We’ve found that it also makes a great service project for families. We invite families from our church and homeschooling community to join with us, pooling our resources to prepare and pack anywhere from 60-100 shoeboxes.
Our guests bring goodies to go inside the boxes, which are sorted and separated into labeled laundry baskets — school supplies in one, toiletries in another, hard candy in another, etc.
We eventually laminated our signs, so now we just reuse the same ones year after year. (Click on the image below to print Sorting Labels for your own shoebox stuffing party. UPDATE: Please note that starting in 2017, candy and gum will no longer be accepted, so you’ll need to just toss that label when you print the set!)
Every year, we’ve gotten just a little more organized. There is always a table set up where young children can make Christmas cards to go in the boxes.
We provide lots of construction paper, markers, scissors, and glue for this project, plus as many recycled Christmas cards as we can scrape together.
A couple more tables serve as designated wrapping stations. We get our local Payless ShoeSource to save boxes for us a month or two in advance…
…then work on wrapping them together the night of the party. The teens usually tackle this job, as it provides lots of opportunity for visiting.
After the boxes are all wrapped, we take a break for dinner. The first two years, we served pizza…
…but ever since then, we’ve had a “bean and rice” buffet, enjoying the same simple, staple foods on which many of our shoebox recipients subsist.
After we’re done with dinner, we start filling the boxes….
The pre-sorted baskets make this job easy and fun….
We pack each box with as many goodies as will fit, including a toothbrush, bar soap, socks, underwear, school supplies, and lots of fun books, toys, and games. The official Operation Christmas Child website publishes a detailed list of what to pack (and what not to pack).
Once filled, each box is labeled and secured with a rubber band, then personally delivered to a collection center the day after the party, but not until we’ve all gathered round the whole stack of stuffed shoeboxes and joined hands to pray for the children who’ll be receiving them.
Want to stuff a shoebox or host a packing party yourself this year? There’s still time. You’ll just need to get your filled boxes to the nearest drop-off location during the week of November 18-25. Happy packing!