It is national collection week for Operation Christmas Child! OCC is a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian aid organization started by Franklin Graham.
I have known about OCC for years, but I’ve never participated because I lived too far from a drop-off center or I missed the collection deadline. Fortunately, I am now part of a church that serves as the local collection center.
It’s really easy–and actually lots of fun!–to fill a shoe box. You can fill it any way you like (though there are a few guidelines), but they suggest choosing items in these categories:
Something for School: pencils, scissors, notebook, erasers, sharpeners, crayons, colored pencils, etc. I’ve even heard stories of people managing to fit a backpack in their box!
Something to Wear: This can be tough since you don’t know the actual size of the receipient. However, t-shirts and flip-flops are good choices as are socks and underwear. I decided that it is better to buy larger sizes because it is easier to wear a t-shirt that is a little too big than one that is too small.
Something special: Stickers, jewelry, hair clips, hard candy, lollipops or gum, etc. (Just remember that all candies must be double-bagged in a plastic baggie)
Something to Play With: Yo-yo, jump rope, balls, marbles, frisbees, playing cards, games, musical instruments, Barbies, mini cars/trucks, etc. Remember never to include war-related toys (army men, guns, knives, etc.) and if choose a battery-operated toy, be sure to include extra batteries in your box.
Something for personal hygiene: Hard soaps (no gels or shampoos), wash cloths, toothbrushes and toothpaste are all good choices. Americans take these things for granted, but they are hot ticket items among OCC recipients. (Just remember that soaps have to be double-bagged)
Something to Love: Stuffed animals, dolls, blankies…anything to snuggle.
You’ll need to know which age category and sex that you will be shopping for. The categories are ages 2-4, 5-9 or 10-14.
I have heard that OCC receives the fewest boxes for boys ages 10-14, so I specifically chose that age group for my shoe box. It is harder to shop for older kids. I find it especially hard to shop for boys of any age because I live in an all-girl household (Daddy excluded), but here’s what I found for my shoe box this year…
Something for School: calculator, pencil sharpener, pencils, colored pens, mini notebook
Something to Wear: T-shirt (that I got on sale for $3, I might add. Score!), sunglasses
Something special: Jolly Rancher hard candies (we used what was left of our Halloween stash. Recycle! Reuse! 🙂 ), gum, a mini flashlight and batteries
Something to Play With: Ball, yo-yo (not pictured), and–my favorite–a set of dominoes in a metal tin (also only $3 from the Family Dollar store. Yesssssss!)
Something for personal hygiene: A bar of Ivory soap, toothbrush/toothpaste kit, hand wipes. I’m not sure the hand wipes are especially useful, but I threw them in anyway.
Something to Love: This was haaaaaaard. I didn’t end up with anything in this category because I wasn’t sure if a 10-14 year old would actually appreciate a stuffed animal. I know we’re not talking about American kids, but I still wasn’t sure, so I just skipped it. I’d love to hear any ideas from moms of boys or those of you who have filled boxes for older kids!
One tip: it’s hard to find shoe boxes that have seperate lids these days. Many people chose to use plastic shoe boxes instead. That way, the kid has something permanent to hold his treasures in and it can also be used to gather water, etc. They only cost around one dollar in most stores; it’s worth the investment.
You can decorate your box if you wish, fill it, then add a $7 donation that helps cover the cost of shipping. This year, you can donate online and you will be able to track your shoe box to see where it is going. I plan to do this. How fun!
Operation Christmas Child is a fantastic ministry. I hope you will fill a shoe box and send it off with $7 and a prayer. As usual, the blessing will be as much–if not more–for you as the child who receives it.