There have been many displays of humanity during the COVID-19. Communities continue to pull together to support those in need, whether it’s helping a vulnerable neighbor with their grocery order or remaining in one’s physically distanced bubble for the greater good.

As the giving season is upon us, things we’ll certainly be different, but that spirit will still be there. The annual Operation Christmas Child shoebox drive is collecting packages nationally this week, and the Ridgway Community Church is again lending a helping hand as it’s done the past several years.

Much of the world has been gripped with fear, and this is especially hard for children, according to Pastor Del Smith. 

“In the midst of the pandemic, a simple shoebox gift is an easy way for us to show God’s love and to show children facing difficult circumstances that they are not forgotten,” he said.

If you would like to be a part of this Christmas project, simply take an empty shoebox and fill it with school supplies, hygiene items and fun toys, such as dolls or soccer balls, and clothing apparel for a child in the age categories of 2-4, 5-9 or 10-14. Do not include candy, toothpaste, used or damaged items, war-related items such as toy guns or knives, chocolate or food, liquids or lotions, breakable items such as snow globes or glass containers, or aerosol cans. Wrap the lid and the bottom of the shoebox separately in Christmas wrapping paper and secure with a rubber band.  Place a label on the top indicating whether it is for a boy or girl and the age category listed above

Throughout this week, which is National Collection Week that ends Monday drop it off at Ridgway Community Church located at 685 West Sherman in Ridgway from 9 a.m. until noon. For shoeboxes, instructional brochures, labels or additional information about Operation Christmas Child, call Jill von Delden, who annually organizes the church’s efforts, at 970-626-5190.

The church serves as the Operation Christmas Child drop-off location for Ouray and San Miguel counties. There’s also a drop-off spot at Montrose’s Cavalry Chapel Church. Nationally, there are some 5,000 drop-off locations in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

Operation Christmas Child is a project of Samaritan’s Purse, an international Christian relief organization that was founded in 1993 by Franklin Graham.  Since 1993, the project has collected and delivered more than 178 million shoebox gifts to children in more than 160 countries and territories, including Indigenous territories, according to a news release. In 2020, the goal is to collect enough shoebox gifts to reach another 11 million children.

Even during a year like 2020, this is a project everyone can still be part of, even with COVID-19 restrictions. There’s still time for individuals, families and groups to transform empty shoeboxes into fun gifts. The project partners with local churches across the globe to deliver these tangible expressions of God’s love to children in need, according to the organization’s mission. “This season, children around the world need a tangible reminder that there is hope and that God loves them,” said Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan’s Purse. “Through these shoebox gifts packed with special items, children also receive the opportunity to hear about the eternal hope found in Jesus Christ.”

Individuals and families making plans to visit a drop-off location can learn more about what to expect in this year’s curbside drop-off experience online at samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child.

“When you arrive at your drop-off location, follow the signs for curbside drop off. A volunteer wearing a mask will greet you and direct you to an outside area where they will retrieve your shoeboxes. Volunteers will also present you with a touchless way to leave your contact information and the number of shoeboxes that you are dropping off,” according to the website.