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Operation Christmas Child a family affair

November 26, 2009|By MARLO BARNHART

HAGERSTOWN -- Franklin Graham has followed in the path of charity carved by his father, the Rev. Billy Graham. The same could be said for Roy Grove of Hagerstown, who has involved his son and grandsons in the annual Operation Christmas Child drive.

A project of Samaritan's Purse, which Franklin Graham heads up, Operation Christmas Child has been near and dear to Grove since 1999 when he first got involved.

"I heard about it and it sounded like a good idea," Grove said.

The attraction was sparked by Grove's Mennonite background and upbringing. "The Mennonites have big hearts."

So each year before Christmas, Grove arranges for a 53-foot truck trailer to be parked at Solliday Oil, 325 E. Wilson Blvd. in Hagerstown. This year, 8,446 shoeboxes were collected and loaded into 650 larger boxes for shipping -- the truck was full when it pulled out.

"The truck left Hagerstown Nov. 24 for Charlotte, N.C.," Grove said. From there, the gift boxes will be distributed worldwide.

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Boxes could include small toys, school supplies, hard candy, flashlights and personal hygiene items. They also could hold a personal note or snapshot to establish pen pal relationships with the gift recipients.

The truck trailer was furnished by YRC Inc. Many of the shoeboxes were donated by PSI Group, a local box/display company, he said.

"We also had two skids of loose items such as school supplies we buy when they are cheap and what some people bring in unpacked," Roy Grove said.

His son, Gary Grove, donates the warehouse space for the donations. Grandsons Allan and John Grove have gotten involved in recent years with Operation Christmas Child.

Now 88, Roy Grove used to drive the trucks himself. Now he is content with orchestrating the annual effort from Hagerstown.

One of his greatest joys has been trips to Haiti, Mexico and other Central American countries as well as Africa to actually see the children there receiving their gift boxes.

This year, the drive started in August when the brochures went out to people who had donated before. "Despite the economy, donations exceeded last year ... people are generous," Grove said.

For first-timers, more information is available on Operation Christmas Child at 800-353-5949, or on the Web site at www.samaritanspurse.org. Calls may also be directed to Solliday Oil at 301-739-1888.

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