Volunteers gathered to pack gift boxes for children overseas for the annual Operation Christmas Child at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church Wednesday evening.

Michele Loomis, drop coordinator for the event, said members of the church and the Bella Vista Christian Academy had been collecting items for the boxes.

“They try to collect all year long so that we can do this,” Loomis said. “I never know how much stuff we have until we start packing. It’s a little bit of everything — toys, clothes, all that stuff.”

Operation Christmas Child is a nationwide program through the nonprofit Samaritan’s Purse that has people pack a shoe box full of items including school supplies, books, games, toiletries, socks and toys for boys and girls ages 2 to 14-years-old.

The completed boxes are shipped around the globe and participants can track the progress of the boxes.

St. Paul’s has been involved in the program for more than 16 years.

On Wednesday volunteers were hoping to pack 200 boxes. Tables were spread across a room with items separated by age and gender.

Completed boxes will be put into a carton and taken to Calvary Church in Manteca where they will begin their journey overseas to a child at the holidays.

Loomis said Monday begins the one-week nationwide drop-off of Operation Christmas Child boxes to collection points.

Members of the community can create their own shoe box of items and bring it to the St. Paul’s Church administration office which is the collection site for Tracy.

Drop off times are Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m., Saturday for 10 to noon, Sunday 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and the last collection day from 8 a.m. to noon on Nov. 21.

People can visit https://www.samaritanspurse.org/ to see the instruction for making a shoe box and suggested items to pack.

Loomis said residents can come by the administration office during the collection times to pick up an empty Operation Christmas Child box to pack and return if they don’t have a box of their own.

• Contact the Tracy Press at tpnews@tracypress.com or 835-3030.

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