I am writing to thank area residents for sharing the true meaning of Christmas with children around the world. The generosity of the people in Marion and Citrus counties resulted in 22,226 gift-filled shoeboxes being packed and mailed for Operation Christmas Child, a project of international Christian relief organization Samaritan’s Purse. U.S. and international efforts — including Germany, Australia, Canada, U.K., and other sending countries — resulted in shoebox gifts to 10,569,405 children around the world.

Through shoeboxes — packed with fun toys, school supplies and hygiene items — Marion and Citrus County volunteers brought joy to children in need around the world. Each shoebox is a tangible expression of God’s love and it is often the first gift these children have ever received. Thanks to the generosity of donors, Operation Christmas Child has collected and delivered more than 168 million gift-filled shoeboxes to children in more than 160 countries and territories since 1993.

Though local drop-off locations are closed until Nov. 16-23, 2020, anyone can be a part of this life-changing project now by conveniently packing a personalized shoebox online at samaritanspurse.org/buildonline. Participants can also challenge others to pack boxes online with them or use a shoebox gift card to share the opportunity with friends and family. Information about year-round volunteer opportunities can also be found on the website.

Thank you again to everyone who participated in this global project and especially those who do so year after year. These simple gifts, packed with love, send a message to children worldwide that they are loved and not forgotten.

Cathy A. Penn

Operation Christmas Child

Marion/Citrus Son Country Team

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