Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Operation Christmas Child

With all the talk about Thanksgiving and gratitude, I wanted to share a way that my family tries to bless others during the upcoming holiday season. We love to participate in Operation Christmas Child every year. This is a completely unsponsored post, and with the deadline approaching, I thought I'd write about how the program works and how you can participate.

Operation Christmas Child is run by Samaritan's Purse, an organization led by Fanklin Graham. The mission of OCC is "to demonstrate God's love in a tangible way to needy children around the world, and together with the local church worldwide, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ."

In short, you can fill a shoebox with gifts and treats for a child of a specific age range and send it in to an OCC drop-off location. The shoeboxes are delivered to headquarters in Boone, NC, where they are inspected and processed. From Boone, the boxes are shipped all over the world and distributed to children at special events, along with a copy of "The Greatest Gift of All" booklet in their own language.

It is so exciting to imagine all of the places that one little shoebox from Virginia could travel to!

What can you send in a shoebox?
You'll first choose whether to pack for a Boy or Girl, and then an age range (2-4, 5-9, or 10-14). Gift ideas include school supplies, small gifts and toys, hygiene items, and hard candy. You can find more suggestions here.

You can get free OCC shoe boxes at many Christian bookstores, churches, and schools, but I highly recommend purchasing a clear plastic shoebox from WM, Target, or the Dollar Tree. I've heard that some children use those clear bins to tote water, and many would love to have a durable box to store their belongings in. For just a dollar or two, you can make a real difference in that aspect!

Here's a little of what we packed this year:
Soap, band-aids, hair accessories, a brush/mirror, yo-yo, slinky, washcloth, socks, gluesticks, a re-usable bag from Target's Dollar Spot, a small baby doll and extra outfit, pencils, toothpaste, pencil sharpener, toy balls, erasers, crayons, notepaper, play jewelry, and stickers. I've heard that some children are overjoyed to receive shoes or even a deflated soccer ball with a hand pump!

Some of those items will be split up because I'm meeting some friends from my MOPS group on Monday morning for a packing party. We'll split up items like packs of washcloths, combs, toothbrushes, candy, and markers and share. Then we'll wrap our box tops and lids separately, include a personal note and a separate check for $7 to cover shipping. (You can also pay extra online to "track" your box to its destination country, but I have not had good luck with that and have tried it for 2 years)

How do you fit everything in your shoebox?
I get creative! I roll things stack things and sometimes smush stuff that is smushable. As you can see, I left out the stuff that will be split up on Monday with my friends' boxes, and candy is always great for filling in gaps. I'll also have my girls draw a picture to go inside.

Speaking of my girls, this is something they really look forward to! Participating in OCC has taught them about giving and thinking of others. We've even looked at some of the OCC videos online so that they can see how blessed they are in comparison to others. They really enjoy picking out little toys and gifts for "the little girl who has no toys." In their own simple way, that is how they refer to the special little girl who will receive our box this year.

We'll say a prayer and send it off next week, and soon it will be in the hands of a little girl that God knows needs a special blessing. I truly believe that He uses these boxes to show children that He is there and He cares for them.

Please, if you are viewing this in a reader or through your email subscription, take a moment to click over and view this OCC video. It follows Ralph, a little boy in the Phillipines, on the day he receives a special shoebox from OCC. It broke my heart to see how excited he was to receive school supplies.

I've been griping and worrying about my house being too small, how many Barbies I should get the girls for Christmas, I have to park in the "far" parking lot at preschool, blah blah blah. How humbling to see this child, who lives in a literal dump, receive a simple gift that many of us take for granted, and to see his face alight with joy. It really puts things in perspective for me. What an excellent reminder to redirect my focus this holiday season!

If you'd like more information, you can check out Operation Christmas Child, or go here to find a drop-off location. The deadline is next week!

I can't tell you what a blessing it is to participate in this charity! With Big Mama's ongoing Compassion Trip to Ecuador, this has been on my mind a lot lately...

Does your family participate in Operation Christmas Child? What are your favorite things to pack?


  1. LOVE LOVE LOVE This!! Our family has participated in this program since our children were infants. Our church collects the shoeboxes after each child takes one home and fills it! I can not say enough about this program and how strongly I feel about it! What a lovely post to spread the word! Thank You!

  2. LOVE LOVE LOVE This!! Our family has participated in this program since our children were infants. Our church collects the shoeboxes after each child takes one home and fills it! I can not say enough about this program and how strongly I feel about it! What a lovely post to spread the word! Thank You!

  3. This is awesome...I'm going to check it out...I have been pondering something to do this season. Thanks for sharing:)

  4. Our church's youth group also collects these shoe boxes every year and yesterday our MOPS group made several boxes for the youth group effort. It really is a very easy way to get involved and make a difference! I was told that this year if you pay for your shipping online, you can actually track where your box has been sent. :)

  5. Thanks for sharing this Amanda! Having just moved to a new area We haven't found a church yet, so this is a great way to involve the kids in giving back this holiday. We will be getting a box this week! Have a great day.

