NORTH OLMSTED — Chuck Palmer has a load of stories to tell with spiritual impact and happy endings.
There’s the one about the young lady who, as a child in a Romanian orphanage, wanted nothing more than hair clips. When an Atlanta missionary gave her an Operation Christmas Child shoebox, sitting on top of the other gifts were her very own hair clips.
That missionary family adopted the child, who is now in college, and told her own story this fall to the North Olmsted Evangelical Friends Church, where Palmer is a member.
Palmer and his wife, Ann, are area coordinators for Operation Christmas Child. This year, 19,000 shoeboxes were donated for needy children around the world from Greater Cleveland, which includes Cuyahoga, Lorain, Medina, Erie and Lake counties. The national collection week was in November.
“It gives hope to children and spreads the gospel,” Palmer said. “Children in orphanages sometimes have one toothbrush to share. When they get their own, it means so much to them.”
All the shoeboxes, which are filled with school supplies, hygiene items, clothing and toys, get funneled to the North Olmsted relay station at the church. Volunteers inspect the boxes and they are loaded onto tractor-trailers for processing in Charlotte, N.C.
The Palmers, along with eight other Friends Church members, went to Charlotte to help this year. The gifts are then transported to more than 100 countries on six continents and distributed by volunteer ministry partners and pastors via truck, train, boat, yak and camel.
“This is a big operation and it gets bigger every year,” Palmer said.
Operation Christmas Child is a project of the evangelical organization Samaritan’s Purse and was started in 1993 in the U.S. with just 28,000 shoeboxes. This year, the group is trying to surpass 100 million boys and girls reached since the start of the endeavor.
It may be the simplicity of the project that makes it so successful, Palmer said. Residents are asked to fill shoeboxes with things the children could use, along with notes to let them know they are not forgotten. Children who are victims of poverty, natural disaster, war, terrorism and famine receive the boxes.
The Palmers have been doing this for 10 years and have seen growth every year.
This year, the region had a 31 percent increase in the number of boxes donated from the year before. Six Chick-fil-A restaurants partnered with the local effort, Palmer said.
Operation Christmas Child is a year-round effort, according to Palmer.
“Around the first of the year, we will begin the affirmation campaign, thanking people, telling them the totals, and then we will start collecting again in February or March,” he said.
Palmer said it’s not too late for participants to fill shoeboxes online with items through a program called “Build a Box” by going to the project’s website at www.samaritanspurse.org/occ.
Contact Debbie Klinec at 329-7155 or firstname.lastname@example.org.