Operation Christmas Child eyes shoe box goal in Thornton

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A large Christmas tree and stacks of brightly decorated shoe boxes mark the entrance of the North Metro Church in Thornton, where signs of the festive season are not difficult to find.

While the Christmas cheer may only come around once a year, church volunteers and worshippers say they are hoping that this year’s charitable efforts through Operation Christmas Child will spread the festive spirit to children around the world.

Operation Christmas Child, which began nearly 40 years ago by international Christian relief organization Samaritan’s Purse, allows people to donate shoe boxes filled with simple presents, such as hygiene items, toys or school supplies to impoverished children in more than 100 countries.

This year, Operation Christmas Child volunteer Cathy Collins said North Metro Church is now serving as a relay center, where more than 400 churches and community organizations in the northern Denver area, can drop off their donations.

Collins said those donations are then taken to a processing center in Longmont, where the boxes are sorted and inspected before they are mailed to the Samaritan’s Purse headquarters in Boone, N.C., and then shipped to participating countries around Christmas.

Karen Mygatt, the Operation Christmas Child’s North Denver area coordinator, estimates about 8,650 boxes were collected last year.

This year, she said she is hoping that north Denver churches and organizations in Westminster, Thornton, Northglenn, Broomfield and Boulder will reach the area’s goal of 9,000 shoe boxes.

“The most important thing is having these children know that someone cares about them,” Karen Mygatt, the Operation Christmas Child’s North Denver area coordinator, said. “It gives them some measure of hope, because these are really destitute areas in really difficult times. It is a really heartwarming feeling when people give boxes, because it’s touching to give to children who don’t really have anything.”

Operation Christmas Child volunteer Nancy Trujillo said she understands the importance of how seemingly simple gifts can mean to children, who in some cases, have nothing after going on a month-long mission trip to South Africa, Zambia, Zaire and Mozambique.

“It got us wanting to do more,” Trujillo said as she unloaded about 30 boxes from her van into the North Metro Church’s entrance. “These gifts mean so much to those children, because many don’t have anything. We may get gifts once a year, but these children don’t get anything.”

For more information about Operation Christmas Child, contact North Denver area coordinator Karen Mygatt at 303-877-5334 or bkmygatt@comcast.net.