I am writing to thank and celebrate local residents for spreading joy to children around the world this Christmas season. The generosity of local volunteers, families, and groups paved the way for us to exceed our goal of collecting 28, 523 shoebox gifts for the Samaritan's Purse project Operation Christmas Child -- the world's largest Christmas project of its kind.

We were extremely blessed this year to have many local businesses actively participating in the collection of shoeboxes. Walnut Creek Cheese in Walnut Creek collected and paid for the shipping of 3,978 shoeboxes. Keim Lumber employees rallied together to collect items to pack and pay shipping charges on a total of 993 shoeboxes. It's amazing to see how our community comes together for those in need.

The gift-filled shoeboxes are tangible expressions of God's love for children around the world suffering from poverty, natural disaster, war, disease, and famine. These children, many of whom have never received a gift before, learn they are loved and not forgotten. Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has collected and delivered more than 135 million gift-filled shoeboxes to children in more than 150 countries and territories.

It's not too late for people to make a difference. Though the local drop-off locations are closed until November 2017, filled shoeboxes are collected year-round at the Samaritan's Purse headquarters in Boone, North Carolina. Additionally, anyone can conveniently pack a personalized Operation Christmas Child shoebox gift at samaritanspurse.org/occ. Information about year-round volunteer opportunities can also be found on the website or by calling (330) 204-7244.

Thank you again to everyone who participated in this project and for those who do so year after year. These simple gifts, packed with love, send a message of hope and continue to transform the lives of children worldwide.

Sincerely,

Christy BloomMedia CoordinatorOhio East Team of Operation Christmas Child