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Originally published: 2012-11-17 18:08:44
Last modified: 2012-11-19 11:37:44

Operation Christmas Child in process

by Anna Oakes

Monday is the National Collection Week deadline to drop off gift-filled shoeboxes at Operation Christmas Child collection points, and as the first loads of boxes began to trickle in late last week, the Boone processing center was busy with about 50 staff and volunteers.

Not as busy it will be this week, though.

"We call this the calm before the storm," said Carey Gregory, church relations manager for Operation Christmas Child.

From Wednesday through Dec. 8, about 50 staff members and 500 volunteers per day will fill the Operation Christmas Child warehouse to process more than 700,000 shoeboxes for distribution to more than 100 countries around the world, said Mark Cooper, Operation Christmas Child quality control manager.

Boone is one of seven processing centers across the country for Samaritan's Purse's Christmas project, which since 1993 has collected shoeboxes filled with gifts for millions of impoverished children.
Other processing centers are located in Charlotte, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Denver, Orange County, Calif., and Hawaii.

This year, the Boone processing center redesigned its processing model in hopes of improving efficiency. If successful, the model will be implemented at the other six processing centers next year, Cooper said.

Previously, incoming and outgoing shipping boxes were transported through the warehouse on the same roller conveyors.

Under the new model, incoming shipping boxes (containing a number of shoeboxes) are transported from the truck to the receiving dock and then to two roller conveyors dedicated to incoming boxes only.

The boxes then move from the roller belts in the center of the warehouse outward to one of 18 assembly lines (nine on each side), where volunteers inspect shoeboxes for proper labeling, remove inappropriate items such as liquids and perishable foods, add additional "filler items" if needed and secure the box with Samaritan's Purse tape, which signals to U.S. Customs that the boxes have been processed.

The shoeboxes are then sorted by girl or boy and age range into larger cardboard boxes, ARE secured with tape and moved to one of two outgoing roller conveyors located on both sides of the warehouse.

"We believe that it will be more efficient. Now you have a continuous flow," Cooper said. Production numbers derived from a two-hour trial run conducted this summer would hypothetically result in the best day on record for the Boone center.

If you miss Monday's dropoff deadline for area collection points, don't worry.

The Boone processing center will accept shoeboxes through Dec. 8, Cooper said.

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