Charity celebrates heart and sole

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A coloring book, crayons, pencils, a pencil sharpener, a stuffed animal, soap, a toothbrush, toothpaste, a comb, toys, hair clips, a calculator, a flashlight, balls, a card game and a clothing item. These were the generic items given to some children or teenagers in around the world for Christmas.

The First United Methodist Church (FUMC) were given the opportunity to be a relay center for Operation Christmas Child (OCC). A relay center is a place to collect shoeboxes from other churches and organizations for OCC.

“We got an email from Samaritan’s Purse asking to be a relay center,” ministry coordinator Kathy Gibson said.

Samaritan’s Purse is the organization that sponsors OCC. Gibson and Reverend Dr. Greg Tolle, pastor at FUMC, said yes to being a relay center in addition to packing shoe boxes.

Knowing that LaVonna Funkhouser, a member of the church, had a passion for OCC, the pastor and Gibson asked if she would like to be the Relay Center Coordinator. She, too, said yes. This is not the first time Duncan has had a relay center in town.

“I encouraged my church to do it,” Funkhouser said. “I kind of became a cheerleader.”

Funkhouser checked with the children’s director, Tara Cook, about packing the shoe boxes.

“I’ve been wanting the children to do something every month and it seemed like a perfect fit,” Cook said. “I think that [this helps] for our [FUMC] kids to completely understand how fortunate they are, how blessed they are and how unfortunate other kids may be when it comes to finances.”

The impact of this program is life-changing. There are stories of adults who received shoeboxes 15-20 years ago and still remember the hope it gave them. It allowed several to start a relationship with God. The contents of each shoebox is valued at about $7. This is more than some families in these countries earn in an entire year.

The packing of boxes happened for FUMC on Nov. 16 and 17, a Saturday and Sunday. There, they put them together, labeled the items that were donated and packed them. Funkhouser said that while people are packing and moving them they are supposed to pray over the boxes that they will reach the child who needs it most.

After the packing, the church became the relay center for Duncan. By doing so, Duncan churches would not have to drive out of town to drop off their shoe boxes.

“It’s one way our church can be a service to the community,” Funkhouser said.

The total number of shoe boxes for this relay center was nearly 1000.  FUMC hopes for even more shoe boxes next year to touch even more children’s and teens’ lives.