Cheryl from Simply Shoeboxes is guest posting with us today to share how you can make a difference this holiday season with Operation Christmas Child.
In 1993 Samaritan’s Purse was asked if they could provide shoeboxes* with gifts and necessities to the children of war torn Bosnia. Across the Southeastern United States they collected 28,000 shoebox gifts. Since that time Operation Christmas Child (OCC) has grown to have collections not only in the U.S., but also in Canada, the U.K., Australia, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Finland, Spain, New Zealand and Japan. They have delivered over 146 million shoeboxes in 160 countries. Each shoebox is packed by an individual, family or group hosting a packing party.
We sent two shoeboxes in 1993, one from each of my young daughters; and since that first year it has become a yearly event in our family. We are so hooked on shoebox packing that my daughter, Sarah, and I write a blog dedicated to our journey called Simply Shoeboxes. We like to include handcrafted items in our boxes which make them more personal. Since I love crafting and I love kids, it is a perfect match of two passions. I wanted to share with FaveCrafts readers how you, too, can use your love of crafting to help kids in crisis around the world.
OCC collects shoeboxes each year the week before Thanksgiving. This year’s goal is 9.5 million shoeboxes for the US and 12 million worldwide. Many boxes arrive at the processing center with few items inside or items that are not allowed and need removed (candy, toothpaste, breakables, war related, liquids). This leaves gaps in the boxes which volunteers fill with items donated for this purpose. These extra gifts are called “fillers.” This is where crafters can step in and help fill that need.
There are six ways to donate crafts to the Operation Christmas Child shoebox packing efforts. The following is based on donations in the US. If you are in another country check with your country’s guidelines as they may differ in some ways.
Six Ways to Donate Your Handcrafts to Kids in Need Around the World thru OCC
- Pack a Shoebox
You can pack your own shoebox gift and include your handcrafted items. Choose an average sized shoebox and include such things as toys, hygiene items, clothes and school supplies (many children around the world can’t go to school because the parents can’t afford school supplies). Hobby Lobby stores and local churches often have the OCC shoeboxes available for free. You can find out all the information on the Operation Christmas Child Shoebox website. Find a local drop off location open during national collection week thru the OCC link above–there are over 5000 nationwide.
- Find a Shoebox Packer
If you don’t want to pack a shoebox, find someone who does pack and offer to donate handcrafted items to their packing effort. Any packer would be thrilled for donations. We have two ladies from opposite ends of the country who send us items to help us pack more boxes and we greatly appreciate it. If you don’t know anyone personally who packs, call local churches or stop by our Simply Shoeboxes Facebook page and leave a comment that you are looking for a local person to donate to. Or if you would like to ship your handcrafted items to someone who packs, we can also help you find someone thru our page.
- Find a Packing Party
Operation Christmas Child shoebox packing parties are held around the country. Some are for packing a few dozen up to one in PA that packs over 25,000. This year we are hosting two for the kids at church–one for 100 shoeboxes and the other for 200. You can imagine the number of items needed for these. As mentioned above, check with local churches or our Facebook page to find one near you or to ship your items to.
- Drop Off at a Collection Center
The week before Thanksgiving each year there are thousands of OCC collection centers at which to drop off your shoeboxes. They also take boxes of filler items. Pack your handcrafted items in a box (NOT a shoebox) and mark “fillers” on the outside and drop them off. You can find a location near you thru this link: Operation Christmas Child shoebox drop off location (these are only listed during the late fall).
- Drop off at an OCC Processing Center
Each year thousands of volunteers check each shoebox to be sure there are no items on the “do not send” list. Operation Christmas Child has processing centers open for several weeks after collection week in Baltimore, MD, Charlotte, NC, Boone, NC, Atlanta, GA, Dallas, TX, Minneapolis, MN, Denver, CO and Orange County, CA. Fillers can be packed in boxes marked “fillers” and dropped off at one of these. You can contact Operation Christmas Child to find out the location and hours of operation, or call (828) 262-1980.
We have a guest post on our blog by an OCC regional director if you would like to see what happens in A Day at the OCC Processing Center.
