TROY TWP. — Those making donations to “Operation Christmas Child” say they are spreading God’s love to children in need.
In Troy Township, Fellowship Bible Church is a collection site for the program, covering areas in Bradford, Tioga, Pa., and Lycoming counties. Gifts are brought to Fellowship Bible Church from many smaller “relay centers.” 
Stephanie Dean, church secretary, said she loves the program. “I love that children hear that God loves them, Jesus loves them, and people care about them.”
The shoeboxes of gifts go from the church to a processing facility in North Carolina, and then are distributed around the world in such places as Africa and the Middle East. “Operation Christmas Child” is billed as the world’s largest Christmas project of its kind.
According to a news release, Operation Christmas Child has collected and delivered more than 100 million shoebox gifts to suffering children in more than 100 countries since 1993. Celebrating its 20th anniversary, Operation Christmas Child hopes to collect another 9.8 million gift-filled shoeboxes in 2013. Operation Christmas Child is a project of Samaritan’s Purse, an international Christian relief and evangelism organization headed by Franklin Graham.
Dean noted that one shoebox included such items as construction paper, pencils, crayons, toys, socks, soap — and a Teddy Bear, of course.
 Bobbi Anderson of Troy has been involved with the program for several years, and she likes the fact that “kids who have nothing can see God’s love in these gifts.”
Carl Pesesky, pastor of family ministries at Fellowship Bible Church, said, “this is a wonderful outreach to reach kids in the world” and “give the meaning of Christmas to them, which is Jesus.”
He has been donating over the years, and this year donated three shoeboxes. He selected that number because he has three children of his own. His family went shopping at the Dollar Store to fill the shoeboxes.
Caroline Foulkrod of Austinville also takes part in the program. She watched a video about “Operation Christmas Child” and was moved by the expression in the faces of the children who were helped.
As of Tuesday afternoon, about 300 shoeboxes of gifts had been received at the church. Churches from Troy, Leroy, Canton and Alba had dropped off the donations.
Last year, Dean said, more than 800 shoeboxes of gifts were donated at the church, primarily from the Troy-Canton area. When other areas such as Lycoming County were included, the total rose to more than 4,000.
She said one family from Lycoming County each year packs 1,500 shoeboxes and donates them.
Marcia Payne, with the Victory Church in Troy, said the church made a donation of 179 shoeboxes of gifts this year to “Operation Christmas Child,” the fourth or fifth year the church has donated.
A few weeks in advance of Collection Week, the church announces to its congregation the opportunity to donate and invites families to take part.
“It’s a good activity for a family to do together,” she commented.
“Just that simple gift, it can change someone’s life,” she noted. “It’s a kid that would get absolutely nothing, and you can give them a gift, and they also put the Gospel in that shoebox.” She noted that a pamphlet explaining the Bible to the children is included in the shoebox.
“It’s a great opportunity to help somebody,” she said.
Marcia said families can come together and pick out gifts for the shoeboxes, and this teaches them how they can make a difference.
Her own family shops together for “Operation Christmas Child,” buying gifts at Walmart or Dollar General.
One story that touched Dean’s heart was how a girl in Bosnia, in the midst of civil war, had completely given up on God and lost hope. She desperately wanted a pair of shoes.
One of the shoeboxes through “Operation Christmas Child” was delivered to her, and it contained a pair of shoes just her size. Her story was included in a video and book about the program.
She said there are other stories as well of children getting a shoebox with a gift inside that just fits their needs.
“I’m amazed how God works,” she said.
The news release from “Operation Christmas Child” notes that although the shoebox gifts will often travel thousands of miles, Operation Christmas Child offers a way for participants to follow their box by using the donation form found at samaritanspurse.org. Donors will receive an email telling the country where their shoeboxes are delivered.
At Fellowship Bible Church, a map shows some of the places where the shoeboxes have gone.
They included Ghana, Kenya and Mongolia.
For more information, call the church at (570) 297-4818. The last day to drop off a shoebox of gifts is Monday, Nov. 25, at the church.
Eric Hrin can be reached at (570) 297-5251; email: reviewtroy@thedailyreview.com