• Nov 16-20: 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
• Nov. 21: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
• Nov. 22: noon to 4 p.m.
• For complete, step-by-step instructions on box packing and other information, go online at www.samaritanspurse.org.
Forsyth County residents can help make Christmas brighter for children around the world simply by filling a shoe box or two.
Operation Christmas Child will hold local collections beginning Nov. 16 at Horizon Christian Academy, 2160 Freedom Pkwy.
The ministry ships shoe boxes filled with small gifts to children in more than 100 countries suffering from natural disasters, wars, terrorism, mass disease, famine and extreme poverty.
Among the suggested gifts are crayons and coloring books, rubber balls, small dolls, hard candy and letters of encouragement.
Last year, Forsyth residents contributed 4,649 shoe boxes to the effort. This year, organizers hope to collect at least 5,000 boxes from area church groups, families, schools and civic organizations.
Cheryl Snow, a local collection center coordinator, said the gift boxes should also include personal hygiene items and schools supplies, and the toys packed should be new.
"I usually go to the dollar store and get little toys there," said Snow, who has been active with the program for about 15 years. "They also need toothbrushes, soap, socks, school supplies -- things we take for granted."
She said box items should not include chocolate or other soft candies as they can melt during the shipping process, nor any liquids.
Through tracking technology called "EZ Give," donors can even follow their box to the destination country, where it will be hand-delivered to a child in need.
Through the system, donors go to the Operation Christmas Child Web site and pay $7 per box to print off a special shipping label. They then receive e-mail alerts as the packages are shipped.
"This is a new thing this year," Snow said. "They had a trial run of it last year with a few people. I did it last year. It told me when my box left Atlanta and went to different countries. It finally ended up in Ghana [Africa]."
Snow encouraged participation in this year's collection.
"It's neat to see how many kids are affected by it," she said, noting that last year more than 7 million children received gift boxes.
Operation Christmas Child is a ministry of Samaritan's Purse, run by Franklin Graham, son of world evangelist Billy Graham.
According to its Web site, Samaritan's Purse is a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization that since 1970 has sought to "meet needs of people who are victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease and famine with the purpose of sharing God's love through His son, Jesus Christ."