- Mail to Charlotte Offices Year Round
A seamstress asked on the Operation Christmas Child Facebook page what she could do to help. They told her she could donate handcrafted items anytime of the year by mailing them to:
Operation Christmas Child
Attn: Seth Brewer
7100 Forest Point Blvd.
Charlotte, NC 28217
Operation Christmas Child also accepts fillers from local businesses and large manufacturers. You can read more about OCC’s request for Gift-in-Kind on their website: Operation Christmas Child Gift-in-Kind Opportunities.
Guidelines for Craft Donations as Fillers for OCC Shoeboxes
Operation Christmas Child divides the shoeboxes into six groups: 2 to 4 year old girls, 2 to 4 year old boys, 5 to 9 year old girls, 5 to 9 year old boys, 10 to 14 year old girls, and 10 to 14 year old boys. Any item appropriate for a child in any of these groups can be donated. Including but not limited to:
- Clothing (no camouflage fabrics)
- Tote Bags
- Small Blankets
- Hats, Scarves & Mittens
I have shared tutorials for many of these on our blog here: Crafting for Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes Index. Some of my favorites are:
- Pillow Case Style Dress
- Easy Lined Pencil Case
- Marble Maze
- Woven Heart Fleece Scarf (no-sew)
- Grandma Sally’s Bitty Afghan
Some of the crafts on FaveCrafts that would be perfect for shoeboxes are:
- Roll Up Checkerboard
- Knit Mittens for the Whole Family
- Vines & Twigs Beanie (There are many reports of how children receiving shoeboxes love something to put on)
- Alana Lacy Scarf
- Colored Glitter Pencils (many children miss school because they don’t have a pencil)
And these from AllFreeSewing would also be great:
- Simple Gather Skirt for Girls Tutorial
- Child’s Tool Belt (you could include some plastic tools for little ones, make it a little larger and include real tools for the older boys)
- Back Pack Bear (looks like a perfect size!)
- Reversible Fat Quarters Library Bag (I like to include a bag in each of my shoeboxes)
- Kids Mittens Pattern
Remember it needs to be small enough to fit in an average sized shoebox with other gifts. I advise people to use the size of a quart mayonnaise jar as a guide. If the item when folded, rolled or ready for packing is not much larger than that it should fit fine.
Crafters have the opportunity to craft what they choose and to craft as much as they would like. There are groups who knit hundreds of sweaters yearly, a retired gentleman who makes hundreds of wooden cars, a 100 year old gal who sews dresses and thousands of crafters across the globe crafting all kinds handcrafts for shoeboxes. It is also a great opportunity to gets kids crafting for kids.
Shoebox Crafting Communities
So if you love crafting and are looking for an outlet for your crafts that can make a difference in the life a child, look into donating thru Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. And if you like communities, here are some Facebook pages for OCC shoebox packers and crafters:
- Crafting for Shoeboxes
- Simply Shoeboxes (our page)
- Shoebox Shoppers
- Clip with Purpose
- Operation Christmas Child (official page)
Operation Christmas Child Shoebox Distributions
OCC works with local churches and other agencies within the receiving countries to distribute the shoeboxes. If you would like to learn more about the distributions or see more images, we have three guest posts on our blog from ladies who have been involved in distributions. You can find them here: Operation Christmas Child Shoebox Distribution Stories.
Thank you to Jennifer Carpenter for this image of the Zambia OCC shoebox distribution and the smiling girl at the top. All other shoebox distribution images courtesy of Operation Christmas Child.
Questions about Operation Christmas Child
If you have any questions I would be happy to answer them; and if I don’t know the answer, I’ll do my best to find it. You can reach me at thesimplyblogs @ gmail[dot]com.
Samaritan’s Purse is much larger than Operation Christmas Child. They are an international relief agency that helps after natural disasters here in the US and around the globe. They also have dozens of other relief efforts helping children, women, families and communities with medical, farming, schooling, clean water and much more. Check out their Christmas Catalog for a quick overview of the types of things they do.
Share Your Craft Images
And finally, if you craft items to donate thru Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes I’d love to see them. Stop by our Simply Shoeboxes Facebook page and post them.
*Please note: Operation Christmas Child and packers around the world write shoe boxes as one word: shoeboxes. For consistency, this article includes that spelling.