Filling shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child is typically the way our family officially kicks off the holiday season. Samaritan’s Purse is changing the world with the good news of the Gospel, and we love being a part of the impact they are making all around the globe.
There was one year when we decided not to do the boxes (You can read about that here.), but for several years now, this special family project has signaled the start of the holidays!
Our Family’s Approach
Gathering Items for our Shoeboxes:
- Each January, we set aside one large tote for the next Operation Christmas Child project. This plastic bin sits in one of our closets, and we add to it all throughout the year.
- Around here, we are firm believers that it is absolutely acceptable to re-gift! At birthdays, holidays, etc. my kid’s receive an unbelievable amount of stuff, and encouraging them to share some of their bounty serves as a great teaching opportunity. Too many stocking stuffers? An overwhelming number of Easter basket fillers? We like to pass some of those goodies along to other kids!
- Dollar Stores and Dollar Spots: we scour them all year long! This provides a lot of variety – and it also means we can choose the nicer items over the course of several months rather than feeling stuck with picked-over items left behind during busy holiday shopping weekends.
- When bargain shopping, we watch yard sales, thrift stores, etc. for new items! Yes, we find lots of brand new – still in the package – high quality – never used items for next to nothing.
- When we eat out, servers oftentimes bring stickers, crayons, etc. to the table for my kiddos. Sometimes my crew puts these things to good use; but sometimes they don’t. Anytime we have unused items to take home with us, we toss them in our OCC bin. This same thing happens at the barber shop…and the dry cleaners…and on and I could go, and it is amazing what we accumulate over a year’s time!
- We visit party supply stores or the party favor section of our favorite department store(s)! Oftentimes, 6-12 fun toys are packaged together, and because we are doing multiple boxes, we can split up the items – sharing them among several children.
- Couponing allows me to get a lot of items for free or nearly free – toothbrushes, dental floss, soap, etc. – Free! Need help getting started with scoring deals this way? My favorite guidance comes from Hip2Save and Southern Savers.
Family Night: Preparing our Shoeboxes
When Collection Week arrives, we set aside a night for our family to prepare the boxes together! We bake cookies to enjoy – usually keeping it simple with break-and-bake cookies – and then it’s time to pack the boxes.
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There have been years we’ve used the pre-printed cardboard boxes our church has distributed, other years when we’ve used holiday gift wrap to wrap our own cardboard shoeboxes (Not my favorite – this takes time!), and this year, we ordered the pre-printed plastic shoeboxes directly from Samaritan’s Purse (also available at some Hobby Lobby stores).
No matter our choice in boxes, we make sure to have them ready to go and sitting at the end of our large kitchen table with all of our collected goodies laid out by category ready for little hands to grab and stuff in boxes.
We love that this a family affair with even the littlest ones able to get involved.
As we stuff the shoe boxes, we talk about the importance of doing things for others – with the conversation framed around this verse: It is more blessed to give than to receive. – Acts 20:35
Because of the way we collect our items, not all of our boxes look the same. This makes it that much more fun to personalize each package. We like to make sure that each one of our boxes includes: school supplies, hygiene items, toys, artistic tools, musical toys, and candy. Other great suggestions are provided here.
In recent years, we’ve made our donation online and printed these Follow Your Box Package Labels.
As we look forward to this family time together – because we have collected items all throughout the year – we are organized and prepared and it makes it much easier to focus on the reason why we are participating in this incredible outreach.
What if a shoe box was just the first step to following Christ?
– Operation Christmas Child
NOTE TO PARENTS: Do mommy and daddy ever have to repack boxes or rearrange the items in a box because little ones aren’t quite ready to play Tetris® with all the goodies in the shoeboxes they filled? Absolutely – but my advice? (Since you asked – ha!) Worry about those details later. Focus on the opportunity to teach your kids about others and save any tweaking you need to do for later. I speak from more than one experience where I did not do this – and my persnickety self ruined everything!
For more family service project ideas, connect here.