WAXAHACHIE — As Americans all across the country join forces for National Volunteer Week April 23 – 29, there are many opportunities in Waxahachie to support a cause, serve the community and make a difference.

One volunteer effort making an impact in Waxahachie and around the world is Operation Christmas Child, a project of Samaritan’s Purse. The project collects shoeboxes — filled with school supplies, hygiene items and fun toys — and delivers them to children in need around the world. For many of these children, the gift-filled shoebox is the first gift they have ever received.

“The purpose of Operation Christmas Child is to send a message to children that they are loved and not forgotten,” said Regional Director Matt McClelland. “Our volunteers can make an eternal impact on a child in need by giving their time and talents to this simple project.”

Burt Lyon heads up the Ellis County Texas Area Team Area Team for Operation Christmas Child.

“I find it a privilege to do all I can to inspire my community to get involved in this project,” said Lyon. “We know that for many of these children, this shoebox gift is the only gift they have ever received. There is a lot of hurt and darkness in the world, and these gifts bring light and hope.”

Each year, millions of children in need in more than 100 countries find hope in a simple shoebox gift, many of whom are affected by war, disease, disaster, poverty and famine. In 2016, Operation Christmas Child volunteers made it possible for nearly 11.5 million children to receive a shoebox gift. This year, Operation Christmas Child hopes to send enough gift-filled shoeboxes to reach another 12 million children, a feat unattainable without the more than nine thousand local volunteers who serve year-round across the country.

Last year, Waxahachie volunteers, families and groups paved the way as part of the Ellis County Texas Area Team to collect shoebox gifts for another 5,379 children.

As the project gears up for another year of gift collections, Lyon and Operation Christmas Child are seeking new year-round volunteers. To learn more about the volunteer opportunities available in the Waxahachie area or to apply, visit samaritanspurse.org/volunteerwithOCC or call 817-595-2230.