How to Pack a Shoebox for Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child on a Budget

IMG_1603I was at first intimidated by this project. I thought, I don’t know what to purchase, and I CAN’T spend $60 on filling up one shoebox for someone else when I haven’t even purchased gifts for my own family.  Is anyone else out there like me?  You want to help, but you also have to work within your budget? And boy howdy, Christmas time is SO expensive anyways!!

I have had some reservations about this post.  I don’t want it to seem like I am saying, “Look at me, see what I did to be generous.”  I just know how encouraged I was as a newbie to this project to go on Pinterest and get ideas from other gals packing shoeboxes just like me. I hope this will encourage or be of some help to someone else out there!

My cowgirl Sis told me about the following beautiful story that was covered by People Magazine. Tyrel Wolfe and Joana Marchan Meet Years After Shoebox Gift.

I have heard several opinions avidly against Operation Christmas Child, for multiple reasons.  When you read stories from the kids themselves and you watch video after video on youtube of children opening donated shoeboxes and watching their smiles when they open a box full of goodies, somehow the arguments against shoeboxes seem trivial.

Or if you are like me and have two cousins adopted from Liberia, who lived with 90 other kids cared for by one heroic woman who was forced at gunpoint by soldiers to take the kids or they would kill them all, who would forage for rats or whatever else they could find to eat for dinner, and seeing rape by soldiers was a common occurrence, somehow the arguments seem superficial.  Why?  Because what my cousins would have given for a shoebox full of goodies like this!

What are your thoughts??

When I went to the website Samaritan’s Purse Shoeboxes, some of the stories made me cry.  I mean, when you read stories like, “The toothbrush meant a lot because before I had to share my toothbrush with 25 other girls.”–Yuri, Honduras, doesn’t it touch your heart? One little girl got her very own toothbrush for the first time in her life!

I am so happy! I cannot believe that someone from a different country would send me a gift of exactly what I like: rings and hairbows.”–Vanessa, Colombia.  “One of my favorites in my shoebox was white socks because in the orphanage you get bad quality socks that always stink and have holes in them.”–Timur, Central Asia.

Can you imagine the smile on a kids face when they realize that YES, they DO get Christmas after all?!!    Well, I was looking for some stocking stuffers at Walmart and was finding items for 25, 50, and 99 cents and it suddenly hit me, “You CAN do this!”  So here are some ways to stay within a budget and still spoil a child in need.

  • Plan on the amount of money you want to spend on your shoebox.  I decided on a certain amount per shoebox, but nobody has to do the same amount.  I could have decided $10, $15, or $50, whatever worked with my budget.  You can still pick up some wonderful items on a small budget!  With Black Friday sales and after Christmas sales coming up, now is a perfect time to start looking for items for your shoebox for next year!!
  • Pick whether you want to purchase for a boy or a girl.  I filled 2 shoeboxes, one for a boy, one for a girl, because that’s what fits in my small teacher budget.
  • Choose what age you want to purchase for.  You have the option of ages 2-4, 5-9, and 10-14.  I chose ages 5-9, because that’s around the ages of the students that I teach at my school.
  • Make a list of items you need to fill up the box.                                                                                1. Where do I begin? I went for some practical items, like a blanket, soap and a toothbrush, and some fun items, such as art supplies and bright blingy hair bows.  Samaritan’s Purse has a great list of suggested items:  What Goes In a Shoebox?  You don’t have to get everything on their list, but it does help out with deciding what are the perfect filler items for your shoebox!                                                                                              2. Fun items.  Since I am also responsible for the art program at my very small town school as well as the music program, I understand when a child says they don’t have any crayons or markers at home to color with.  I hear it all the time from my students who wish they did have something to color with.  Crayons are 54 cents, notebooks can be 69 cents on clearance, foam glitter paper is only 33 cents. In the clearance section you can find items like stickers for 10 cents and little girl’s earrings for 25 cents. IMG_1608                                                                                                                3. Practical Items. Think also about some kids who have nothing to keep them warm in the winter!  I have taught high school kids who literally had nothing but a pair of shorts to wear in the winter and they would walk to school in them.  There was a warm blanket at Walmart for $2.58.  There were a pack of mittens, 3 for $1.44.  I split the mittens between the 2 shoeboxes.  My kids at school are always complaining about their chapped lips, and so lip balm might be another great thing to add!  A pair of warm socks might be just the thing to keep a child’s feet warm.                                                                                                                             4. A “Wow” Item. Samaritan’s Purse also suggests you include a medium size “WOW” item.  Something like a stuffed animal, soccer ball with a pump, or clothing outfit, etc. etc. Look through the toy section and find a very special wow item. Make sure your WOW item is SMALL enough to fit in a shoebox.IMG_1606
  • Check around your house first.  I make and sell little girls’ hair bows, with sparkle and glitter and shine all over them.  So I knew I had to include one of those!!  Maybe you have an extra bar of new soap lying around, or an extra new washcloth you could spare. I also included a bright shiny new penny just for something extra.  It might not be worth anything in another country, but I know if I were a child I would carry around that penny all day!!
  • Make a shopping spree.  Walmart, Dollar Tree, Hobby Lobby, and Dollar General are great places to go!  Go to the clearance item sections (both regular clearance and clothing clearance) in Walmart.  Hobby Lobby also has some great clearance items in their clearance section, sometimes for as low as 23 cents!!  The Dollar Tree and Dollar General is a great place to find toys!  Use your calculator.  I added up my supplies as I went to make sure I was staying within budget.
  • Pack Your Items In a Shoebox.  I keep some of my shoes in shoeboxes.  Maybe you might have a friend or coworker who has an extra shoebox lying around and would like to donate.  Pack all the items securely in the box and tape it shop.  You can wrap your shoebox with Christmas paper, but if you choose to wrap it the lid and the box have to be wrapped separately.  I also hand wrote a note for the inside!IMG_1602
  • Pay shipping.  You can purchase shipping and follow your box for $9 through Samaritan’s Purse website. Having sold items on Ebay in the past, for me $9 was a reasonable price and is probably not enough to completely cover shipping costs.  I did this because I would love to know what country my boxes were delivered to!  Tape your shipping label securely on your box.IMG_1611
  • Leave Your Box at a Local Delivery Center!  Again Samaritan’s Purse is great about stating exactly where local delivery drop-offs are.  Delivery Drop-Offs

I can just imagine the excitement of a kid out there who has never had a Christmas, and finally has it delivered it to them in a shoebox!!

Had you had an experience with Operation Christmas Child??  What goodies did you pack?? Did I leave any other great items out??  What other suggestions do you have?  I am looking forward to reading them!!  

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Ya’ll come back now, ya hear?

Happy trails to ya’ll!

Hub City Girl



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