This past week, my son and I delivered shoeboxes from our church to the local drop-off location. While our church originally had a goal of 100 shoeboxes, by the grace of God, our final number ended up being 174!
And we didn’t just put the bare essentials in our church shoeboxes. Our shoeboxes were bursting at the seams! We had to use lots of rubber bands or cord to keep our shoeboxes closed and even the Shoebox Shoppers Facebook page commented on how the volunteers were struggling to close the cartons of our shoeboxes because they were so full. 😀
My own family (my son and I, my mom, and my brother and his wife) packed over 40 shoeboxes, but that was with only a few months to prepare. Now, we have a full year to plan for 2017 shoeboxes so I’m thinking we should really be able to go beyond that.
Getting an early start on next year’s shoeboxes
I saw a post tonight from our area coordinator that said she’s already packing soap boxes for 2017. What a great idea!
I had already been thinking that by simply buying a little bit throughout the year, we should be able to do a lot next year when it’s time to send shoeboxes, but to know she isn’t letting any grass grow under her feet, I’m inspired to follow her lead and start doing the same thing. That said, I’ve just placed an order from MDSupplies for a carton of soap boxes. I can buy 144 for under $20 and there’s no shipping!
Here’s what I hope to do for 2018
I already had an unopened carton of toothbrush holders from MDSupplies. It was also under $20. That means I’ve got the soap boxes and toothbrush holders covered.
Other items that I can purchase throughout the year are listed here:
- Toothbrushes – Can either be purchased in bulk from MDSupplies or in multi-packs from Dollar Tree.
- Washcloths – I noticed these could be bought especially cheap just before school started — probably for those college kids moving into dorms, but really, these can be bought in multi-packs from many stores any time.
- Stuffed Animals – Every shoebox needs some sort of plush toy. All kids — regardless of how old they are — love stuffed animals. Ideal times of year to look for these are right after holidays like Valentine’s Day or Christmas, or any other festive dates. The holiday-themed plushes are usually marked way down, often 75% off, or even as much as 90% off.
- School Supplies – This one is easy. Back-to-school time is when notebooks, pencils, crayons, markers, scissors, and all kinds of school supplies, are DIRT CHEAP. It’ll be time to stock up then.
- Knick-Knacks – This year I bought playing cards, jump ropes, and Rubik’s-style cubes from Oriental Trading Company. I think I’ll do that again for 2018, but I’ll keep my eyes open for emails with coupon codes for purchase discounts or free shipping.
Tote Bags – Considering I like my shoeboxes STUFFED, I think it’s kind to include a tote bag that the child can use to carry their shoebox and items home in, in case the box is difficult to carry once they’ve taken everything out. The best source for these is AliExpress. I’m a big fan of this kind of bag for girls. There are all kinds of other options that would work well for boys. They’re under a dollar and they hold a good bit of weight. I’ve just placed an order for a variety of other styles of bag and I’ll report on those once they arrive. Please note, don’t put off ordering from AliExpress too long. Sometimes orders can take a month or two to arrive, but that’s the price you pay for buying direct from China or other countries and then using standard (often free) shipping. If you do want slightly faster shipping (usually 12-20 days), choose ePacket shipping.
Pencil Pouches, Toiletry Bags – Sometimes Dollar Tree has multi-packs of cosmetic bags in different sizes. Those might be good options for girl’s pencil pouches or cosmetic bags. For boys, though, you’ll probably want to keep your eyes open during the back-to-school season and look for great deals on pencil pouches or go to AliExpress and grab some A5 size bags like these that will hold pencils, markers/crayons, scissors, and more.
- WOW! Items – We’ll probably focus on the 10-14-year-old age group for next year. This year, all of our boy shoeboxes got these soccer balls and pumps from Epic Sports, but they take up so much room in the shoeboxes. We still may end up buying some of these, but we probably won’t do it for all of our boy shoeboxes. For the girls, we included sewing kits (They were half-price when we bought them, so look for sales!) and a few spools of thread. We also included a hygiene kit with four cloth pads (a few of us ladies in the church made them), a couple of pairs of underwear, a small bar of laundry soap, and picture instructions. Since I’ll have more time for planning for 2018, I think we may go with a variety of WOW! Items for all of our shoeboxes rather than putting the same in all shoeboxes of the same gender. Barnes & Noble’s clearance bins come to mind. They always have so many cool things, often marked way down. Also, I’ll be keeping my eyes open after Christmas for clearance sales on items that may be of interest to that 10-14 age group.
This is totally doable!
If you think about setting, maybe $20 or $25 each month, and you keep your eyes open for sales, clearance items, special coupons, and whatnot, you can fill a LOT of shoeboxes and positively impact the lives of many children. If you’d like to learn more about Operation Christmas Child, please visit the official website here.