Fellowship Bible and Second Baptist churches of Conway have entered into a friendly competition to see who can pack the most shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child, a brand of international relief organization Samaritan’s Purse, which supplies underprivileged children with shoeboxes filled with hygiene items, school supplies and toys.
Fellowship Bible has been heavily involved for many years and that is how Paul Bradly and his family got involved.
“Our county is part of a larger county area that has a goal of packing over 16,000 shoe boxes, in support of the worldwide goal of 11.3 million shoe boxes this season,” Bradley said. “The US is just one of many countries that participates.”
Fellowship Bible has historically collected around 6,000 shoeboxes each year and has been the largest donor in the county area, according to Bradley.
This year, however, Second Baptist’s lead pastor, Josh King, has challenged Fellowship to participate in a competition. Officially, their goal is to pack 3,000 boxes, but King says he really wants to pack 6,001.
Recently assigned as the OCC project leader for his church, Bradley got in touch with King through Facebook Messenger while King was still living in Texas.
They say it started as just joking around, but it developed into actually being implemented in both churches.
“I asked [Bradley] how big his church was, and he said about seven hundred,” King said. “Second [Baptist] is bigger. So I was like ‘well that’s embarrassing.'”
Since then, both churches have produced videos encouraging their congregations to participate in the packing of boxes.
The videos show things like King “breaking in” to Fellowship Bible and trying to “steal” some of their boxes, or dressing as a giant shoebox himself.
“So we’re really trying to make this fun and ham it up, too,” Bradley said.
Bradley said the competition has caused both churches to “step up” in a way.
“Not for the sole purpose of the competition or to win, but just to spur each other on,” he said.
Anyone can participate in Operation Christmas Child without affiliation to either or any church.
OCC National Collection Week is Nov. 12-18 and packed boxes can be dropped off at Fellowship Bible or almost all Chick-fil-A locations.
The GO Store, located on Court Street in Conway is providing access to OCC-approved items, and participants can pack their boxes in store and they will take the boxes as well.
The GO Store, owned by Erica and Andy Cason, started as a seasonal store providing access to items OCC-approved that can go in a shoe box, but for 50-70 percent off retail.
About a year and a half ago, Erica made the decision to quit her full time job as a Physical Therapist and keep the GO Store open year round, using a thrift store to pay the rent and bills and keep the store open even when OCC is “out of season.”
Bradley and King want to issue an open invitation to the public to participate and pack boxes.
Additionally, they would like to issue a challenge to the other churches in the area.
Bradley announced that as of last week, Woodland Heights Baptist Church has joined the competition with a goal of packing five hundred shoe boxes.
The Log Cabin will be following up to see exactly how many boxes were packed by each church, but in the end the real winners will be the thousands of children who will receive necessities and gifts through Operation Christmas Child they would not have received otherwise.