Among the several opportunities to lend a helping hand this holiday season is the annual Operation Christmas Child program, run nationally by Samaritan's Purse.

Locally, KNEO radio serves as the relay center, collecting shoeboxes filled with items for children around the world.
The program, founded by Franklin Graham of Boone, N.C., is in its 20th year nationally.

Roberta Foster, assistant coordinator of the program at KNEO radio, said the Neosho area has been participating for more than 10 years.

The shoeboxes of goodies can be dropped at KNEO radio, 10827 Missouri Highway 86, Neosho, beginning Monday, Nov. 18.

"That creates a location for people, whether it's individuals, churches, groups, whatever, to bring their packed shoeboxes to one location, KNEO," Foster said. "Then we take the shoeboxes brought here, pack them into cartons and take them to Forest Park Baptist Church in Joplin."

From Forest Park Baptist Church the shoeboxes go to Springfield and from there go to Denver, Colo., Foster said, before eventually ending up at their intended destinations.

Foster said shoeboxes are sent to locations selected by Samaritan's Purse.

This year, shoeboxes from the Neosho area will be sent to Guyana, Mexico and Togo.

"In the past we've heard stories of how an eight Crayola box, for children or for families in some of these areas where we give these gifts, would cost them $8 for an eight Crayola box," Foster said. "You know, $8 is a month's wage in some of these places, or at least a week's wage, so when people give school supply type things and hygiene items the average child may not think that's a great idea, to the kids that receive these shoeboxes it's fantastic."

Foster said there are some limits as to what should be included in the boxes due to the shipping schedule.

Because some may not arrive until next summer, those packing are asked not to include any liquids.

The shoeboxes are asked to be a regular-sized shoebox, not a boot box, and should include age appropriate school supplies, non-liquid hygiene items, and fun items, such as balls, T-shirts, stuffed animals or small games.

Foster said the boxes are sorted into three age groups, ages two to four, five to nine, and 10-14.

The boxes are also separated for boys and girls.

"The fun is involved with selecting age appropriate items and packing them into either a regular shoebox that you have or buying a plastic shoe storage box and just filling it up with things that will go to a child that may never have received a gift before in their entire life," Foster said.

Foster said shoeboxes can be dropped off at KNEO Radio from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Nov. 18 through Friday, Nov. 22, from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Nov. 23 and from 12:30 to 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 24.

She said boxes should be labeled for their appropriate age group and if they are intended for a boy or a girl.

KNEO Radio also has extra packing information and extra labels for those who need it, Foster said.

Those dropping off shoeboxes are also asked to give a donation of $7 per box to assist with shipping costs.

For more information, contact Foster at 451-5636.