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Bethel Lutheran Church an official drop-off for Operation Christmas Child

Published 11:07am Friday, November 1, 2013

Tuesday night, groups of junior high and high school students packed into a room at Bethel Lutheran Church and began putting together boxes. They assembled hundreds of these boxes and the Rev. Allen Aase, the associate pastor of youth ministries at the church, said his goal was to get 1,000 boxes assembled in the next two weeks.

The workload gets a little heavier when a church becomes an official volunteer for Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child program.

Operation Christmas Child is a program designed to give disadvantaged children gifts during the holidays. Participants fill shoeboxes full of school supplies, stuffed animals or toiletries, among many other gifts, and deliver these shoeboxes to the drop-off locations.

There are also pamphlets that have lists of recommended gifts, Aase said. Each box is checked for inappropriate items before being sent out.

The boxes are driven to regional sorting centers and then sent out all over the world to more than 100 countries. The program breaks the boxes down by gender and includes three age groups: 2 to 4, 5-9 and 10-14 years old.

“It’s always connected to a church or a Christian organization in the town so that there is follow-up on the boxes,” Aase said.

This is the first drop-off location in Fergus Falls. Aase started the application process in February and after months of waiting, Samaritan’s Purse gave Bethel Lutheran the good news over the summer.

Being a drop-off location comes with increased responsibility. Bethel must be open to drop-offs during times mandated by Samaritan’s Purse. Each donation must be logged by Aase and handed in at the regional drop-off location. There are other procedures included in a handbook sent to Aase over the summer.

Though Bethel Lutheran has been participating in the program for at least a decade, this is their first year as a recognized drop-off location. Samaritan’s Purse estimates that donations generally double at recognized drop-off churches.

Last year was Bethel Lutheran’s most successful year in the program with 400 shoeboxes donated, according to Aase. He is bracing for many more donations, and that is just the way he and members of the congregation like it.

“I think it will bring more excitement,” Aase said. “I’m already getting requests a month in advance for boxes. It’s becoming a tradition for people.”

Aase will be promoting the program during Sunday services at Bethel Lutheran and has been in contact with other churches in town about getting their congregations to participate. He also hopes to advertise with Service Food and Otter Tail Telcom.

But before that, he and other Bethel Lutheran members have boxes to assemble.

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