Gwen Zacharias, near left, and Phyllis Hammer add more articles to the care packages that will be sent worldwide to young children as part of Operation Christmas Child. (Photo by Lisa Britton)
By Lisa Britton
For the Baker City Herald
The dolls, measuring about 5 inches high, came with no clothes.
Not a problem for Lyla Young, who came up with a pattern to knit dresses and hats — in all sorts of colors and designs — for these dolls that will be tucked in care packages and sent around the world.
This is the sixth year that McEwen Bible Fellowship has participated in Operation Christmas Child, a program of Samaritan’s Purse International Relief, which was started by Franklin Graham. People fill shoeboxes with supplies that are then shipped to areas hit by a natural disaster and distributed to children.
The church at McEwen, 23 miles southwest of Baker City on Highway 7, has a membership of 60 to 70.
The first year, the members made up 20 boxes. They’ve increased the number each year, and in November 2013, they sent 145.
“We’re going to do at least 150 this year,” said Gwen Zacharias.
The church has provided a small room to store all the items gathered for the boxes: notebooks, soap, toys, mittens, socks, shirts, combs, brushes, coloring books, washcloths, crayons and more.
The boxes — actually plastic bins with recloseable lids — are packed and labeled with “boy” or “girl” and the intended age range (2-4, 5-9 and 10-14).
Items are collected all year, and the finished boxes are mailed in mid-November. Postage costs $7 per box. Before the final shipment, a Bible story is tucked into each package.
This year will include those dolls with the fancy clothes.
“We’re so blessed to have so many talented people,” said Phyllis Hammer.
In addition to Young, Lynne Applegate and Donna Brotherton knit clothing for the dolls.
“It was so much fun,” Applegate said.
Word of their project spreads beyond Baker County. Zacharias said dentists in Clackamas have sent toothbrushes and toothpaste to pack in the boxes.
“The outreach is just amazing,” Hammer said.
Each year, Zacharias pays extra to put barcodes on 30 packages so they can track where the boxes end up. Operation Christmas Child has been delivered to 130 countries.
On occasion, they receive letters from the recipients.
“We praise the Lord that we can bless others,” Zacharias said.
McEwen Bible Fellowship accepts donations — items and monetary — to support the shoebox ministry.
Donations may be mailed to 36943 Denny Creek Road, Baker City, OR 97814.
More information about Operation Christmas Child is available online at www.samaritanspurse.org/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child/.
Here are items that can go into the shoeboxes:
• School supplies: pens, pencils and sharpeners, crayons or markers, stamps and ink pad sets, writing pads or paper, solar calculators, coloring and picture books
• Toys: small cars, balls, dolls, stuffed animals, kazoos, harmonicas, yo-yos, jump ropes, small Etch A Sketch, toys that light up or make noise (with extra batteries)
• Hygiene items: toothbrush, toothpaste, mild bar soap, comb, washcloth (no liquid)
• Other: T-shirts, socks, ball caps, sunglasses, hair clips, toy jewelry, watches, flashlights (with extra batteries)