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A creative, charitable Christmas

September 24, 2011
By Brad Johnson - Staff Writer , The Inter-Mountain

Anyone who loves to sew can help others and have a fun time doing it by creating "stuff sack" bags to be sent to needy children through the Operation Christmas Child program.

"This is a great hands-on way for you to be a part of this project and touch the lives of kids in need all over the world," said Bob Cowgill, community relations coordinator for the Elkins area Operation Christmas Child team.

Operation Christmas Child is a worldwide children's project of Samaritan's Purse that uses simple gift-filled shoe boxes to let children know that they are loved and not forgotten. In 2011, Operation Christmas Child has a goal of reaching more than 8 million children around the world.

Article Photos

The Inter-Mountain photo by Anthony Gaynor
“Stuff sacks” like the one shown above can be made and included in Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes for needy children.

Cowgill and his wife, Faye, have been involved with the program for more than 15 years, and have recently begun to focus on creating bags with a drawstring - or "stuff sacks" - to be folded and placed in the bottom of the shoe boxes. "With the stuff sack, the child has something they can carry their possessions around in," he said.

About 300 of the bags have been made so far this year by Faye Cowgill and two friends, Doris Blackburn and Jo Conway, who are all members of First United Methodist Church.

"Faye bought a special sewing machine, a serger, for the bags, and can make them much faster now," Bob Cowgill said. "Most of the material has been donated."

Fact Box

Operation Christmas Child

Gift Bag Instructions


1/2 Yard (45 inches) of Fabric

36 inches of cord


Find the center of one 18-inch end of fabric. Measure down 2 inches and make two 1/2-inch buttonholes.

Sew 22 1/2-inch sides of fabric together creating a bag.

Fold top down 1 1/2 inches and stitch forming a casing and pull cord through.

Track cord through casing on opposite sides from buttonholes so cord cannot be pulled out.

These gift bags can be made from leftover scrap material, preferably colorful material that will appeal to children.

They will fold easily to place inside a shoe box and make a great additional gift that the children can use to keep their belongings in.

The following is a list of the official Operation Christmas Child Shoebox drop-off locations for Randolph and surrounding counties:

Randolph County:

Big Lots in Elkins - Main Collection Center

Monday - Sunday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Contact person: Yvonne Murphy (304) 636-3365

Bowden Special Ministries in Bowden

Monday - Saturday 1-5 p.m.

Sunday and Monday 10 a.m. to 12 noon

Contact person: Kim Everson (304) 516-3074

Barbour County

Belington Nazarene Church in Belington

Monday - Saturday 12 noon to 4 p.m.

Sunday 1-4 p.m.

Monday 12 noon to 4 p.m.

Contact person: Connie Brown (304) 823-2978

Crim Memorial Church in Phillipi

Monday - Sunday 10 a.m. to 12 noon

Monday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Contact person: Barbara Alkire (304) 457-4188

Upshur County

Wayside Southern Baptist Church

Monday - Friday 4-8 p.m.

Saturday 8 a.m. to 12 noon

Sunday 1-4 p.m.

Monday 8-10 a.m.

Contact person: Lisa Owens (304) 472-8465

Tucker County

Kidwell Auto Parts

Monday - Friday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Saturday 8 a.m. to 12 noon

Sunday 2-5 p.m.

Monday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Contact person: J.R. Helmick (304) 478-4184

Performance Motors

Monday - Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Saturday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Sunday 2-5 p.m.

Monday 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Contact person: Tammy Helmick (304) 478-4184

Webster County

Calvary Baptist Church

Monday - Friday 4:40 - 7 p.m.

Saturday 9:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

Sunday 12:30 - 2:30 p.m.

Monday 9 - 11 a.m.

Contact person: Mary Gladwell (304) 847-5636 or (304) 872-8886

He encouraged anyone with an affinity for sewing to try their hand at making the bags (sewing instructions are listed in the accompany information box).

"Check your scrap material, and watch the local stores for sales on fabrics," he said. "These can be made very cheaply. They can also be made at a smaller size if someone would prefer to do it that way."

The Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes will be collected the third week of November. First United Methodist Church, located at 315 Kerens Ave. in Elkins, will host a "Packing Party" on Nov. 6 to prepare boxes for collection.

"If anyone would like to make and bring bags to the church before then, we would be happy to accept them and pack them in the boxes," Bob Cowgill said, adding that anyone with questions about the bags can call him or his wife at 304- 636-6367. More information about Operation Christmas Child can be found at



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