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It's the season to spread holiday cheer far and near. Whether filling a shoe box with gifts, attending a concert or giving to a toy drive, special events in the Black Hills are in full swing to benefit those in need.

This week, the push is on to gather shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child. This is the official collection week for Operation Christmas Child, a project of international ministry Samaritan’s Purse.

Now in its 25th year, Operation Christmas Child is an annual campaign to collect shoe boxes filled with small toys, school supplies and hygiene items for children overseas. Operation Christmas Child has given shoe boxes to children in 167 countries and territories.

On Monday night, 30 women brought hundreds of supplies for a packing party at Dove Christian Center, the official collection site for Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes in Rapid City.

“This is our third year as an official drop-off site,” said Nancy Morrison, children’s pastor and collections center coordinator for Dove Christian Center. “As of Wednesday night, we had 1,042 boxes, which is a little ahead of our (usual) number, so we’re very excited about that.”

Dove Christian Center members typically fill between 100 and 200 boxes, Morrison said. Many women who attended the packing party had already filled boxes with their families. They pooled their extra school supplies, soap, washcloths, toothbrushes, combs and brushes, hair ties, clothing, socks, crayons, markers, stuffed animals, small craft items and more, and were able to fill another 42 boxes, she said.

People from the community and other churches have been donating steadily all week, Morrison said, noting that after-school hours have been a popular time for parents and children to drop off shoe boxes.

“Every single box is very much appreciated,” Morrison said. “We’re really honored and blessed to be a part of it and it’s great fun every year. Certainly our entire church enjoys being part of it.”

Many churches in the Black Hills participate in Operation Christmas Child and will be collecting shoe boxes on Sunday. Each community also has an official collection site; anyone who wants to participate can bring filled shoe boxes to those locations through Monday.

Each box needs to include a $9 donation, a label indicating the age of the child for which the box is appropriate, and whether the box is for a boy or girl.

Rapid City typically collects between 2,000 and 3,000 shoe boxes each year; Spearfish collects about 1,600, Morrison said. Altogether, western South Dakota communities donate about 7,000 shoe boxes every year. Operation Christmas Child has a goal to distribute 11 million shoe boxes this year.

Giving closer to home

Whether you can sponsor an entire family’s holiday dinner or give something as simple as a pair of socks, there are lots of ways to help this time of year. Check with your favorite local charity, school, church or organization to find out how you can make the holidays brighter for a child, senior citizen or family in need. Meanwhile, some special events are planned to benefit children and families in the Black Hills.

Concert, silent auction

A concert by Bella Voce will highlight the annual Holiday Salute Benefit Concert and Silent Auction on Sunday. This fundraiser will be at Emmanuel Episcopal Church, 717 Quincy St., Rapid City. The event benefits Church Response Community Pantry.

A silent auction and bake sale begin at 1 p.m. Gift certificates, décor, quilts, handmade items and jewelry from local merchants will be included in the silent auction. Baked goods and lefse will be available to purchase. A painting, an original work of art, will be raffled. Raffle tickets can be purchased the day of the event.

The holiday concert by Bella Voce, a local women’s ensemble, begins at 2 p.m.

The final opportunity to bid on silent auction items and the raffle drawing for the painting will be at 3 p.m.

Church Response has served Rapid City for 46 years. The nonprofit organization provides food and other temporary assistance to those who are struggling because of financial setbacks or illness. Church Response aids between 200 and 250 families every week, including about 400 children.

Newell Festival of Trees

The Newell Annual Festival of Trees begins at 9 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 1, at Newell City Hall. Admission is two cans of non-perishable food per person to benefit the food pantry. Tree preview 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Complimentary lunch 11:30 a.m. Holiday festivities including a visit from Santa, crafts, games and a bike giveaway start at 2 p.m. Special music and Hee Haw live entertainment from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Tree auction starts at 4 p.m. Erk Ranch Deer Hunt and Smeenk Ranch Antelope Hunt auctions and a live band and dancing will be from 8 p.m. to midnight. Proceeds from auctions benefit Newell Fire Department and Ambulance.

Toys for Tots

Through Dec. 6, the 2018 Toys for Tots Campaign in the Black Hills is accepting donations of new, unwrapped toys. This year, the goal is to collect 20,000 toys. For a list of locations where toys can be dropped off, go to rapidcity-sd.toysfortots.org, then click on Ways to Donate, Toy Drop-Off Sites.

Holiday Jam

Holiday Jam with the Hegg Brothers will be at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7, at the Performing Arts Center of Rapid City, 601 Columbus St. This concert features Christmas classics, contemporary arrangements and the soulful sounds of Jeremy and Jon Hegg, with an ensemble of horns, saxophones, piano, guitar and percussion. Enjoy stories of the season, messages for the heart and music to lift your spirits. Tickets are $25 in advance; $30 at the door. Proceeds benefit LifeScape, an organization that provides highly specialized therapy services for children in Rapid City.

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