PARKERSBURG - Parkersburg residents and local volunteers are getting an early start to the holiday season.
A shoe box effort will take place at 7 p.m. Thursday at First Baptist Church, 425 Barkwill St., in St. Marys.
The shoe boxes will be put together by Parkersburg kids and families this year to be sent to Operation Christmas Child. Local volunteer and area coordinator Marti Lou Wright, of Parkersburg, said the shoe boxes are to be sent to 103 different countries this year.
"The meeting will be informational and mainly for building excitement," she said.
Businesses, residents, community groups and churches take part in filling the shoe boxes.
"Children fill them out with parent assistants, or other community groups and church groups," she said.
Wright said she has been helping supply the boxes for the organization since about 2004 or 2005.
"I first became involved with my husband retired," she said. "We were interested in doing volunteer work."
Wright said there will be 19 other drop-off locations, with the main one for Parkersburg being at Fairlawn Baptist Church, 215 Fairlawn Drive. She said there's about six weeks until the national collection occurs, from Nov. 12-19.
Wright said items the organization asks to be put in the boxes include wash clothes, bars of soap, toothpaste and a toothbrush. She said other items include school supplies such as notebooks. The standard size eight woman's shoe boxes are provided, but individuals may use their own and they can be larger.
"We just shoot for a goal of getting 14 shoe boxes in a carton so the shipping cost isn't as great," said Wright.
Operation Christmas Child expects to reach a milestone this year by collecting and delivering shoe boxes to more than 100 million children since the program began in 1993. The organization hopes to collect nine million gift-filled shoe boxes in 2012, with 8,500 coming from Parkersburg.
This year, the organization has made some technological advancements. By tracking the shoe boxes, participants will be able to follow their box as it reaches its destination country. Participants must register the shoe box and its contents using the "Follow Your Box" donation form found on www.samaritanspurse.org.
Wright said the shoe boxes will be collected, processed and hand-delivered to children worldwide.
"They (shoe boxes) are transported by canoe, boat, camel, mule, bicycles, airplanes," she said. "Receiving countries get them and then different modes of transportation are used to get them to individual children in the communities."