There are children throughout the world who aren't able to experience the joys of Christmas. So in 1993, Samaritan's Purse began collecting shoeboxes full of toys and supplies and sending them to 130 different countries through Operation Christmas Child.
This year, the group surpassed the 100 million shoebox milestone. The group has collected 8.2 million boxes worldwide so far this year.
In Broadalbin, the Sacandaga Bible Conference has been helping with the collection efforts since 1998 by providing a place for the Samaritan's Purse efforts to store their collections.
The number collected in Broadalbin reached 8,290 - up from 7,896 boxes last year, and up from 6,777 in 2009.
Phyllis Keeler, a former collections director for Samaritan's Purse for the local area, said efforts in the area have increased every year since its inception - so much so that the national group has expanded it to sites in Albany, Herkimer and Plattsburgh.
Keeler, who still works with Samaritan's Purse, has been pleased with the site provided by the Sacandaga Bible Conference.
"That's a wonderful collection site, because we can advertise the Bible Conference as well as collect all of those boxes," she said.
Megan Wills, seasonal administrative assistant for the group, said in some areas donations have gone down - such as the Long Island area damaged by Hurricane Sandy - but other volunteers have been able to increase their donations at the same time.
"There are some people who have been able to push through some very difficult things themselves to donate shoeboxes to different areas of the world, even though their situation isn't great," Wills said. "I think that's awesome.
"When you think about the season, this is when you go through Thanksgiving and giving thanks for what they have, then you go out Christmas shopping where there's a sense of materialism and consumerism. People do this to recognize that we have so much and have been blessed so much that they can give to other people."
Volunteer gifters first designate the child's age and gender before filling their boxes with the age- and gender-appropriate gifts. They can choose to purchase the items themselves or go to www.samaritanspurse.org/occ and shop through an online selection of gifts. They could then write a note of encouragement and put $7 in the box to pay for shipping before leaving it at their local drop-off location.
Grace Johnston, Samaritan's Purse media director, said the volunteer workers have done a great job engaging the community and have been a big reason why the organization has been able to reach the 100 million mark.
Johnston also said this process allows people to shop in a unique way.
"Going out and shopping for my family is wonderful, but they have a certain standard for what they want, and there's such a joy with shipping simple things," she said. "It's just something you don't think about packing here, because they're just daily-use items here. We hear so many stories about a little boy or girl who was able to go to school, because they got those basic-use items like a pencil or paper. [It's about] just knowing that there is a very special impact that comes on that side of the box."
Gifters also can go online and track the box to see where it helped a child enjoy Christmas.
The Salvation Army also is aiding area children, and Trisha Rogers-Byrns, chairperwoman for the Advisor Board, and volunteer Christina Nevels were collecting toys and clothes for 475 local children in the Walmart parking lot Saturday.
The Salvation Army and Walmart have been working together nationally on this project, but this is the first year the collection has come to this area.
Rogers-Byrns and Nevels were pleased with the turnout.
"It's been really great," Rogers-Byrns said. "It's been a pretty steady flow ... We're trying to [collect for] the remaining kids that we still need donations brought in for. I think they met the goal."