One of our favorite family service projects each year is packing a Shoebox for Operation Christmas Child. Operation Christmas Child is a wonderful program run by Samaritan’s Purse. Your participation helps to share the love of Christmas with needy children all around the world! Each of my children fill a box for a child in their age range. As I have mentioned before, this is one of the reasons I coupon- so that I can give more! Many of the items that fill our boxes were Free or greatly discounted. All through the year, my family collects items to fill our shoeboxes (toothbrush, crayons, socks and more). We have been doing this for several years, so here are a few Tips for Operation Christmas Child Shoebox Packing.
1. Choose a Child
There are several options for choosing a child by gender and age range. It is important to know these specifics for several reasons. First you will want to keep this in mind when getting items for your box, so they are age and gender appropriate. Also, you will need to know this for marking your box when you send it in.
2. Choose a Box
There are also several “kinds” of boxes you can pack.
- Official OCC Shoebox Box- You can find these boxes at collection locations. For instance, my church is a location center and we always have boxes to hand out.
- Regular Cardboard Shoebox– This one is a little obvious. My family often goes with this option. Be sure that the box is a good size (not a toddler shoe, but not a size 14 men’s either). You can also wrap these boxes with Christmas paper. Just be sure that the top can come off without ripping the paper. It’s a great way to recycle the box too!
- Plastic Shoebox– These boxes are great because it is more sturdy than the cardboard boxes. And, the child receiving the box can use it for many years to come.
- NEW OCC Plastic Shoebox– In 2017, OCC came out with a preprinted plastic shoebox that could be purchased from Hobby Lobby, Christian Book Distributors or through Samaritan’s Purse. But see more details on this new shoebox option here.
3. Choose Items for Your Shoebox
This is the fun part. Time to pack it up! We actually buy items all year long to fill our shoeboxes. After season clearance toys and back to school supply sale items are all perfect. Visit OCC page to see suggested items for each age range. Here are a few more items we like to use
- School Supplies
- Glow Sticks (be sure they are the skinny bracelet kind, not the thicker ones with more liquid inside)
- Matchbox Cars
- Hair bows and ties
- Toothbrush, soap, washcloth (mostly freebies from couponing of course) (Please note, Toothpaste is no longer an accepted item)
Hard Candy (we use Halloween Candy like Smarties, Sprees, Skittles, lollipops- no chocolate or things that could melt)Along with Toothpaste, Candy is no longer an accepted item. I have heard it is due to increasing customs regulations.
- A picture of your family with a note- this is always a special thing to do. It lets the child put a face to the givers. Sometimes you may even receive a note back from the child.
- Small balls or deflated blow up beach balls
- Flip flops
- Small reusable bag- this is a new one for us. I read once that the kids love to have a bag to put all their special shoebox items in.
- Small sewing or tool kits
- Water bottle (other items can fit inside to make more room)
- NOT to add items: liquid, breakable items in glass, war/weapon related toys.
- See more donation items here.
If you want, you can also Choose to Build a Shoebox Online. Samaritan’s Purse will fill a box and ship it for you for a $25 donation.
4. Choose Mailing Label Method
You may have received an envelope from your church or a mailing from Samaritan’s Purse. You can include your payment ($9 per box to cover shipping and processing) in the envelope and tuck it inside your box. Be sure to attach the “Boy” or “Girl” label on the outside. Or, I suggest using the trackable mailing labels. You can create your mailing label online (and pay online as well). Attach it to the box and then wait to get an email telling you where your box ended up. Our kids were really excited to see (literally on a map) where our boxes travel to last year.
5. Choose Donation Location
Each year there is a national OCC Shoebox Collection week. You will need to drop off your boxes at a designated drop off location. Many churches participate in Shoebox donation drives. But you may also find locations like Doctor’s offices and Chick-fil-A collecting boxes. In fact, our local Chick-fil-A on Sawmill Road often has a special packing night and extra “thank you” gift when you donate. Find a Shoebox donation location near you.
6. Choose to Pray
Last, but most important- make a choice to really pray for the child receiving each box as well as Samaritan’s Purse and the OCC organization. It really is such an amazing experience to think about touching a life across the world. As the verse says… It is truly more blessed to give than receive.
Do you fill shoeboxes for OCC? What are your favorite donation items? Do you have a touching story to tell about your experience with OCC? Please share in the comments below!