MANSFIELD — The Christmas holiday is just around the corner, which means it's time for the Samaritan’s Purse annual Operation Christmas Child mission. 

Samaritan’s Purse collects shoebox gifts filled with toys, school supplies, and hygiene items for children around the world. Since 1993, more than 178 million children in more than 160 countries have received an Operation Christmas Child shoebox.

In north central Ohio, Elizabeth Dawson helps lead the charge for collecting shoebox gifts. 

"Operation Christmas Child really means Operation Jesus, because Jesus is the Christmas child," Dawson said. 

As the child of missionaries, Dawson grew up in Jerusalem as her parents performed missionary work. She said she also grew up with a sense of purpose to tell people about Jesus. 

"I love children, I was a teacher, and most of all it's about Jesus," she said. "That's where my heart is." 

Dawson is part of a six-county team serving Ashland, Richland, Morrow, Knox, Marion and Crawford counties. A year-round volunteer team works on planning the Operation Christmas Child outreach every year. 

Every year, National Collection Week takes place the third week in November when over 4,000 drop-off locations are open across the country. The deadline to drop off is Monday, Nov. 23.

This year, trucks will be delivering the boxes from Ohio to Boone, N.C. on Tuesday, Nov. 24. 

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Operation Christmas Child is taking extra safety precautions. More information can be found here

Local shoebox drop-off sites can be found at the following locations. For more information on drop-off times and where you can send your shoebox, click here:

Ashland County 

• Trinity Lutheran Church, 508 Center Street, Ashland 

• Little Flock Fellowship Church, 1149 County Road 30A, Ashland 

Crawford County

• Grace Point, 683 Portland Way N, Galion

• Saint Johns United Church of Christ, 120 S Lane Street, Bucyrus 

Knox County

• Faith Baptist Church, 8764 Martinsburg Road, Mount Vernon

• Brandon Baptist Church, 13513 Sycamore Road, Mount Vernon

Richland County 

• Community Bible Church, 1043 Springmill St., Mansfield 

• Impact Church, 160 Woodruff Road, Mansfield 

• Freedom Ridge, 2200 Bedford Blvd., Ontario 

• First United Methodist Church, 18 S. Gamble St., Shelby 

When you arrive at your drop-off location, follow the signs for curbside drop off. A volunteer wearing a mask will greet you and direct you to an outside area where they will retrieve your shoeboxes.

Volunteers will also present you with a touchless way to leave your contact information and the number of shoeboxes that you are dropping off.

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