JOHNSTOWN — Locals will welcome Nadia Karnatova as she recounts how hope arrived in the form of a gift-filled shoebox when she was living in Ukrain at age nine. Karnatova will speak to community members from the surrounding area as they prepare for the upcoming collection season of the Samaritan’s Purse project Operation Christmas Child.

Karnatova grew up in Ukraine in a large family. Although God always provided for her family, they had very little. Karnatova’s mother could not afford to buy gifts for her children. However, one Christmas, when Karnatova was around 9 years old, she and all of her siblings received a shoebox from a local church. It was the first moment Karnatova felt God’s true presence.

Today, Karnatova loves to pack shoeboxes. She is now a mother herself, raising three children in Ohio. Karnatova will be at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Johnstown on Sunday at 2 p.m. to tell her story. Church members encourage all event attendees to pack shoebox gifts of their own— with school supplies, hygiene items, notes of encouragement and fun toys, such as a doll or soccer ball—to reach the global goal of impacting 12 million children.

For more information on how to participate in Operation Christmas Child or to view gift suggestions, call 518-437-0690 or visit samaritanspurse.org/occ. Participants can donate $9 per shoebox gift online through “Follow Your Box” and receive a tracking label to discover its destination. Those who prefer the convenience of online shopping can browse samaritanspurse.org/buildonline to select gifts matched to a child’s specific age and gender, then finish packing the virtual shoebox by adding a photo and personal note of encouragement.

Operation Christmas Child is a project of Samaritan’s Purse, an international Christian relief and evangelism organization headed by Franklin Graham. The mission of Operation Christmas Child is to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to children in need around the world and, together with the local church worldwide, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has collected and delivered more than 146 million gift-filled shoeboxes to children in more than 160 countries and territories.