Operation Christmas Child plans to send shoe boxes of holiday presents to the Russian Far East this year, and hopes Juneau will show its traditional generosity.
"We are gearing up and sending out materials to churches even now," said Mary Ann Dalessi, publicity chairwoman.
The effort starts in early fall because of the time needed to pack and ship items.
Justine Emerson, her husband Adrian Slater and their children are assembling about 35 boxes toward the goal of 1,700.
"Someone donated deflated soccer balls with pumps, so we're putting them in boxes with baseball hats," Emerson said. "They can blow them up and off they go!"
Last year the Juneau program generated 1,300 boxes, said Emerson, the local coordinator. The basic directive of Operation Christmas Child is to commandeer an empty shoe box and fill it with goodies some practical, some amusing or educational for kids. This year's boxes will go to orphanages in Petropavlovsk, Provideniya and Anadyr.
She recommends toiletries, school supplies, dolls, toys and candy. Brochures describing the Operation Christmas Child program in detail are available at Northern Echoes, Hearthside Books and Udder Culture.
Boxes should be assembled and labeled with particular age groups in mind: 2 to 4 years, 5 to 9, and 10 to 14. In addition, the box should be marked "boy" or "girl." Labels are provided in the brochures, Emerson said.
The deadline for completed boxes is Oct. 21. They can be delivered to Chapel by the Lake starting Oct. 15, and will be sent to Soldotna before they head for Russia. "We already have about 30 of the churches in town helping, plus Brownies, Girl Scouts, schools, Juneau Christian School, the Seventh-day Adventist school and some preschools," she said.
"We particularly need boxes for boys and older girls," she added. Books and T-shirts are popular. Almost any item is acceptable, with exceptions: "Last year customs authorities said that cards were 'gambling devices' and would not allow expired toothpaste," she cautioned.
Operation Christmas Child is an annual international outreach of Franklin Graham, son of Rev. Billy Graham. The Graham organization inserts religious material in each box. In 2000, 4 million shoe boxes were distributed to children in more than 75 countries. More information is available at the Web site, www.samaritanspurse.org.
Ann Chandonnet can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.