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Operation Christmas Child: Start filling your boxes now!

With all the wonderful back-to-school deals going on right now, it’s a great time to think about planning ahead for possibly being involved in the Operation Christmas Child project. For those unfamiliar with this ministry, it is a yearly opportunity for families to pack shoeboxes full of school supplies, hygiene items, toys and other special things for children in impoverished countries.

Living So Abundantly has a post up on how she’s preparing now for it. And don’t miss the below video from Clair over at Mummy Deals on how they packed 45 boxes for $45:

(I posted this video last year, but I thought it was well-worth posting again!)

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  • Stacie says:

    Thanks for the great idea! I never thought about stocking up for it in the summer!! Do you mind if I share this idea on my blog?


  • Leah says:

    The last time I participated in Operation Christmas Child was a few years back, and I spend almost $30 filling a shoebox. Now that I coupon, I’ll be able to afford a few shoe boxes for next to nothing. Thanks for the reminder, I’ll have to remember to stock up as I see fun deals that will make good additions.

  • Also, Back to School sales make great birthday gifts!

  • Esther says:

    My Best friend and I work on OCC all year long. We have a couple people that assist us is getting free items : one is a friend who is a dental hygentist who orders extra sample toothpaste that their office gets for free and saves us a case or 2, also my friends father works away from home a lot and stays in extended stay hotels- so every day he takes the soap and puts it in his bag and then they give him a new one. Last year we were able to pack 140 shoe boxes. Just like the video states above we scour the clearance, holiday sales, use coupons etc to get things as cheaply as possible. In addition to school supplies being on sale right now you will also find t-shirts and socks at reduced prices. Yesterday I got a package of 6 boys white Hanes t-shirts on sale for 5.50 plus I used my $1.00 off any Hanes clothing coupon at Target. Our goal is to get socks for less than a quarter each and t-shirts for less than a dollar.
    This year we were blessed to receive a letter back from a pastor in India whose church received our boxes including his 3 daughters. It was such a blessing to see and hear how our work year round can bring joy and the knowledge of salvation to someone on the other side of the world. I am now blessed to be in contact with him via email.

  • Trixie says:

    I can’t wait to do this! I love the idea of including flipflops show in the video.

    If anybody wants instructions and pictures on how to wrap one of these boxes. Here’s a link:

  • Amy P says:

    We’ve been filling boxes for years and I shop all year long! I just keep a tote for items I find on sale. I add to the tote all year long and when it comes time to pack up the boxes, I usually only have to buy a few things! This will be our first year of being relay center coordinators! We are so excited to get more involved with this wonderful project!

    I also use school supplies for birthday gifts throughout the year! I just fill a sand bucket or some other container with coloring books, crayons, markers, scissors, construction paper, glue, paint etc. I add tissue paper and a cute tag that says something like, “Luke’s Art Supplies.” Everyone always loves this gift!

    • gwenn says:

      @Amy P,
      Have fun packing the cartons!! I’m an area coordinator and I ran a Relay center for three years. Try to get to the processing center to volunteer to process the boxes, it’s great fun. My family has been doing this for 8 years. Check out the Samaritan’s Purse website for details.

  • Bonnie says:

    Check out your local Target for shoe boxes. When I went last year, they let me have any and all empties on the shelves and I left with about 30 of them. Also, we keep our childrens “happy meal” toys for our boxes. They like the idea that they are saving them for “the kids” and I like the fact that they aren’t littering my house 🙂

    • gwenn says:

      You can go to any shoe store and ask them to save shoe boxes for you. This works out great if you are packing lots of boxes for your church or group !!

  • RuthS says:

    There’s lots of kids in the US who can’t afford school supplies either. Lots of outreaches in our area for them, I’m planning on donating some of the freebies to them too.

    • gwenn says:

      This is great. Our local kids need items also. The special thing about Operation Christmas Child is that we not only give the child a gift but we give them the greatest gift of all by sharing Jesus with them thru booklets and follow up materials.

  • Megan says:

    Thanks for the reminder to start thinking about Christmas child early! Just a caution, though, to adhere strictly to the guidelines and to try to make your boxes as uniform as possible. I volunteered at one of Samaritan’s Purse’s collection centers a few years ago and we spent our time re-packing boxes that people had packed incorrectly, removing inappropriate items and making sure that every child got a full set of markers, etc.

