Amid the back-to-school sales and shopping sprees, one local family is looking past their own checklist by collecting school supplies for children living in poverty overseas. For some of these children, access to these simple items is essential to an education.

Throughout the month, the Drew family in Lafayette fills empty shoeboxes with school supplies, alongside hygiene items and fun toys. Operation Christmas Child, a project of Samaritan’s Purse, will deliver these shoebox gifts to children affected by war, disease, disaster, poverty and famine.

“We often forget how fortunate our children are to be able to attend school and have the supplies they need,” said Lafayette volunteer Jerrine Drew. “The small items, like notebooks and paper, send a message to children that God loves them and has not forgotten them. Knowing that children are being impacted around the world, changes back-to-school shopping from a task to a joy.”

The back-to-school sales in the area allow the Drews to provide even more children the opportunity to receive an education, such as Luis Gonzales, a shoebox recipient raised by a single mother in the ghetto of Panama City, Panama.

“When I was about to enter my first year of school, my family didn’t have the money to buy school supplies,” said Gonzalez. His experience is not uncommon for many children living in poverty. One day, Gonzalez received a gift-filled shoebox from Operation Christmas Child and found it filled with the school supplies he needed.

“I am committed to sharing my story to encourage others to pack shoebox gifts, because I know the difference it can make in a child’s life,” said Gonzalez.

For more information on how to participate in Operation Christmas Child or to view gift suggestions, call 410-772-7360, or visit samaritanspurse.org/occ. Participants can donate $9 per shoebox gift online through “Follow Your Box” and receive a tracking label to discover its destination.

Those who prefer the convenience of online shopping can browse samaritanspurse.org/buildonline to select gifts matched to a child’s specific age and gender, then finish packing the virtual shoebox by adding a photo and personal note of encouragement.