Toy cars, water shoes, candy and toothbrushes were just some of the things that more than 50 Hermiston-area individuals packed into red and green shoe-sized boxes Wednesday at New Hope Community Church.

The event was part of an effort called “Operation Christmas Child” through the Samaritan’s Purse organization that has community members, churches and ministry partners pack toys, hygiene products, school supplies and more into boxes sent across the world to various countries for children in need.

New Hope is just one of several churches in the area that are participating in the project.

“It’s not just a box of stuff,” organizer Barb Wattenburger said. “There is a kid that is connected to that. We are reaching children in a way that we could never before.”

Wattenburger said the goal of the project is not only to give new supplies to children in need but also teach them about the gospel and Jesus’ love for all people.

“It isn’t just about what kids get, but as Christians, it is all about getting the gospel to the kids,” she said. “Every child gets a book about the gospel in their language ... It has been a good program for churches to be involved in.”

Volunteers at the church Wednesday took multiple boxes and filled them with an assortment of donated items church members have collected in the past several months. Wattenburger asked each person packing a box to pray for the child who will receive the package as the box was put together.

To add a more personal touch, volunteers also included a brief questionnaire with information about themselves and a picture they drew of what they look like and where they live.

“Anything that gives it a personal touch is important,” Wattenburger said. “It makes it that much more special for them.”

The boxes were then labeled for a girl or a boy and were collected to be put on display at the church for the rest of the week. The church will have a dedication for their boxes during regular services on Sunday.

Aurelio Marin, 9, said his favorite item he put into one of his boxes was a pair of sunglasses.

He said he really enjoyed the opportunity to participate in the project.

“I am having a lot of fun,” he said.

Area resident Mariah Kahler also said she thought participating in the project was a lot of fun and brought her sons to enjoy the experience.

“I think it is great,” she said. “One of the (New Hope church) members invited us, and I thought it was a great opportunity for the boys.”

Area churches have been participating in the effort for a number of years, preparing more than 1,000 boxes in recent years. Last year, they were able to send 1,024 boxes across the world. This year, the goal is 1,123 boxes.

Church member Cris Frazier said she has participated in the project for a number of years, and she appreciates the opportunity to do something good for children in need.

“It makes us think beyond ourselves,” she said. “We are doing one little thing that is a big deal for somebody else.”

For area residents who still want to participate in the project, Wattenburger said there is still time. New Hope Community Church will be accepting home-made shoe-sized packages for the next few days, which they will ship to children in need.

She said the church is accepting packages from noon to 2 p.m. today, noon to 2 p.m. Sunday and 9 a.m. to noon Monday.

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