CRESTVIEW — Local kids, families, churches and groups will celebrate the upcoming collection season for Operation Christmas Child, the world’s largest Christmas project of its kind, which has a goal of collecting enough gift-filled shoeboxes to reach 11 million children in 2015.

Crestview residents can learn more about the program from someone who benefited from it.

Luis Gonzales grew up in Panama, surrounded by poverty. The ministry of Operation Christmas Child affected Luis’ life on many different levels. He remembers notebooks, pencils, candies and action figures he found in his box, which he needed, but the most meaningful thing was a letter and a picture he received.

They came from Operation Christmas Child.

Luis will share his story on Saturday, Oct. 3 at Emmanuel Baptist Church, 3252 E. James Lee Blvd. Crestview.

The schedule is as follows:

●2 p.m.: Potluck with staff and team

●4 – 5 p.m.: Youth event with a packing party; Luis will speak for about 10 minutes

●5 – 6 p.m.: Luis will share his story for 30 – 40 minutes

Operation Christmas Child is a project of Samaritan’s Purse, an international Christian relief and evangelism organization headed by Franklin Graham.

Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has delivered gift-filled shoeboxes to more than 124 million children in more than 150 countries and territories.

In 2015, Operation Christmas Child hopes to collect enough shoebox gifts to reach another 11 million children.

For more information about how to participate in Operation Christmas Child, call (865) 776-8843.