By MARG JACKSON
From ‘Relay Centers’ scattered throughout the Central Valley – including one in Oakdale – thousands of brightly colored red and green Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes will help make the holidays a little happier for some youngsters this year.
Locally, The River church was the relay site, with organizers hosting the collection this past week, open for several hours each day. With the boxes collected here, combined with those of other valley locations in Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties, more than 17,000 boxes headed to southern California on Monday. From there, they will go to needy children in several overseas countries and some also going to a Native American reservation in Arizona.
Elizabeth Greenlee served as the local Relay Center Coordinator in Oakdale and was on site for several days at The River church on East G Street.
“We have community boxes and church boxes,” she said, noting that congregation members had filled some and residents from Oakdale and the surrounding area also contributed to the effort.
She was pleased that this year’s distribution would also see some of the boxes staying in the United States.
“About 1,000 will go to Arizona,” Greenlee said.
After all the donations were boxed up, they were first taken to Modesto’s Calvary Chapel and from there taken to southern California late Monday.
Boxes this year are earmarked for children in Bangladesh, Mongolia, Peru, Indonesia, and the Philippines in addition to those going to Arizona. The shoeboxes can be packed with a variety of items, from school supplies to toiletries to little gifts such as matchbox cars or stuffed animals, depending on the age of the child receiving the box.
Oakdale’s Relay Center reported 685 boxes collected for the effort. Oakdale was one of 11 Relay sites between the two counties, which coordinated efforts to get the boxes to the Modesto drop location. Final tally between the two counties, officials said, was 17,273 boxes. Each box also includes a little information about the Christmas holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus, God’s son, and many go to children in countries that have never heard the story of Christmas.