MENOMINEE — This time, every year, volunteers all over the country donate their time, money and physical items to children in other countries through Operation Christmas Child. Volunteers in Menominee County are also preparing to help children by supporting the local chapter of OCC.

“Operation Christmas Child is a project by Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian charity organization,” local volunteer Jessica Suchovsky said. “It brings both Christmas and the gospel to children around the world.”

“OCC is specifically for children outside the US, but Samaritan’s Purse has projects that cover a much broader field,” she added. “They’re all over the world, and here in the United States at every natural disaster and every crisis, it’s a great organization.” 

OCC focuses on giving children in poor and often war-torn countries a “shoe box” filled with Christmas presents. The presents range from personal-hygiene projects to stuffed animals.

Suchovksy said that OCC brings a Christmas-like celebration to children who do not normally receive presents.

“Many of these children have never received a present in their life,” Suchovsky said. “Many of them will never receive one after they receive their box.”

Suchovsky said that the project has a high need for volunteers and donations because there are not enough boxes to reach every child in need.

“Last year, OCC donated about 11 million boxes, and one country had requested 11 million boxes for its children,” she said, and added that the organization likes to spread out its donations to as many countries as possible so it can reach as many children as possible.

Suchovsky explained that OCC takes both financial and physical donations. Physical donations for the project can include school supplies, hygiene items, toys and stuffed animals. However, OCC cannot accept any liquids or food items.

School supplies and hygiene products (toothbrushes, bars of soap, etc.) are the most needed items, and OCC requests that all of these items are brand new. Used toys and stuffed animals can be donated if they are in “like new” condition, Suchovsky noted.

“I like to include stuffed animals in the boxes because everyone wants something they can cuddle,” she said.

The “shoe boxes” in which the items will be stored are special boxes for OCC, which are brightly colored and a uniform size and shape. This year, for the first time, people may pick up boxes to fill and information on the project at Spies Library in the City of Menominee.

“We have a display at the library and you can grab a box and brochure with more information,” Suchovsky said. “The library staff have been very helpful and supportive of the project.”

Once a box is filled with items, it can be dropped off at special locations throughout the county. Boxes can be dropped off at 2313 13th Street, Menominee, and at Kelly’s Alteration’s in Stephenson. Both locations will have signs stating they are official OCC drop-off locations.

Menominee County fills around 200-230 boxes a year, Suchovsky said. The Upper Peninsula fills around 10,000 boxes a year, according to a press release for the project.

The week of Nov. 11-19 is National Collection Week, when OCC begins to pack the boxes and send them off. During this week, Fellowship Bible Church in Stephenson will be collecting boxes daily from 9 to 11 a.m., except on Wednesday.  On Wednesday, they will collect boxes 6 to 8 p.m. The church will also host a packing party Nov. 10. Volunteers are welcome at this event, but anyone interested must contact Suchovsky by Nov. 8 to participate.

For more information on the project and to show interest in volunteering or donating, people may contact Suchovsky at 906-753-6310. More information can also be found at the OCC website, samaritanspurse.org.