A group of area residents have a special place in their hearts for kids and Christmas.

A group of area residents have a special place in their hearts for kids and Christmas.

That’s one of the reasons they have been involved in Operation Christmas Child for many years.

Three years ago, Shelly Emerick, of Grace United Methodist Church, in Geneseo, and Mercedes Bealer, of Geneseo Evangelical Free Church, drop-off location team leader for Operation Christmas Child, who coordinates the shoebox drop off process, spearheaded efforts for the first-ever Craft & Vendor Fair in Geneseo to benefit Operation Christmas Child.

Because of the success in previous years, the third-annual fair will be offered this year, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 21, at Geneseo Moose Lodge.

The fair will feature a variety of vendors and crafters, and there is still room for more. Those interested in participating should contact Bealer at (309) 269-4294, Emerick at 944-0685 or David Jones at (309) 714-0934.

In addition to vendors, the day will include raffle drawings for items donated by the participating vendors and local businesses.

Ron Westfall will be in charge of smoking pulled pork for the lunch stand at the fair, organized by Annette Kirschenmann and Heather Westfall.

“Profits from hosting the fair, from the raffle, bake sale and lunch stand will be used to help cover shipping costs for the Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes,” Bealer said, explaining many times people donate shoeboxes filled with items, but not the $9 which covers shipping costs as well as “The Greatest Journey” booklets packed in each shoebox and written in the language of the child receiving the shoebox.

Last year, 1,769 shoeboxes were filled in Geneseo

Admission fee to the fair is $1 or an item that can be included in a shoebox such as a small toy, school supplies, coloring books, or hygiene items with the exception of toothpaste.

“We cannot use anything glass, liquid, camouflage or war-related, or any type of food,” Bealer said.

Vendors already signed up for the Fair include Pampered Chef, Scentsy Fragrance, Tupperware, Rudy Ribbon Shape wear, Sweet Cheek Leggings, LuLa Roe clothing which will be displayed in a bus parked in the lot of the Moose Lodge, Trades Of Hope Jewelry and Accessories and Collector’s Corner.

Bealer coordinates the drop off process of the shoeboxes, and drop off location is Geneseo Evangelical Free Church where shoeboxes are left and then packed in large boxes and taken to Heritage Church in Rock Island. From there, they are taken by semi truck to Minneapolis to the Operation Christmas Child Processing Center.

The shoeboxes are checked in and then distributed in the United States and throughout the world.

Collection Week for the shoeboxes is Nov. 13-20.

Geneseo Evangelical Free Church has served as the drop off location for the last six years as the result of the efforts of David and Debra Jones, members of Geneseo Evangelical Free Church, who introduced Operation Christmas Child to the church congregation.

Operation Christmas Child is an outreach of Samaritan Purse, an international Christian relief and evangelism organization. The non-profit organization specializes in meeting the critical needs of victims of war, poverty, disease and natural disaster, in order to demonstrate God’s love and share the Gospel.

We never know where any of the shoeboxes will end up, so it is up to God to deliver them to the right kids,” Bealer said. “That really shows that God is in charge of the project.”