordinator of the Dublin Collection center for the boxes, is hoping to send 26,000 boxes from the East Bay and Tri-Valley areas. Collection happens over a short eight days, she said.
"It's huge," she said.
Each shoebox includes a bible in the child's language. Younger children receive Christian themed coloring books. You need not belong to a local church to donate, however. Families can bring in one box if they like.
"The more the merrier as far as we're concerned," said Starr Connally, a volunteer at Church on the Rock. The church offers cardboard boxes that donors can take and pack, but Connally prefers plastic shoeboxes herself. "The kids can reuse those boxes."
Hayes suggests warm clothing such as hats, scarves and gloves because many of East County's boxes go to cold weather places such as China, Nepal and Indonesia. He also encourages donors to pack a box for a child in the 10-14 age category. That's the group that gets the least amount of donations.
Clothing and school supplies are a good idea for the boys in the 10-14 category. Girls will appreciate hair care items (but please no liquids, lotions or anything that might melt.) Skip the squirt guns, Hayes said.
"We really encourage them not to put water guns in there or anything that would be considered a weapon," he said.
It's also best to skip electrical or battery operated items, as those are not always useful in the areas where boxes are shipped, Connally added. And if you pack pencils, be sure to add a sharpener.
Many children receiving the boxes will be glad to get simple essentials. For Hayes, the gift is as much about recognizing the very real needs of children in areas often torn by war or natural disasters. A pair of socks can mean a lot to those children.
"We're serving the world as it is," he said.
What: Operation Christmas Child: Drop off a shoebox packed with essentials and toys that will be shipped to needy children around the world.
When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Sunday; 9 to 10 a.m. Monday
Where: Antioch Church on the Rock, 50 Walton Lane, Antioch
Info: 925-753-0542 or www.samaritanspurse.org