I believe I’ve mentioned Operation Christmas Child here on the blog before. My family has been involved with this organization for eight years now. We absolutely love it.
Operation Christmas Child (AKA OCC) is a branch of Samaritan’s Purse. Participants pack a shoebox (or shoebox-sized plastic box) with toys, school supplies, hygiene items and more to be given to a child in need (usually a child in an area suffering extreme poverty, natural disaster or war). These boxes are handed out all over the world. Every year they are collected the week before Thanksgiving at multiple collection sites all over the country (in the U.S.; they are also collected in other countries around the world).
If you miss collection week you can pack a box online any time of year. For $25 you choose the age and gender you would like to pack for and select from certain choices of items to go in your box. Volunteers then pack and ship the box for you.
One thing I learned pretty quickly is that I can maximize my efforts and my dollars by planning early and purchasing shoebox items throughout the year. Since collection week happens in November, I start my planning for the following year in December.
I set a goal for how many boxes I want to pack and at least a general idea of how many for each age and gender. Then I figure out how much I can budget each month for packing boxes and to save to pay shipping fees. I generally plan to spend $10-15 per box. So, if I want to pack 12 boxes for the year I set aside about $20 a month; $7 for shipping and the rest for purchasing items.
Once my plans are in place I start watching for good deals for shoebox items whenever I’m at the store. For example, I know school supplies go on sale in July and August so that is when I buy those.
As you start planning your box packing for the year look at the box packing instructions on the OCC website. You will find basic packing instructions, suggested items by age and gender, and items not to pack (please pay close attention to the items that aren’t allowed in the boxes, also note that candy and toothpaste are no longer allowed as of 2017). Read over this information so that you have a general idea of what items to be looking for, then when you see a good price on something you can grab one (or enough for some or all of your planned boxes).
I don’t pack a complete box each month. Instead, I pick up enough of whatever I find on sale for all of my boxes or all of the boxes that I plan to do for the age/gender that the item is most appropriate for.
After Christmas sales are a GREAT opportunity to get some awesome shoebox items at discount prices and start stocking up!
If you are up for facing the crowds and have any money left here are a few ideas of shoebox items that are likely to be on sale:
- Stuffed Animals
- Other toys (cars, yo-yos, jump ropes, balls)
- Shirts, Socks, or other clothing items
- Hats, gloves, scarves
- Christmas craft kits
- Small lego sets
- Coloring and activity books
- Hair accessories
- Small art sets
- Christmas cards (to write a note to the recipient of the box or to make puzzles)
- Shoebox size plastic bins (you may be able to find green or red bins on clearance) or
- Wrapping paper to wrap your shoeboxes
Check dollar areas, Christmas clearance items, as well as the regular areas for clearance sales.
Other ideas to keep in mind and watch for/collect throughout the year:
- Hotel soaps (but don’t include lotion or shampoo!)
- Free promotional items
- Party favors
- Kids’ meal toys
- Items you make (toys, hair-bows, dresses, etc. There are some great homemade ideas on the OCC Pinterest boards.)
Every year that I have planned this way I have ended up able to pack more boxes than I originally planned!!
Once a quarter my First Friday Featured Ministry post will be on Operation Christmas child with information on how you can get involved and shopping suggestions for your boxes! I will post ideas for items that are typically on sale duringthat season to be watching for. I’ll also include tips and ideas for shoebox packing. Subscribe with the form on the right so you don’t miss any updates!!
Have you participated in OCC? Feel free to share your experiences and ideas in the comments!