PORTSMOUTH—As the new school year approaches, Claudia Brammer is making use of back-to-school prices to purchase gifts and essential items for children in need around the world.

Brammer is collecting school supplies, along with hygiene items and fun toys, to pack in shoeboxes. Operation Christmas Child, a project of Samaritan’s Purse, will deliver these gift-filled shoeboxes to children in more than 100 countries.

“I know how important it is for children to have proper school supplies for the school year,” said Wheelersburg volunteer Brammer, who has participated with the project for 12 years. “My grandchildren have shopped with me for OCC and given me suggestions on what to purchase. We have a special needs grandchild who had trouble holding his pencil correctly. This year we are including pencil grips so they can learn to print legibly.”

For many children, access to these simple items can change a child’s life. This was the case for Mariya Tatarin, who shared her shoebox story with Scioto County residents last summer. Growing up in Ukraine in a studio apartment, her Christian parents worked hard, but struggled to provide for their family of eight. Tatarin had never received a Christmas gift, other than a banana or an orange and candy at church, until she opened a shoebox filled with gift items including shoes, toys, school supplies, soap, toothbrushes and crayons that fueled her creativity. Describing her experience opening the shoebox, “I’ve not seen that much color in my life; it was exploding with color! My parents were so excited to see toothbrushes because we would use them for one or two years-until the bristles curled over!”

After being bullied for years by the other students at school and having no friends, Tatarin shared, “I was ready to give up.” The Operation Christmas Child shoebox changed that when she took some of her shoebox gifts to school to show her classmates. Tatarin exclaimed, “Everybody wanted to see! I had an extra package of erasers to share with everyone. I was able to show the love to my classmates and forgive them for the way they treated me. Everyone wanted to now be friends with me.”

National Collection Week is Nov. 14-21. Participants can donate $10 per shoebox gift online through “Follow Your Box” and receive a tracking label to discover its destination. Those who prefer the convenience of online shopping can browse samaritanspurse.org/buildonline to select gifts matched to a child’s specific age and gender, then finish packing the virtual shoebox by adding a photo and personal note of encouragement. Boxes built online go to hard-to-reach countries.

Operation Christmas Child, a project of Samaritan’s Purse, seeks to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to children in need around the world and, together with the local church worldwide, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has collected and delivered more than 198 million gift-filled shoeboxes to children in more than 160 countries and territories. This year, Operation Christmas Child will collect its 200-millionth gift-filled shoebox.

For more information about how you can change a child’s life by packing a simple shoebox, call Portsmouth volunteer Gaylene St. Leger Cox at (330) 904-5873, or visit samaritanspurse.org/occ.