'Operation Christmas Child' Gathers Gifts For Kids

Organizers Hope To Reach Central Indiana Goal

It started looking a lot like Christmas a little early this year at Heritage Christian School, where thousands of wrapped presents were being packed up Wednesday so they can be shipped to children in need all over the world.

The annual Operation Christmas Child effort has to start early because of all the legwork involved and the time it takes to send gifts, 6News' Julie Pursley reported.

Organizers tout it as a simple and fun way to help children who might otherwise never get gifts.

People can go online, print out a label, fill a shoebox and drop it off at designated areas, such as Heritage Christian, to take part.

Volunteers collect the boxes, filled with everything from toothbrushes to toys, and send them to orphanages, hospitals and villages throughout next year.

Children in more than 100 countries who deal with war, disease, famine and natural disasters receive the boxes.

"What we're trying to express to people is that it doesn't take a lot of money to put things in a shoebox," said volunteer Cheryl Baertschi. "The return of the blessing it's going to be is so huge."

A Heritage Christian student went to Ecuador in 2008 to help distribute gifts.

"You hear stories, but actually seeing it firsthand is so awesome. Their faces light up when they get these gifts," said volunteer Tristen Davis.

People who make a shipping donation of $7 online get a tag with a bar code that allows them to track where the package goes.

Last year, more than eight million shoeboxes went to needy children. This year, the organization hopes to touch more hearts.

The goal in central Indiana is to collect 31,000 boxes. They must be turned in by Monday.

Anyone who would like to help can call 800-419-8619 or go to the Operation Christmas Child Web site.