  • Dee in Culleoka, TN says:

    I have been doing this for years. I buy school type supplies when very cheap- crayons, pencils, etc. I also use the free tooth brushes, soap, etc. that I get all year long playing the drug store game. My 4 teenagers each do a box or 2. They use their own money to puchase the “fun” things for their Xmas child boxes. I reimburse them 50% of what they spend. The boxes get filled to overflowing and no one has to spend too much money.

  • Kris says:

    Thanks for the reminder and great video. It made me cry actually when she talked about children who have nothing. I was looking on the Samaritan Purse website and they ask that you include a $7 donation for each box you donate to help cover shippng, thought I’d mention it since I had no idea and I bet other people didn’t know it either.

  • Jodi says:

    AC Moore often has cheap toys and I was at Party City and saw they had some clearance for .50–a Transformers journal, Winnie the Pooh puzzle, etc. They had a cute light up jump rope for $2. And they have all those great party favors for .25 and up!

  • holi says:

    Just wondering how anyone sends more than 10 boxes, when the shipping is 7.00 per box. That is the part that will get cost prohibitive for my family. Thanks for any advice!

    • Crystal says:

      Many people are able to get their church or other local organizations to help pitch in on the shipping costs.

    • Conni says:

      @holi, The $7/box is a “suggested donation”. It is not required to donate a gift-filled shoe box! No one will check/ask you to give them the money, nor will they know whether you have given money (you are asked to put your donation in an envelope inside the box). At the distribution center, the money is separated from the shoe boxes, so it becomes a separate gift. It is helpful for Samaritan’s Purse to receive the money, but not required. By the way, you can give more than $7/box if you feel God leading you!

      • Crystal says:

        @Conni, On the site it actually says it is a minimum donation and required. It’s only “suggested” in the respect that you can give more if you like. The site says you must send “at least” $7 per box. I agree w/ this poster, we could spend a little here and there to pack boxes but spending that much to be able to send them would be difficult.

        • Conni says:

          @Crystal, 4. Thank you so much for posting and sharing about OCC!! Below is from the Samaritan’s Purse OCC website. While they are asking for $7/box, no where is it “required”. As someone who has run an OCC drop off location, I know I was not allowed to ask for the money, nor check to make sure that the money was included in the shoebox. If someone gave us cash or a check, we simply put it in the top of a shoebox. No questions asked. I know the money is helpful and appreciated, but again, not a requirement.


          Please donate $7 or more for each shoe box you prepare to help cover shipping and other project costs. You can give online by using our EZGIVE option, or you can write a check to Samaritan’s Purse (note “OCC” on memo line) and place it in an envelope on top of the gift items inside your box. If you or your family are preparing more than one shoe box, please make one combined donation.

        • Crystal says:

          @Crystal, I guess I read that differently than you. If it’s optional then it would make packing 40+ shoeboxes throughout the year a lot more feasible.

    • gwenn says:

      Begin saving your spare change in a “piggy bank” through out the year. You will have more than you would expect.

      Or if you are doing this with a church or group you could have fund raisers or garage sales.

    • Esther says:

      One thing my Grandmother does is donates 7 dollars a couple times a year to our church Operation Christmas Child fund so that way at the end of the collection time she has contributed enough to cover her boxes. My friend and I made 140 boxes last year which obviously we could not afford to pay for the shipping that is why I organized a Christmas in July collection where we take a special collection at church just for the shipping cost. This makes it a group effort and those who are not motivated to collect and pack a box can be a part of this wonderful outreach.

    • Donna says:

      Each month save the extra $7 (now$9) along with scouring for deals. This will help spread the cost throughout the year. For me, it’s about equal to the price of 1 lunch out.

  • Amanda says:

    Great idea! Thanks for the inspiration 🙂

  • The video is so helpful. Even thought I’ve been packing shoe boxes for my girls for a long time I got lots of new ideas from the video and will be able to send so many more boxes this year. Thanks you

  • I stockpile for this program all year long! Little toys from holiday clearance and back to school items are awesome! Don’t forget fun kid toothbrushes too.
    Rumor has it, Wags will have FREE crayola crayons and washable markers starting 8/1. Pefect for OCC!

  • My Boaz's Ruth says:

    Something to consider: A child will probably only get one Christmas Child box in their LIFE. Please don’t stock it with junky stuff you would not want your own child getting just because it is cheap.

    This video is what made me, last year, realize that I needed to do some boxes and really look for stuff I’d want to give my own child. Stuff that will last. You can find this stuff on sale (though you probably could not pack the boxes quite as cheaply as she did). But on the other end, it will last longer and be a true blessing.

