ALAMEDA -- A group of Alamedans just helped ship more than 2,300 shoe boxes full of school supplies, toiletries, and toys to children in the Philippines and other sites worldwide for Christmas.
In 2014, parishioners at Central Baptist Church hope they'll be in charge of the complicated logistics system it takes to get these holiday donations to those in need.
For the program, Operation Christmas Child, volunteers go online (to www.samaritanspurse.org) and put together shoe boxes full of donated items, including items like toothbrushes. They also write a letter of support to a child in need and give $7 to cover shipping. By late November, the boxes need to be dropped off at an East Bay relay site, such as Central Baptist Church. Next, the boxes are put into cartons and taken to a larger collection center, where the donations are loaded onto trucks and moved to Southern California for sorting and shipping.
"We are now a drop-off or relay site, so it's our responsibility to get the shoe boxes to an actual collection center where the trucks are, which was in Dublin this year," said Stephen R. Jones, lead pastor. "We've applied to be a collection center next year."
That effort is demanding.
"It's a lot of work," Jones said. "We went to Dublin with a full U-Haul truck and backed it up to semi-truck, unloaded the shoe boxes and labeled things. As we were driving back at around 1 p.m., I asked another volunteer, 'Are you sure you want to apply to be a collection center? We won't be finished with the work at this time next year if we get it.' "
Jones said the satisfaction of such involvement would be worthwhile.
The church more than doubled the number of shoe boxes it collected last year.
"Some groups came to us with 50 or 100 boxes at a time," Jones said.
About 15 adult volunteers and five teenagers took care of receiving and organizing the donations before Thanksgiving, including Jones' wife, Carrie, and daughter, Sarah.
"It was really nice. We had two Sundays to collect them and the boxes were piling up at the church," the pastor said.
If Central Baptist Church is tapped as a regional collection center, it could handle 17,000 boxes of donated items next year. This year, the Dublin and Martinez collection centers handled a total of over 28,000 shoe boxes.
"It gets contagious," Jones said. "Kids get their friends at school involved, and lots of other groups reach out to donate, too. Each year, this gets bigger and bigger."
Last year, Operation Christmas Child processed 530,000 shoe boxes collected on the West Coast and Hawaii. This year, the number could jump to 855,000, organizers say. To learn more or support the program, go to www.samaritanspurse.org.