A quick and easy way to brighten the spirits of a young child living in poverty is by filling a box full of items for the Operation Christmas Child effort.
Local organizers have empty boxes available at Evangelical Free Church in Marshalltown and there is a deadline of Nov. 18 to return the boxes.
People are asked to fill them with toys, school supplies, toothbrushes, stuffed animals and several other types of items.
Children in The Philippines are pictured with big smiles after receiving their gift-filled boxes as part of the Operation Christmas Child effort. The local collection is under way and empty boxes can be picked up at, and brought back to, Evangelical Free Church in Marshalltown.
"There's lot of different things you can put in," said Marilyn Willits, one of the local leaders of the Christmas box program.
Last year, more than 1,600 boxes were collected locally and the goal is to try to reach that many again. This year the boxes will go to children in 12 different countries including Haiti, Malaysia and Rwanda.
"It makes you kind of warm all over," Willits said. "To me, it's touching a child's life."
Audrey Hartzler, the local co-organizer of the effort with Willits, said many of the children who receive the boxes have little to no possessions.
"We want to give them some of the basic things like pencils plus some fun things," Hartzler said. "We want them to have what we just take for granted here and to show them that we love them."
The international Operation Christmas Child effort hopes to collect 9 million gift-filled boxes this year and reach 100 million boxes since 1993.
"It's a huge project, but it's so personal," Willits said.
Those who donate items can also offer to donate to pay to ship the items, but it is not necessary for those who just want to fill the boxes. For more information on the local program and drop off times, call the church at 641-752-7171. The church is located at 3111 S. Sixth St.