Every year my daughter and I participate in Operation Christmas Child. We collect items throughout the year and pack them into shoeboxes for the good people at Samaritan’s Purse to deliver to boys and girls in need who live all over the world. Operation Christmas Child began in 1993 with the mission of demonstrating God’s love in a tangible way and sharing the Good News of Jesus.
I began packing shoeboxes when my daughter was a year old and with each passing year she has become more involved. My daughter just turned five so this year we packed five shoeboxes (in honor of her 5th birthday). She even used some of her birthday money to buy Barbie dolls for the boxes. I am happy she has been called to care and is growing up sharing her blessings with others.
How to Pack a Shoebox- Samaritan’s Purse has a step by step guide on how to pack a shoebox. I’ll outline a few tips I’ve picked up over the years.
Step 1- Find a Shoebox- Although any cardboard shoebox will work, I’ve read that the children often view the physical shoebox as a treasured gift. This year I used plastic shoeboxes. Three of our shoeboxes came from Hobby Lobby and are specially designed with the Operation Christmas Child logo printed on inviting red and green plastic boxes. I also used two clear plastic shoeboxes that I purchased elsewhere. Last year I picked up some complimentary cardboard shoeboxes with the Operation Christmas Child logo and branding at our local Chick-fil-a.
Step 2- Girl or Boy?- Although many of the items we pack can be enjoyed by all children, Samaritan’s Purse will ask you to identify if the shoebox was packed for a boy or a girl and what age category. The age categories are: 2-4, 5-9 and 10-14; with the oldest group typically being the one to receive the least donations. We pack boxes that correspond with my daughter’s current age so this year we are packing boxes targeted at the 5-9 age group.
Step 3- What To Pack in a Shoebox?- I keep a big box in our basement labeled “Shoebox Items” and go bargain shopping throughout the year. I scored school supplies for 75% off at Wal Mart, got discounted playground balls at the end of the summer from Walgreens and often pick up discounted items in Target’s dollar area when they change seasons. You can locate some outstanding items during after Christmas sales at all stores.
Samaritan’s Purse recommends packing a WOW item in each box. This could be a doll, stuffed animal, soccer ball with pump or a new outfit. Older children enjoy simple tool sets and expandable shoes. Click here to view gift suggestions by age. Amazon has a nice list of shoebox items as does Hobby Lobby. Besides toys we always pack self care items (a bar of soap, washcloths, combs, brushes, colorful band-aids, socks, hair clips and or bows, and toothbrushes.) Liquids and edible items are not allowed so you have to leave out toothpaste, candy and bubbles! We also include crafts and activities (crayons, pencils with a pencil sharpener, markers, pads of paper, coloring books, puzzles, and stickers.) You can also write a letter to include in your box. My daughter enjoys drawing a special picture and writing a note telling the children that Jesus loves them!
Step 4- Pray- Perhaps the easiest thing to do is pray for the children who will be receiving the boxes you prepared. Pray that the boxes will bring them joy and that by hearing the Gospel they will be filled with hope and encouragement.
Step 5- Follow-Your Box Labels- The cost to ship a box is $9 and you can click here to pay for labels that will track your box. Last year a few months after Christmas we received an email informing us that our boxes went to Mexico. We located Mexico on the map so my daughter could see where our shoeboxes had traveled to.
Step 6- Drop Off Your Box- Collection week is always the third week in November. Several churches and other organizations volunteer to be drop off facilities. This year collection week is November 18-25, so you still have plenty of time to pack a few shoeboxes! The Samaritan Purse’s website has a place where you can search for the drop off location closest to you!
Other Ways to Help?- If you would like to help but don’t have time to gather items and pack a shoebox you can save time and pack one online by clicking here or donate money to cover the $9 shipping. People will often pack shoeboxes but not include the money for shipping.
Whether you pack a few shoeboxes, volunteer at a processing center (like my in-laws), pray for the children receiving the shoeboxes or donate money for shipping, I hope you will make Operation Christmas Child a family tradition. For many of the children, the gift-filled shoebox is the first gift they have ever received. In addition to the shoeboxes all of the children will hear about the greatest gift of all…Jesus!