Innovative, computer-based build-a-box tool offers fast, easy way to help children in need

Operation Christmas Child
Operation Christmas Child
Published: Monday, December 9, 2013 at 04:01 PM.

CHIPLEY — Panhandle-area residents came out in droves to help children in need November 18-25. Rising to the challenge to bring hope to children in desperate situations around the world, communities in Washington, Bay, and neighboring counties delivered more than 16,000 gift-filled shoeboxes through seven, church-based collection sites staffed by hundreds of Operation Christmas Child volunteers.

“I’m thrilled that so many caring and dedicated volunteers and shoebox packers made it possible for the Central Panhandle community to hand-deliver more than 16,000 gifts to children worldwide who are trying to cope with unimaginable issues in their lives, like this recent super typhoon disaster in the Philippines,” said Eddie Eaton, senior pastor of West Pittman Baptist Church in Westville, Fla. Pittman leads the Operation Christmas Child volunteer efforts for Washington and five other counties in the Central Panhandle.

Although National Collection Week officially ended November 25, participation and shoebox-packing efforts continue online for thousands of others through OCC’s Build-A-Box program.

“Some people just prefer to do things online, so Build-A-Box is perfect for them,” said Cindy Beyer, the regional area director for OCC operations in Florida and Puerto Rico. “It also offers a great alternative for anyone with physical limitations, time constraints, or transportation challenges. A lot of people really want to help children in need, but it may not be possible for them to shop for supplies, fill a shoebox, and bring it to a collection site. In those cases, Build-A-Box presents a wonderful way for them to overcome those kinds of challenges and still participate in a very meaningful way,” she said.

The Build-A-Box website, at, is open year-round, 24 hours a day. “In just a few clicks, you pick a boy or girl and age group, select from a list of contents, and your shoebox will be packed by Operation Christmas Child staff and hand-delivered for you,” said Milagros Almarante, OCC regional area manager for Florida and Puerto Rico.

“I love how fast and easy the Build-A-Box online shoebox-packing is,” said James Bell, an OCC staff member. “My wife likes to pack boxes and drop them off the traditional way, but I definitely lean more toward this online option. I used Build-A-Box this year to send a shoebox to a 5- to 9-year-old boy. I was even able to add a personal note and download a family picture for him,” said Bell. “We told this boy Jesus loves him, just like we do. I hope he can write back. My 6-year-old son would love that.”

Through Operation Christmas Child, Central Panhandle residents have joined other communities worldwide to help collect and deliver more than 100 million shoebox gifts to suffering children in more than 100 countries since 1993. Celebrating its 20thanniversary, OCC hopes to collect another 9.8 million gift-filled shoeboxes in 2013. OCC is a project of Samaritan’s Purse, an international Christian relief and evangelism organization headed by Franklin Graham.

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