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Church Collects Gifts for Kids Abroad


A Ventura church is again heading up a countywide effort to fill shoe boxes with small toys, school supplies and personal care items for children in impoverished and war-torn countries at Christmas.

Beginning today, Ventura Missionary Church will be accepting the shoe boxes from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon to 6 p.m. Sundays through Nov. 20. Boxes should be dropped off at the New Community Life Center building on church property at 500 High Point Drive.

The church kicked off this year's campaign in September, when it mailed more than 300 notices to churches, schools and organizations such as the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, said Jan Norton, a program organizer at Missionary Church.

People have expressed enthusiasm, Norton said. Churches that have signed include Oxnard Presbyterian Church, Bible Fellowship Church in Ventura, Holy Cross Church in Moorpark and Hillcrest Christian Church and School in Thousand Oaks.

Other groups include Westlake Mothers of Preschoolers, Bardsdale 4-H Club and Buena High School. Ventura Missionary will also accept boxes from families or individuals.

Operation Christmas Child began in England in 1990 to help children in Romania's orphanages. Since then, the nonprofit group has distributed more than 9 million gift-filled shoe boxes, many of them to children who have never received a Christmas present. The goal this year is to collect 4 million shoe-box gifts worldwide.

In 1995 the Ventura Missionary Church collected 2,900 boxes. Last year it received 9,451 and expects to collect more than 10,000 this year.

"It should be a record year," Norton said.

Volunteer Diana Fowler, who works with Holy Cross Church in Moorpark, collected 338 boxes last year and has already collected more than 300 this year.

"I'm hoping for 500 this year," Fowler said. "The more groups who learn about it from their church, friends and others, the more shoe boxes we get filled."

She will deliver the boxes to Missionary Church, and from there, they will be shipped to Irvine, where volunteers will make sure the contents are acceptable. Booklets about Jesus Christ in the child's native language will be added to each box.

"This is such a labor of love," Fowler said. "It is the best thing I do."

She and her family completed 10 boxes using items, such as school supplies and little toys, she has bought over the year on sale. The experience has been good for the whole family, she said.

Her sons, Joey, 13, and Tony, 10, have learned that a little effort can bring joy to needy children.

"Every box makes a difference," Fowler said. "Every box means another child will feel that kind of joy."


Ventura Missionary Church is organizing a countywide drive to fill shoe boxes with small Christmas gifts for children in other countries. Here are some suggestions on what to put in the boxes:

* TOYS: Small cars, balls, dolls, stuffed animals, plastic kazoos, harmonicas, yo-yos, small Etch-A-Sketch, Slinky, toys that light up or make noise (with extra batteries).

* SCHOOL SUPPLIES: Pens, pencils and sharpener, crayons or markers, stamps and ink pad sets, coloring books, writing pads or paper, solar calculators.

* PERSONAL CARE ITEMS: Toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, comb, washcloth, etc.

* OTHER: Hard candy, lollipops, mints, gum, sunglasses, flashlights with extra batteries, ball caps, socks, T-shirts, toy jewelry sets, hair-clips, watches, small picture books.

* DO NOT INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING ITEMS: Toy guns, knives or other war-related items. Chocolate or perishable items. Liquids of any kind (shampoo, lotion, bubbles). Used items. Medicines of any kind (vitamins, cough drops). Breakable items (mirrors, china dolls).

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