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Indeed, this is a scene that speaks for itself, a lovely moment in time, a cold December evening, quiet except for the telltale light on in the house. Someone was busy. Making Christmas cookies, perhaps? Wrapping gifts? Signing cards? It certainly is the time of year for any and all. Here’s hoping all our readers are enjoying the tasks of this holiday season, as they prepare for the big day. This was taken by Lisa Broadwater along Rt. 219 in

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If you are thinking of buying or selling real estate in Garrett County or Deep Creek Lake, Maryland, call Jay Ferguson of Railey Realty for all of your real estate needs! 877-563-5350

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Area Residents Join In Preparations For Operation Christmas Child Deliveries

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Oct. 28, 2010

by Brenda Ruggiero
In Garrett County as well as across the nation, gifts are being chosen, purchased, and packed into shoe boxes in preparation for Operation Christmas Child’s National Collection Week, which is planned for Nov. 15 to 22.

For Mary Damron, who serves as the organization’s spokesperson, one shoe box gift was not enough. This year marks her 17th season with Operation Christmas Child. Her involvement was first sparked by the war in Bosnia.

“I had actually just prayed for the children of Bosnia for four months, and I caught a glimpse of Franklin Graham’s program where he was taking shoebox gifts into an orphanage in Bosnia,” she explained. “I went around to all my neighbors. I live in the southern part of West Virginia where people do live below the poverty line, but I went to them and asked them to help me to take gifts to children who had never received gifts before.”

The neighbors responded in a big way, bringing 1,258 shoe boxes to Damron’s home in 13 days.

“I borrowed a truck and found Franklin Graham in North Carolina and asked him if he would take the boxes to Bosnia, and he immediately asked me to go with him and deliver them,” she explained. “So I’ve been with him ever since. I couldn’t be in anything that blesses me any more. I’m the one who ends up blessed by seeing the children. Their entire lives are changed through a simple shoe box. It’s just fascinating…amaz-ing to me.”

Damron explained that in many of the countries where the boxes are delivered, the economy is so low that the average annual income is the equivalent of 400 American dollars.

“Because of that, only the very, very wealthy children have crayons, because a box of eight crayons costs $5. Well, I love to watch the children open the crayons, and they’re just amazed. Imagine an 8-year-old girl, and for the first time she’s holding a crayon. It blows your mind. She’ll take it and she’ll color it on the coloring book, and then she’ll turn it back and look at it, get another color, and look at it again.

“If she has any parents available, she’ll take off running to show them the gift, and the men always cry…the men always cry. They can’t imagine that someone would give their child such a valuable gift – she doesn’t just have an eight-pack, she’s got a 24-pack. And you’re standing there knowing that you bought it for 22 cents when they were on sale. So that kinda puts it into perspective.”

Another image that remains in Damron’s mind is of children on garbage dumps.

“We have children on the garbage dumps all over this world who live there because people throw out their rotten food,” she said. “We can’t comprehend it, but every single thing they own, including the food that goes in their mouths, is someone else’s trash. When someone gives them a beautiful box, and everything in it is theirs, it changes how the children feel about themselves.

“I’ve watched little girls on the garbage dump put on necklaces and just start blowing kisses and pretending like they’re a princess or something. Before, they had been so ashamed of what they looked like when we came to the dump. You realize it changes how they feel about themselves inside. It’s a very powerful program that costs us so little to do, and yet it impacts children’s lives for eternity.”

Damron stresses that the most important gift that is given is the knowledge of God’s love for everyone.

“Once the children figure out that they have some kind of human value, which is actually what the boxes do – they tell children that they are a part of the human race – then they’re opened up to believe that God Almighty can love them,” she said

Since she first got involved, Damron has been on about 30 distributions to different countries. Currently, deliveries are made to 128 countries, and the number continues to grow.

Last year, a total of 8.2 million boxes were delivered, and the goal for this year has increased to 8.5 million.

Garrett County is part of the West Virginia Panhandle area for Operation Christmas Child. A total of seven counties are included: Garrett and Allegany in Maryland and Hardy, Grant, Hampshire, Mineral, and Pendleton counties in W.Va.

