January 16, 2010 9:55:00 PM
Operation Christmas Child figures are in, and they show the Columbus Collection Center experienced the highest growth in boxes collected in the state of Mississippi, according to area coordinator Nelda Brown.
The center, a collection point for Columbus, Starkville, West Point, Louisville, Aberdeen, Amory, Macon, Ackerman and several other towns, took in a total of 17,993 boxes for distribution to children worldwide through Samaritan''s Purse. The international relief and evangelism organization is headed by Franklin Graham. Last year''s total was 14,664 boxes.
"A few more boxes were hand-delivered to Atlanta to the processing center, making our grand total 18,000," Brown said. "We''re the only center in the state to have a growth of 22 percent."
For 2009, Mississippi showed an 8.3 percent increase, collecting 134,865 boxes, compared to 124,533 in 2008, she added.
A host of volunteers representing First Baptist, Mt. Vernon, Mt. Zion and New Salem churches in Columbus traveled with Brown to the larger Atlanta processing center in December to help inspect and sort boxes.
"Each box is checked to be sure there are no inappropriate items, like war-related toys, candies that might melt or liquids that could spill and ruin the box, and they''re sorted by gender and age," the coordinator explained. "It''s just amazing; it''s all done by volunteers. It''s really a big mission trip."
In praising the efforts of everyone who helped surpass last year''s numbers, Brown wants contributing communities to know their gifts will serve a great purpose.
"They''ll be used to further the kingdom of God, and the joy these gifts bring to children -- and I''ve seen it firsthand in Peru -- is indescribable."
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.