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Thousands of children will soon experience the joy of Christmas, thanks to the Artesia community.

Local participation in Operation Christmas Child – a project of Samaritan’s Purse which sends gifts to children living in difficult situations around the world – helped set a new record for the Southeast New Mexico area team, which collected 6,000 shoebox gifts for the project this year, breaking last year’s record of 5,435.

Throughout the year and during National Collection Week, Artesia churches, businesses, schools and individuals filled shoeboxes with small items such as toys, hygiene products, school supplies, and notes of encouragement. The Southeast New Mexico team is now thanking Artesia for its donations, already on their way to children in need worldwide.

Those who missed National Collection Week can still get involved. Through the Samaritan’s Purse website, donors can virtually “pack” a shoebox, allowing anyone with a computer or mobile device to provide a tangible gift to a child a world away.

At samaritanspurse.org/buildonline, visitors can select a child’s age and gender, shop through an online selection of culturally relevant gifts, and finish by uploading a photo and writing a note of encouragement to the child who will receive it. After the shoeboxes are packed and sent by the Operation Christmas Child team, participants can discover where in the world their gifts will be delivered. It is a convenient yet meaningful way to join in a project that brings hope to children in need.

The virtual-packing tool also offers participants the option to challenge friends to participate or the opportunity to share the gift of giving through a shoebox gift card.

Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has delivered gift-filled shoeboxes to more than 124 million children in more than 150 countries and territories. In 2015, the organization hopes to deliver gifts to another 11 million children.

For more information on how to participate in Operation Christmas Child, call 303-745-9179 or visit samaritanspurse.org/occ.