There are a total of 12 relays, or drop-off locations in the Panhandle area. They are as follows, including the name of the coordinator at each site:

Cherry Glade Mennonite Church, Accident, Diane Yoder; Pleasant View Baptist Church, Oakland, Debbie Welch; Grace Memorial Church, Cumberland, Shirley McKinney; God’s Ark of Safety, Frostburg, Patty Dubit; Fountain United Brethren Church, Keyser, W.Va. (which is the collection center), Trina Kesner; Locust Grove Church of the Brethren, Mt. Storm, W.Va., Paul Pacella.

South Branch Inn, Moorefield, W.Va., Kristy Stump; Christ Community Church, Augusta, W.Va., Myra Kesner; Living Faith Church, Franklin, W.Va., JoLynn Mitchell; Basagic Funeral Home, Petersburg, W.Va., Cindy Sites; Romney First United Methodist Church, Romney, W.Va., Gerald Lewis; and Paw Paw Church of God, Paw Paw, W.Va., Rose Mary Shrout.

Another opportunity to contribute has been arranged by students at Southern High School who are nominees for induction into the National Honor Society (NHS). Their service project, required by the NHS, consists of collecting new and “gently used” Beanie Babies for inclusion in the boxes. Catherine Baker, a junior at Southern, is spearheading the effort.

She and other inductees have placed collection boxes for the Beanies at the following locations: All county middle and high schools; St. Peter’s Church and parish office, St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, all in Oakland; St. Peter’s at the Lake; the Swanton Otterbein United Methodist; McHenry United Methodist Church; the Dollar Tree; and Oakland City Hall. For more information on this part of the project, persons may contact Baker at 240-321-5204 or

Additional drop-off centers in any area can by located by visiting, going to the Operation Christmas Child link, and typing in the ZIP code.

Last year, over 12,000 shoe boxes were packed from the West Virginia Panhandle area. This year’s goal from this area is 15,000.

In Garrett County alone, between 50 and 60 churches and groups regularly participate.

Volunteers in the area include Debbie Welch, area coordinator; Carolyn Livengood, community relations coordinator; Linda Glotfelty, church relations coordinator; Maria Upperman, prayer coordinator; Ross Glotfelty, media coordinator; and Trina Kesner, collection center coordinator.

“When you fill a shoe box for a needy child, even the smallest things mean so much,” Welch said. “School supplies are very important. When you send a box of 24 crayons, you might be sending them a color that they have never seen before. Toothbrushes and toothpaste are also something that the children often do not have. Often, families will share tooth-brushes.”

Welch explained that the age category that receives the least gifts is boys ages 10 to 14. For older boys, she suggested including flashlights or screwdriver sets.

“Include a stuffed animal for each child, no matter what gender or age,” she said. (This will be complemented by Baker and her project.)

In addition, Welch noted that each shoebox becomes a “gospel opportunity,” since each child also re
ceives a small booklet in his or her language telling about Jesus Christ.

“Long after the crayons are used and the toothpaste is gone, children will still have the hope of a future in Jesus,” Welch said. “They will remember that someone cares about them and that they are loved.”

Besides shoebox donations, volunteers are needed year-round for Operation Christmas Child. The areas where service is needed include community, church, media, prayer, and relay centers. Anyone who is interested in becoming a volunteer can contact Welch at 301-334-9648.

Welch noted that a bus trip is planned to the Operation Christmas Child pro-cessing center in Charlotte, N.C., from Sunday, Nov. 23, through Friday, Dec. 3.

“During our time there, we will be examining the boxes to make sure that no inappropriate items are sent,” she said. “We will also be visiting the Billy Graham Library while we are there.”

The cost for the trip will be $115 for the bus and around the same amount for lodging. Interested persons may contact Welch for more information.

Damron will speak at Christ Community Church in Augusta, W.Va., on Sunday, Oct. 31, at the 11 a.m. service. The public is welcome to attend.

“I would love to have a thousand languages to say thank you on behalf of the children,” Damron said. “I’d just like to tell the people thank you and God bless you. Keep doing this and touching the little ones and changing their lives.”

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If you are thinking of buying or selling real estate in Garrett County or Deep Creek Lake, Maryland, call Jay Ferguson of Railey Realty for all of your real estate needs! 877-563-5350

Deep Creek Do It All specializes in cleaning services in Garrett County & @ Deep Creek Lake. Give them a call (301-501-0217) or visit the website – competitive rates and quality results from a locally owned & operated company!