  • Kate says:

    I love this idea – I started couponing and doing freebies relatively recently, so I have some questions about participating in this program:

    What do you find to be the cheapest/best method to mail these shoeboxes to the program headquarters? (USPS? Priority mail?)
    Samaritan’s Purse
    Operation Christmas Child
    801 Bamboo Road
    Boone, NC 28607

    I see that the age ranges only go up to 14 years old – can I put tampons in girls boxes? I have so many tampon samples and I just don’t use them.

    • Conni says:

      @Kate, Before you mail off your boxes, check to see if there is a local drop off site. Most areas have them, but they will not be up and running until the National Collection week in November. You will save on the postage that way!

    • gwenn says:

      Yes you can put Tampons and pads into the older girls boxes. Also the older guys love hammers and other tools.

    • Monique says:

      Yes I know this is a super old thread but I wanted to comment on the gifting of tampons. As far as I know, they can be sent in the boxes. As for my boxes (I only send boxes for 10-14 boys and girls) I send 3 reusable pads and a wet bag. These can be purchased on Amazon, eBay, etc. They come in super cute patterns, and work very well for the girl boxes. All my boxes are usually the same because I buy everything in bulk to get a cheaper price. I buy sports balls and pumps, sewing kits, jewelry making kits, flashlights, crochet sets, tool sets, winter socks, hats, gloves, sports bottles, deodorant, bars of soap, toothbrush, washcloths, and school supplies all in bulk. By purchasing in bulk, I am able to spend about $13 a box. Not bad for all of these items. I usually send about 20 for each. If anyone is interested on how I save for this, everytime I receive a paycheck I have $20 directly deposited into my “help the kiddos” fund. Every year, I have about $520 to spend on OCC and Mustard Seed School…which is a school for homeless children. I feel like I am fulfilling my calling, all the while not breaking the bank. God Bless Everyone, and have the happiest of holidays! !!

  • Sheila says:

    Thanks for the reminder. My one concern when I read posts like this is that I hope that people don’t try to fill so many boxes or do it so cheaply that they don’t send kids good stuff. Not saying this is the case here at all, but I think sometimes people get competitive about how many boxes they can fill and start thinking more about that than the recipient of the box.

    For Kate about the tampons: I have a 13 year old and many friends with daughters near the same age. I don’t know any of them who are using tampons at that age. I think that might be a better donation for a woman’s shelter or something like that. Just my opinion.

    • Lindy says:


      I thought the same thing about 13 year old girls. However, I have a 14 year old and MOST of her friends started using tampons at the same time as pads.

  • Manette says:

    Wow! Very inspirational.

    If I remember correctly, last year when I did this, I packed two boxes, and had pay 7 dollars (plus an optional bigger donation, which most people who I knew chose to do) per box I sent. Now for a couple boxes, 14 dollars isn’t much at all compared to the joy a child may receive from this. But for 45 boxes, that would be over 300 dollars I would need to include for the boxes!
    Am I thinking of a different Christmas Box program, or have other people been required to send 7 dollars per box as well?

    • Megan says:

      @Manette, I think the shipping fee used to be $5 for Samaritan’s Purse… I think there are other Christmas box programs out there that might charge less for shipping.

    • gwenn says:

      Yes you are thinking of the right ministry. The $7 covers more than just the shipping also the gospel booklet and followup materials.

      Begin collecting spare change and before you know it you will have plenty of money for the shipping of many boxes.

  • Clair says:

    Thanks Crystal for the repost! It’s so great to help out and be a blessing. With couponing and watching it we’ve been able to send things that otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to and be a blessing. in HIM, Clair

  • Andreaw says:

    Thank you for the post! I have never really paid attention to when school supplies go on sale. This is a wonderful idea! Your blog has helped me to spend less while purchasing more. I have now been able to donate more then ever before. Thank you so much!

  • Hi all,

    I haven’t watched the video just yet but read all the comments and looked at the website, and I’m wondering if there’s a way to sort of mark your box for a certain age group? What I mean is, I would like to put age appropriate items in the box. This is a great idea I really love it, thanks for the info!

  • I loved watching the video–great ideas! Along with getting a box ready, I have started praying for the child who will receive it. This is so exciting!!! It really is better to give than to receive. 🙂

  • Crystal says:

    Great idea! There are so many great school supply deals going on right now that I’m sure most people could afford to sent atleast one one box! Do mind if I write a post about this on my blog?

