By MEGAN MOSELEY
Tribune-Herald staff wrtier
As the holiday season approaches, residents and businesses are gearing up to participate in a nationwide fundraiser that brings gifts and essential goods to children worldwide.
Operation Christmas Child, a campaign that collects shoeboxed gifts to send to children overseas using trucks, trains, and sometimes even elephants, is under way on the Big Island through Monday.
According to Nell Quay, area coordinator for OCC in East Hawaii, the fundraiser has grown by 30 percent over the last few years, and has more than doubled statewide within the last four.
“It went from over 16,000 donations four years ago, and last year the state of Hawaii collected approximately 39,000 shoeboxes,” she said.
This year, Quay and others with the OCC are hoping to gather 6,000 shoeboxes in Hawaii County in an attempt to top last year’s total of 5,838.
According to Quay, behind each of those boxes is a story.
“One time, there was this little boy in the Philippines, the family was so poor that they only had one toothbrush that they all shared,” she said “When the child opened his shoebox, he got six toothbrushes and six tubes of toothpaste.”
Gail Uejo, human resource manager with Hawaii Radiology, said her employees look forward to the event every year.
“I think our employees are very generous. They’ve been looking forward to this,” she said. “A lot of them make it a family event and go out and do the shopping with their kids.”
Minda Brown, coordinator for Naalehu Assembly of God, said it’s a great way to give back.
“This is for everybody to participate, boys and girls and youth themselves. It’s a tangible way for children to share in the joy of giving to children around the world during Christmas time,” she said.
The Hilo Missionary Church and Naalehu Assembly of God are among the collection sites on the Big Island. Donors can also drop off presents at Big Island Toyota.
Refer to the box above for a complete list of collection sites.
Collections are being held during OCC’s National Collection Week.
Participants can fill an empty shoebox with gifts (refer to list) and include a $7 donation to help cover the cost of shipping. Checks can be made to Samaritan’s Purse. Boxes can be tracked using the donation form found at samaritanspurse.org.
Email Megan Moseley at email@example.com.