Susan Snow of La Grande prepares to wrap a shoebox filled with gifts for children that were donated to the Operation Christmas Child Shoebox program.
Residents of Union, Wallowa and Baker counties know how to leave an inspiring size 20 footprint on the lives of children throughout the world.
They do it every year through the Operation Christmas Child Shoebox program. Each year, residents of Union, Wallowa and Baker counties make a major contribution to this international program, bringing in numerous shoeboxes filled with gifts for children in third world and war-torn countries, those in places struck by natural disasters, in remote places and in other areas.
These generous Northeast Oregonians were at it again recently, bringing in 871 shoeboxes filled with gifts for children to First Christian Church of La Grande, a relay station for Operation Christmas Child Shoebox.
The boxes were filled with small toys and stuffed animals among other items. They were gift-wrapped by 25 to 30 people at a party First Christian Church conducted earlier this month. The shoeboxes from the three counties were among a total of 12,642 packed and given to the 2012 collection by individuals, groups and clubs in the Eastern Oregon and Tri-Cities area of Washington. This year’s total topped last year’s by more than 1,200.
The shoeboxes are among nine million which are expected to be donated to Operation Christmas Child Shoebox this year, said Carolynn Vaughan, the relay center coordinator at First Christian Church. Should nine million boxes be donated, Operation Christmas Child Shoebox, which started 20 years ago, will reach the 100 million milestone.
First Christian Church has been a relay station for the program since 2004. The church has been assisting the program since 2000, said Vaughan, who has been her church’s relay center coordinator since 2004.
She first became interested in getting involved in the program after watching a television program about it.
“It showed all the children it reached. It was so moving, it made me want to get involved,’’ Vaughan said.
The shoeboxes donated from Eastern Oregon and the Tri-Cities were transported to Bethel Church in Richland, Wash. The shoeboxes were checked to ensure there were no liquids, chocolate -- because it can melt -- glass or war-themed toys.
Then they were tallied, packed in large cartons, and sent to the west coast Operation Christmas Child Shoebox center near Los Angeles. The Los Angeles processing center is one of five in the United States. In Los Angeles, booklets about the story of Jesus were added, all in languages native to the countries the boxes will go to.
“We are giving the gift of love and a gospel message,” Vaughan said.
The shoeboxes from Eastern Oregon and the Tri-Cities area will soon be distributed to children in the Philippines, Peru, Panama, Mongolia and Nepal.
Some shoeboxes will be transported by canoe into towns and villages. Some of the shoeboxes may be delivered after Christmas because of logistical issues. Each year, First Christian Church in La Grande receives video recordings taken of children who received the shoeboxes the year before.
“It is really moving,’’ Vaughan said.
Anyone who like to see these videos can do so by coming to First Christian Church, 901 Ave. The church can be contacted by phone at 541-963-2623.