Christmas in a shoebox

On the morning of Dec. 25, children across the United States will wake up, run downstairs and tear into the bounty left for them under the Christmas tree.

But for many children around the world, Christmas is just another day -- no fancy dinner, no parties, no tree, no presents.

That's where Operation Christmas Child comes in. The organization, which will hold its annual collection drive this week, makes sure every year that at least some of those children do get gifts.

For those lucky children, Christmas comes in a shoebox.

Goal: Eight million boxes

Operation Christmas Child was founded in 1993 by Samaritan's Purse, an international Christian relief organization. Since that time, 61 million gift boxes have been delivered to children in 130 countries.

The mission of Operation Christmas Child (OCC) is "to demonstrate God's love in a tangible way to needy children around the world, and together with the local church worldwide, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ," according to the organization's web site.

The organization carries out that mission by collecting shoeboxes or other small containers filled with gifts -- toys, toiletries, school supplies and more -- and shipping them off to countries around the globe, countries ravaged by natural disasters, war, terrorism, disease, famine and poverty. This year, OCC hopes to collect 8 million boxes from five countries worldwide.

The boxes provide a gift for children who might never have gotten one before.

"This may be the only gift they receive in their entire lives," said Glennifer Mosher, collection coordinator for the Liverpool collection center at Redeemer Evangelical Covenant Church on Morgan Road.

"It's an eye-opener and a heart-opener when you hear that," said Dominick Palumbo, coordinator for the five counties that make up the Central New York district. "It's amazing what these boxes do."

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