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August 13, 2014

Eight Ways to Prepare Now for Operation Christmas Child

No matter the time of year, there are things you can do to prepare for Operation Christmas Child - an incredible holiday project that our family loves to participate in each year!

Join me as I share Eight Ways to Prepare NOW for Operation Christmas Child:

Operation Christmas Child

Each January, I set aside one large tote for next year's Operation Christmas Child project. Since we don't like to spend the holidays out and about fighting crowds and navigating our way through picked-over toy aisles, we collect items all throughout the year.

Just before Shoebox Collection Week [November], we set aside a family night to put together our boxes. We bake cookies. (THIS is our favorite recipe!) We stuff the shoeboxes. We pray for the children who will receive the boxes. We talk about the importance of doing things for others. 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.

If you have older children who like to shop for the items that are going to go in their boxes, you can encourage them to shop all year as well - or you can simply use these tips so that you will be prepared with any filler items, etc. that might be needed.

[Obtaining/Preparing Containers]
#1 - Throughout the year, I save our shoeboxes - You can also check with local department stores/shoes stores to see if they have any extra on hand. When volunteering at the distribution center, I have noticed that - as the boxes are processed - wrapping paper oftentimes get torn, so I use heavy duty packaging tape to cover every inch of the wrapper paper on our shoeboxes. (Since we do multiple boxes, I usually try to have this portion of the project done ahead of time - before our family night begins!) Plastic bins also work great! Some stores will run post-holiday specials on these kinds of things. You can score some great deals on these gems and have them ready to go for the following year. Our local Wal-Mart always has these standard-size ones for $.88 each. If you chose to wrap your plastic bin, I have heard of placing the wrapping paper on the inside of the box - so the pattern shows through the see-through areas - genius!

[Gathering Items/Stuffing Boxes]
#2 - When bargain shopping, I watch yard sales, thrift stores, etc. for new items! Yes, I find lots of brand new - still in the package - high quality - never used items for next to nothing.

#3 - Around here, we are firm believers that it is absolutely acceptable to regift! 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? Pass some of those items along to OCC.

#4 - Don't wait until the holiday season to hit the picked-over dollar stores and dollar spots.  I watch them all year long! This provides a lot of variety - and it also means I can choose the nicer items over the course of several months as I think it's a crying shame to fill an OCC shoebox with a bunch of junk that you would never find acceptable for your own children. (I know you were glad to finally see a period there, so you could breathe!)

#5 - Check out the party supplies! The party favor section is a great resource - Oftentimes, 6-12 fun toys are packaged together. If you are doing multiple boxes, this can be a great money saver!

#6 - When we eat out, servers oftentimes bring candy, 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, I throw them in our OCC bin. I take the same approach with the unwanted prizes/candy/stickers they receive at the barber shop or the drycleaners. It is amazing what we accumulate over a year's time!

#7 - Couponing allows me to get a lot of items for free - toothpaste, toothbrushes, dental floss, soap, etc. - Free!

#8 - 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. I like to make sure that each one of our boxes includes: school supplies, hygiene items, toys, artistic tools, musical toys, and candy. Great suggestions are provided here. When preparing for our family night: Like I said, I wrap the shoeboxes (typically during naptime) and then I lay all of our items out on a table and organize them by category. Sorting this way helps us as we guide little hands through the process of packing a box with items from each category.

Bonus Tip! - Some Chick-fil-a locations offer free chicken sandwich vouchers for each box that is dropped off at their location. Needless to say, we have most definitely participated in this great offer!

What if a shoebox was just the first step to following Christ? - OCC

In the holiday spirit? Check out these Christmas Books for Kids!