Preparations for Christmas are starting early this year at First Alliance Church.

Volunteers gathered to package shoeboxes for the annual Operation Christmas Child, which supports children all around the world.

Here is more on what they call their “packing party.”

Over the past two days, volunteers have packaged over 11,000 shoeboxes with all sorts of gifts for children living in poverty.

Items included in the shoe boxes include educational supplies, small toys, stuffed animals, clothing items, and other simple gifts that are to be distributed at churches in over 100 different countries.

One organizer shared with us the experience of hand delivering shoeboxes over the years to kids around the world.

“I’ve been able to go to a few different countries to hand out shoeboxes, and it’s amazing what these simple gifts can mean to children. Many of them have never received a gift. Some of them can’t go to school because they don’t have a pencil. So just getting something simple and knowing that they’re loved gives them hope, and I think that people who are volunteering really want to share that love with children all around the world,” said Kathy Schriefer, Operation Christmas Child, NWPA Coordinator.

Volunteers consisted of people of all ages, including whole families they wanted to support.

The program began in 2009 and has gifted over 281,000 shoeboxes to children in need.

One volunteer we spoke with, who lived in Haiti for 15 years, saw the need for support like this first hand.

“A lot of Haitians struggle. It’s difficult for many to get jobs, and so they have a more difficult life than most of us in the United States do, and yet they’re loving, gracious, and friendly people and I’ve really grown to love them,” said Kate Zlotnicki, volunteer, former teacher in Haiti.

People at home can put together shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child that will be collected in the third week of November.

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Another shoebox drive will be held starting on Sept. 12.