It’s that time of year; you know when we start thinking about different ways to spend our money on our children who don’t need anything…… Well, there are children who need things and that’s why we give to Operation Christmas Child.
Purpose of OCC
“The world’s largest Christmas project of its kind, Operation Christmas Child, uses gift-filled shoe boxes to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to children in need around the world.”
– Samaritan Purse’s OCC Fact Sheet download from their website
Giving these shoe boxes is a great way to actively love others. These boxes have been distributed in more than 150 countries and territories to over 124 million children. They go to children in areas that are war torn, impoverished, or have suffered natural disasters.
National collection week is November 16 – 23. I am the biggest procrastinator in the world. My family is the one at Walmart on the Saturday night before the shoe boxes are due the next morning at church. This year, I decided to surprise everyone and be ahead of the game. I talked to a friend of mine, Shannon, who really has a heart for the OCC ministry. She gave me some tips for packing my family’s shoe boxes this year. I have the basics of what she does listed here and some extra tips listed at the end of the blog.
Here are the basics of what she does:
- Choose the gender and age range of the child that you want to shop for.
- Choose a wow item for that child. (A wow item is something that the child will see as he/she opens the box and will want immediately)
- Make sure the child gets items from each of the following three categories: School Supplies, Hygiene, and Toys.
- If packing candy and soap (or any other item that has a smell), separate them in ziploc bags. The smell of the soap can make the candy taste funny.
- The shoe box should be completely full. Not kind of full, but full.
- Pray. Pray for what you should put into the box. Pray for the child receiving the shoe box. This might seem silly to some, but God knows what child will receive the box you are sending. He also knows what they need. Pray.
- Put something personal in the shoe box. You can write a short letter with your name and address on it so that the child can write to thank you if they want. You can also put a picture of your family in the box. This is a really personal touch that gives the child faces to connect with their gift. It helps them realize that the shoe boxes didn’t just happen, that someone cared enough to put it together for them.
- You can pay the $7 shipping donation for your box online and print out your labels to tape on the box. If you donate to shipping this way, you can track your box to see what country it goes to. This is also a good way for your kids to learn some geography 😉
Here are some photos of a box that Shannon’s family already put together:
After I talked with her, I loaded the kids up and drove to Hobby Lobby.
I really appreciate Hobby Lobby’s efforts to make shopping for your shoe box easier. At the very front of the store they have a Samaritan’s Purse OCC display. They have the plastic totes right there along with an OCC brochure that gives you the broken up age ranges to choose from. I chose to let this be a learning experience in giving for the kids. I gave each of my children a box and told them to shop for someone their age and gender. We walked across the store, stopping at the OCC signs posted throughout the store, to look over the suggestions. The kids had so much fun shopping for someone else. We left there and headed to Walmart to finish the boxes with school supplies and hygiene items.
Here are some of Shannon’s tips, in addition to some other tips I’ve found:
- Shannon shops year round to get items at good prices. She purchases the stuffed animals after valentines and Easter when they are marked clearance. She buys school supplies in August and candy after Halloween. There is also a yearly calendar, broken into months with suggestions of items to buy that month; you can download the calendar from Samaritan’s Purse website.
- If you aren’t sure what to purchase for your shoe box, check Pinterest. There are tons of great ideas on there.
- Quality does matter. These kids do not have much. You want these items to last as long as they can.
- If you need to find out where any drop off locations are in your area, check: http://www.samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child/drop-off-locations/
- What NOT to put in your shoe box, according to OCC:
- Used or damaged items
- War-related items such as toy guns, knives, or military figures
- Chocolate or food
- Out-of-date candy
- Liquids or lotions
- Medications or vitamins
- Breakable items such as snow globes or glass containers
- Aerosol cans
- If you don’t have the time to shop for a shoe box, but still want to donate to the ministry, you can do the following things through the Samaritan’s Purse Website:
- For $25 you can shop for your box online.
- Donate money for shipping expenses.
- Make a donation towards the Greatest Journey program. After the children receive their shoe boxes, they have the opportunity to attend a 12 week bible study called the Greatest Journey. The bible study teaches what it means to faithfully follow Jesus.