Two truckloads of red and green shoeboxes left Payson this week bound for the hands of small children far away.
Volunteers from six local churches joined efforts with businesses, clubs and individuals to prepare 534 boxes filled with toys, school supplies and hygiene items. The shoeboxes, labeled appropriately for girls or boys, will be sent to children in countries wracked by war, poverty and disaster as part of a worldwide effort called Operation Christmas Child.
"The most exciting thing is that 534 lives will be touched because of what the people of Payson did," said Luann Barker, local Christmas Child Organizer.
Operation Christmas Child is a project of Samaritan's Purse led by Franklin Graham, son of the Rev. Billy Graham.
Last year, more than 6 million children in 95 countries received a Christmas Shoebox. The locally prepared boxes are on their way to collection centers in Flagstaff and Colorado, and will then be distributed to children around the world.
"That's what Christmas is all about," Barker said. "Especially being able to help little children."
Barker said it was the caring people of Payson that made this project successful.
"We want to thank everyone involved for their time and donations," Barker said. "We have such wonderful people here in the churches and businesses who took time to fill a shoebox and make a difference in the life of a child."