  6. Operation Christmas Child is a great program! The Sunday school kids at our church do it. They love packing the boxes and talk about how exciting it is to help kids that need it. :)

  7. What a wonderful post, Amanda! My kids and I have participated in Operation Christmas Child in previous years but chose to go a different route this year and have "adopted" two children that match my kids ages through a local community help center. We'll be helping provide for them this Christmas. I love this part of the season and I love that my children are finding the joy in it too.
    Thanks for sharing this post today.

  8. I've got a post up today too about us sending our shoe boxes and I put a link to ya. I love blogging about and participating in Operation Christmas Child.

  9. Fantastic. We've donated to Operation Christmas Child in the past.
    Indy and I just made 3 "teenage boy" boxes for my friend to take to an orphanage in Hungary next month. I'm also making hair bows for the girls. Having only boys I don't get to do any girly stuff and I'm having a ball.
    The orphanage has children from 7-17 and is 12 hours from where we live. This will be the 2nd or 3rd year my friend and her husband have made the trip.

  10. Amen, amen, and amen! We do an OCC box every year, and it's been one of those best teaching aids for my boys. It never ceases to amaze them that this box will be the only Christmas a child will receive. When they first realized this, they put themselves on a mission to make our box as good as it could possibly be. Of course, they need to realize that thousands of children won't even receive a shoebox of Christmas blessings--and they will get enough to fill lots of boxes. What a reminder of how blessed we are and how often we take it all for granted.

    I love your closing paragraph. I love the way you allow your heart to be touched with the knowledge of just how blessed you are!

  11. Thanks you so much for sharing this Amanda, I really want to prepare a show box full of goodies this year too.

  12. We do this every year too and my boys have such a great time picking out fun stuff for others. My biggest problem is getting it all to fit:) I need to remember to grab a brochure and a few boxes when we are at church tonight! Thanks for the great reminder about such an awesome program Amanda!

  13. Samaritan's Purse is my favorite charity and I love OCC. :) It is a good thing to buy for throughout the when the Target dollar aisle goes on clearance. One year I got some Hello Kitty stationary, bag, etc for like .50 a piece!
    And of course cheap school supplies in the fall!

    If you can't make a box yourself you can go online and donate the $7 shipping for a box!

    Or if you can't afford the shipping in addition to the box, still make and send a box! Donors will cover the cost of shipping (see above!)

  14. Hey! I followed and your box was there! I wonder how that happened!
    : )

  15. I love this program, we do it too! It's great for the kids too, they get to "pick" fun and usable items for their child, thanks for the reminder!!


  16. Great tips! We participate on this, too!

  17. I too love this! I'm participating in 30 Days of Giving, and this was going to be one of my suggestions as something you could do with your kids (and that I'm going to do with mine!).

  18. What a cool organization and a great tradition for your family! I've never heard of it before. I enjoy shopping for my "adopted Christmas child" from a local family and children non-profit. It is humbling to think of the people out there who have so little.

  19. jtlyk, it doesn't cost any more to donate online to track the package. As a matter of fact, you can even donate less if you (generic you) find that you can't really afford to both pack a box and pay for shipping. I am sorry that you haven't had good luck in tracking it--we have tracked our packages for the last few years and all have been reported to our email address--my kiddos love seeing where it ended up! :)

  20. Thank you for sharing this. I didn't know about that and definetly I will do a box this year and will ask my kids to help. Thank you thank you!

  21. Your post was exactly what I was looking for. A few years ago special needs children sent christmas gifts for an orphanage with my husband on a business trip to Ethiopia. The same children called asking if they could do it again this year...I will pass OCC along as this will be perfect. When is the deadline for boxes?

  22. I love Operation Christmas Child...we try to do it every year...thanks for spreading awareness of this great program :)

  23. Such a sweet charity - our local church participates and collects items throughout the year. I love that you watch the videos with your little girls. Great idea (especially this year since BBC thinks Santa doesn't pay for anything because he's magic...sigh).

  24. We are doing a similar thing for a village in Guatemala that our church sponsors. My 6 year old LOVES picking out the items to go in the box. We also refer to the children as the "little girl/boy who doesn't have any toys". I have shown her pictures/videos from the site too because I don't think she truly understands that other areas of the world aren't as fortunate as we are here. What a great idea to "team up" with your MOPS group to put together the boxes!!

  25. My running partner does this every year and gets such joy out of preparing a box for a child. We talk and talk about what she'll put in it. Her mom is from a very poor family in Kentucky. The mom always told my friend that the greatest treat for her when she was a child was to get new underwear because usually it was a hand-me-down. So, my friend always puts underwear in her box and hopes that the child is excited to get new underwear.

    I've never done this project, but I'm printing off what to do and I'm doing it this year. What a great cause!

  26. Thank you for showing me what we were talking about! This is such a great thing for kids to help with...

  27. This comment has been removed by the author.

  28. I filled my box over the weekend and turned it in last night. Thanks for blogging about this and inspiring me to participate.


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