  • Angela says:

    Our church does a packing party every year. Throughout the year, members donate items and then we get together and pack them. We try to purchase the sterilite containers, which can be found at Walmart for .94 or at Target in the back to school section for 5 for $4.50, to pack our boxes. Don’t use the generic brand because they break too easily, trust me, we have learned the hard way. Also, don’t overfill, even the sterilite brand may break and the cardboard boxes may tear. Anyway, the children and their families can reuse that box for many purposes, including carry water.

  • Oxana says:

    I was born in a small country of Belarus and at the age of 14 received a shoe box. I am planning to write a post about my personal testimony on my blog at the beginning of August. But just to let you all know that through a shoe box God has reminded me of Joshua 1:5, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” You will never know how much a shoe box stuffed with toys meant to me and my classmates. God can use a small shoe box to do BIG things! Thank you all for making a difference in the lives of children around the world!

    • Tracy says:

      @Oxana, that is beautiful to be able to actually hear from a former recipient on how it touched your life. I think your blog post idea would be a wonderful testimonial on what it meant to you and the good the program is doing for kids worldwide. Thanks for posting here, I look forward to reading your post next month. 🙂

    • Crystal says:

      Thank you for sharing; what a wonderful testimony and encouragement!

    • Lindy says:

      What a wonderful testimony indeed….brought tears to my eyes! I will pass your story on to my teens who have donated many boxes through their years through their local church.

  • Stacy says:

    Thank you SO much for your reminder, Crystal! When you posted about it last, I remember thinking I needed to stock up this summer but I had forgotten.

  • gwenn says:

    Here are some links that I came across to order free coloring books for the shoeboxes. I order the amount I can and then I send the links to everyone I can think of who pack shoe boxes

    Nice books, Be sure to get them in English and Spanish (for the Nursing, Sunwise and Buddy brush)

    The order form is at the bottom of the page. Order the Mission:SunWise Activity Book.
    4. These are coloring books – you need to e-mail them at in order to request the coloring books

  • Crystal says:

    That is a great idea but for Operation Christmas Child, you also have to include a minimum donation of $7 with each box you send. So, Those 45 boxes for $45 would actually cost $400-$500. A good cause, yes, but the $45 might be a bit misleading to someone who doesn’t know about the required monetary donation in addition to the items.

  • Dawn says:

    Filling shoeboxes cheaply does not mean that only cheap items are included. Several of my boy boxes have brand new t-shirts I bought for 25 cents on clearance at the end of the season. I shop carefully for bargains so I can fill more shoeboxes. Sure I could take $10 and just buy to fill one or I can take the same $10 and have patience, shop carefully, and fill 8 or 9 shoeboxes. Please do not assume that people doing a large number are only buying junk.

    I use my coupon overage and green tag extra bucks at CVS to purchase items such as socks, washcloths, bracelets, stickers, notepads, etc to put in my shoeboxes. These are basically free to me and a wonderful addition to the boxes.

  • Laura says:

    We have been sending several boxes for many, many years and just love doing it. I do pick up sale items all year long. You’re right, Crystal, back-to-school sales are a great way to pick up inexpensive markers, crayons, tablets, etc. Some of my other favorite places are Dollar General, the dollar spot at Target, dollar items at Michael’s, and sales at Kohls (got a huge package of individual play-dough tubs very cheap). Also, you can purchase hard candy such as Lifesavers and soap inexpensively at Walgreens. Our church sponsors this too and provides us with rubbermaid plastic boxes to fill instead of cardboard shoe boxes which are very useful for the children. Love this ministry and also Compassion International!

  • Bj says:

    Thanks for the post! My daughter is on a mission trip with Operation Christmas Child this week. I can’t wait to hear about her shoebox distribution. We have packed a couple of shoe boxes each year for a long time now. It is a wonderful family project!

  • I don’t know about other regions in the US, but we have been getting Harbor Freight fliers in our Chicago Tribune coupon inserts for months now. On every flier, there is a coupon for a FREE FLASHLIGHT, no purchase required. I have been picking one up each week or so when I’m near a Harbor Freight. They are a small LED flashlight that will be perfect for our shoeboxes at Christmastime.

  • suzanne says:

    Thanks for the great video! We also save for boxes year around and volunter at the processing center in NC. Don’t forget that items should be new and not used. We got some great stuff at Pier 1 after Christmas.
    (Bj I am sooo jealous!)

    PS Pack with love and prayers. They are the most important things you can put in a shoebox!

  • Kasey says:

    Such great ideas!! Thank you! Last year was the first time my family had heard of and participated in Operation Christmas Child. I am going to be on the lookout now for all the good deals to help all the children. Last year we had 2 great boxes for $30. I can’t wait to see what we come up with this year!!

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