If you go
7 p.m. Thursday
www.samaritanspurse.org/occ First Christian Church, 1270 Sawnee Drive
Like Santa’s elves, volunteers with Operation Christmas Child have plenty of work to do before the holiday.
Local organizers will kick off the season with a visit Thursday night from Travis Critcher, a national spokesman for the program, which is run by international relief organization Samaritan’s Purse.
Critcher has been working for more than 17 years with the project, which sends shoebox gifts filled with hygiene items, school supplies, toys and other necessities to children in need around the world.
He’ll be launching his four-day speaking tour in Cumming, since the community has been a strong supporter of the project for years, said area spokeswoman Joy Ugi.
"We wanted to give the community an opportunity to hear firsthand the impact that this ministry is having around the world," Ugi said.
Tonight at First Christian Church, event organizer Cheryl Snow expects Critcher will share some of his experiences.
She said he’ll likely also talk about a new disciple program called "The Greatest Journey," which is offered to families who’ve received shoeboxes.
Snow, who’s been a local relay center coordinator for about five years, said the event is aimed at getting area churches and groups prepared for this year’s shoebox drive.
However, anyone who wants to get involved or to hear Critcher speak is welcome to attend, she said.
"This is what they call a countdown event," Snow said. "It’s to get everybody excited about the upcoming collection season."
The shoebox drive needs to be wrapped up by about the first week in December to get the gifts out to other nations in time for Christmas, she said.
According to the project’s Web site, about 8 million children received shoeboxes last year.
Snow estimated that Forsyth County usually donates about 2,000 shoeboxes per year to the drive.
She’s enjoyed being part of the program, and especially seeing children get excited about packing shoeboxes and writing letters to young recipients overseas.
"It’s neat to see the impact," she said.