I had the pleasure of chatting over coffee with Diane Rice, the Network Collection Coordinator for Operation Christmas Child Spokane Valley.
I came ready with some questions for her, but she brought much more than I could even dream up! We volunteer yearly at the Collection Center and Diane heads everything up.
Diane has been the Coordinator for three years now, and has seen OCC shoebox collections multiply each year.
“The goal this year is 20,000 shoe boxes. That’s two 53-foot semi trailers. That’s a LOT of shoe boxes!”
Yes it is. We have helped pack cartons for the past few years and I have helped stack them inside the trailers. It’s amazing how many cartons fit inside of one trailer! Diane has been told by someone at OCC National “We have the largest geographic region and the largest collection, here in the Spokane/Inland Northwest Region.”
Packing shoe boxes for children can be a lot of fun and is a great family ministry activity, but there are some things that you need to keep in mind.
10 Things You Need to Know About OCC Shoeboxes
1. Regarding Plastic or Paper?
Both plastic and sturdy cardboard shoeboxes work just as well, but each have different benefits. Sturdy, cardboard standard size shoeboxes hold up well in transport. Samaritan’s Purse does provide green and red “Go Boxes”, but they aren’t as strong as a shoe store shoebox. The benefit of the Go Boxes is that 22 of them will fit into a shipping carton.
If you want to use a plastic box, get one a step up from the dollar store boxes, with a flat, snap-on lid. The ones with hinged lids are very bulky and don’t fit into a carton as well.
Diane said “The dollar store boxes often arrive at the processing plant shattered, and end up going to the ‘shoebox hospital’.” Plastic boxes are good for long-term storage for the recipients though, and are often reused for many things, including food storage.
2. It costs $107 for Samaritan’s Purse to ship each carton, whether it contains 9 shoeboxes or 22.
Bigger is not always better when it comes to your shoebox donation. Think of it this way: You can reach 9 children with that money, or you can reach 22. Which would you prefer? The one below already has 8 and may fit another 4 or 5, if they are small. The $7 donation they ask you to include is very important!
3. “Go Boxes” come from a national donor, not directly from Samaritan’s Purse.
They are designed as a promotional tool for first-time participants. A display of Go Boxes in a church foyer gives them high visibility and increases participation from new donors. Additional Go Boxes are available online, for the price of shipping, if you have a large group that you need them for.
If you are not a first-time shoebox donor, please pass the Go Box on to a first-timer and get a shoebox.
4. Wrapping paper looks pretty on boxes, but it doesn’t always hold up well.
If you must wrap your shoebox, remember to wrap the box and lid separately so they can be opened. Diane’s suggestion for wrapping plastic boxes: “Tape the wrapping paper inside the clear plastic box, so that the pattern shows through the box to the outside. This way it stays pretty.”
5. Get shoeboxes from local shoe stores and others that display their shoes on shelves.
You can get them at stores such as Ross, TJ Maxx, Marshalls. Diane’s advice: Call ahead and find out when they are getting a new shipment in, and arrange with the stock clerk to pick up some boxes before they end up in the crusher.
6. Place your Boy/Girl label across one end of your shoebox, rather than in the middle.
OCC puts tape around the center of each box and often the label ends up covered.
7. What climate to buy for—the tropics or the mountains?
Diane’s answer: “God knows where your box is going, and there is story after story where God matched the needs of the recipient with the box contents!”
One story we heard was about a Russian girl who had no shoes and her feet would be freezing as she walked to and from school each day in her stockings. She got a pair of shoes in her shoebox that fit her exactly.
8. There is a $7 shipping donation requested per box.
It’s not mandatory, and God will take care of it if you can’t, but it helps. Just include a check in your box when you drop it off. Or, if you download your labels and pay online, you can follow your shoebox and find out where it ends up. Ours went to the Philippines last year!
9. Often one of the most prized items in the shoeboxes are a toothbrush and large tube of toothpaste.
This was according to shoebox recipients who later emigrated to or were adopted by US families. Many have told stories of living in orphanages where dozens of kids share a community toothbrush that they have access to once or twice a week. They wouldn’t be upset by a nice toy or some art supplies either though!
UPDATE Sept. 2015: The Canadian OCC website has revised their packing list and put decks of playing cards, candy, and toothpaste on the Do Not Include list due to customs regulations.
10. There are approximately 130 domestic staff for OCC, about 20 of whom work full time internationally.
They depend on the thousands of volunteers that work each year to make Operation Christmas Child run smoothly!
At our local Collection Center this year, Diane is coordinating 65+ volunteers. If you are an OCC volunteer, you are SO valuable! If you have never volunteered with OCC, please consider it as a family outreach. Our family has worked at our city’s collection center for the past 10 years in a row and it blesses us. We all love doing it so much!
Questions about some of the specifics on how they do things? Check out Operation Christmas Child Q & A.
Have you packed a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child yet? You can follow your shoebox so you know where it goes, and even build a box online!
Please note: Comments on this post are now closed. It seems that many feel the need to add to the list, contradict the information, or dispute things like toothpaste. Please understand that I update this post yearly in August so that it is current for the upcoming United States collection season, by meeting with my local area coordinator and going over the information. I do not make changes on the fly throughout the year, so if information isn’t current in February, please know that it will be updated in August. Thank you and happy Collection Week!
Disclosure: I am a member of Samaritan’s Purse Blogger Team and I write about the ministry on a volunteer basis. These posts are my own thoughts and do not necessarily reflect the views of Samaritan’s Purse. I am not an employee, agent, or contractor of Samaritan’s Purse. For official information, please see the Samaritan’s Purse website.