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September 27th, 2023

occ project workshopOperation Christmas Child Area Coordinator Chayli Duerson talks about the importance of the Samaritan’s Purse project which provides shoebox gifts to children around the world at last weekend’s project leader workshop at New Beginnings Church. L&T photo/Robert PierceROBERT PIERCE • Leader & Times


Mid-September is here, temperatures have cooled to fall-like levels, and the official start of the season is just a week away with the equinox set for early morning Sept. 23.

With all this in mind, the thoughts of most are simply focused on football season, falling leaves and youth returning to school, with some possibly giving thought to October’s Halloween celebration.

With that holiday still about a month a half away and Thanksgiving about another month away, few people are likely thinking of Christmas this time of year. For Chayli Duerson, though, the calendar’s final holiday before starting the new year is always on her mind, and with a recent event in Liberal, the area coordinator for Operation Christmas Child brought the holiday to the minds of a few locals.

Duerson hosted two OCC project leader workshops last weekend, one in Liberal and one in Minneola, and following the Liberal workshop at New Beginnings Church, she said the events are a great way to equip people and show them some of the great ways to pack a quality shoebox. 

Efforts like last weekend’s help prepare OCC volunteers to pack shoebox-filled gifts for children in foreign countries prior to National Collection Week, Nov. 13 through 20.

Duerson said one of the things discussed in the workshops is the importance of helping donated shoeboxes get where they are going.

“It’s a great time of connecting and sharing ideas and fellowshipping, and there’s snacks,” she said. “You can’t ever go wrong with snacks.”

Duerson said experienced and new volunteers were in attendance at the New Beginnings workshop.

“Most people who come to the project leader workshops have some experience with Operation Christmas Child, but we also have people who are new,” she said. “It’s a mix of both.”

Duerson said with a large number of volunteers taking part in collecting, OCC can make a huge impact around the world.

“As many people come, more children will be impacted with the love of Jesus through a shoebox,” she said.

Duerson said there is more work to be done before Collection Week.

“Churches, community groups and organizations begin to pack their shoeboxes,” she said. “It’s a great time. There’s still some school supplies that are on sale, so a good time to catch those kinds of things. It’s a great time to have packing parties, which is where you buy all of the things and maybe your youth group packs the boxes. It’s a great time to do that as well.”

During National Collection Week, New Beginnings will serve as a primary dropoff location for shoeboxes. The church is located at 2021 N. Western Ave. in Liberal.

“There’s also dropoffs all across the area,” Duerson said. “You can find those on the Samaritan’s Purse Web site, and in October, their hours will be released on when those dropoffs will be available.”

As Collection Week draws nearer, Duerson said her excitement for the Samaritan’s Purse project does too.

“It’s always so exciting to see people who come out and want to support Operation Christmas Child, and to see the joy giving provides for others is a joy for myself too,” she said.

A goal has been set for this year’s area collection efforts, which will come from much of Southwest Kansas and the Oklahoma Panhandle, of 10,000 shoeboxes, which Duerson said is about 5 percent more than the number collected in 2022.

The area OCC organization also has a new name.

“We are now the Wild West,” Duerson said. “The area north of us is the Old West. We are the Wild West Regional Team. We’re all different areas under Operation Christmas Child.”

Duerson said she hopes those who attended the recent workshops got much out of them.

“I hope everybody learned something new today and this prepared them for National Collection Week,” she said.