Can you believe it’s only 4 weeks until collection time for Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes (November 13-20)? We’ve had so much fun gathering items for our boxes over the past few months. Now it’s exciting to think that our gifts will soon be on their way to kids all over the world.
If you’re packing just a few shoeboxes, it’s easy to get a group of residents together and prepare the boxes as an afternoon activity. However, if you’re putting together a large number of boxes, we’ve found it’s best to host a packing party. Here’s how:
Before The Event
- Invite a community group to come in and help (church, scouts, etc.). Encourage them to bring extra items for the shoeboxes if they wish. Be sure to provide them with a list of recommended items.
- Print labels for your boxes here (toward the bottom of page). If you pay the $9 per box shipping fee online, you receive a special barcoded label that allows your residents to track where their boxes go. Check here for details.
- Place all the items you’ve collected on tables according to category (hygiene items, school supplies, clothing, toys, handmade crafts). Place your stacks of empty boxes nearby.
- Provide a donation area to collect money for shipping the boxes. Recruit a volunteer to supervise this area and answer questions.
During The Event
- Consider beginning the event by showing a video about Operation Christmas Child. Another great option is to invite someone from your community with Operation Christmas Child experience to come in and do a brief presentation. For suggestions, you can contact your regional Operation Christmas Child office here.
- Give specific instructions to the group. I find it works best to actually demonstrate how to pack a box.
- Match up a volunteer with each resident. Together they’ll choose the age and gender of a child and then fill a box with appropriate items.
- Provide paper and markers so residents can make cards to include in the boxes. If you include the address of your nursing home, there’s a chance you may receive a thank-you note from a child who receives a box. (Our nursing home never received any notes, but I know people who did.)
- If you’re not using the official red and green boxes, set up an area where residents & volunteers can wrap the boxes. (When the label is applied, please be sure it is placed across one side on the top of the box cover, not in the middle, or it will get covered with tape at the processing center.) Remember to wrap the cover separately from the box so the box can be opened for inspection.
- It’s a nice touch to have cheerful Christmas music playing in the background.
- Finish the event by inviting a chaplain to pray for the children who will receive your boxes.
After The Event
- Consider serving beverages and light snacks so residents and volunteers can visit for awhile.
- It’s wise to double check each box to be sure nothing ended up in the wrong box for the age or gender of the child.
- Go to this site to find out where to drop off your boxes during collection week.
- Be sure to personally thank everyone who helped with this year’s Operation Christmas Child project.
- Get together and begin planning for next year. (I’ll post more about this in November!) Talk about what went well and anything you wish to do differently.
Have you ever participated in an Operation Christmas Child packing party? Please share your tips in the comment section.