Twelve Months of Giving: A Year-Long Plan for Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes

  
Another year has come and gone for packing Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. I’m anxious to find out where my boxes went so I can be praying more specifically for the kids who receive my shoeboxes. This is one of my favorite forms of missional living. My childhood was fun, enriching, and I love sharing this joy with other kids around the world.

So, you’re probably wondering why I’m writing about Operation Christmas Child for this next year. Let me explain.

  • A shoebox is the first gift that a child receives, so they don’t need to be an afterthought.
  • These boxes need to be thoughtful, fun, and practical.
  • You can find great deals throughout the year.
  • It keeps you from scrambling at the last minute, which often results in trinkets and impractical items being thrown in.
  • This helps you keep a missional frame of mind all year.
  • When you include missions in your personal budget, it motivates you to work harder during the work week, as you become outwardly focused instead of just paying attention to what you want to buy with that paycheck.  There is so much joy in giving, and you can hold onto that joy even when you have a bad day.

The following is organized by month, then by to-do list, then by what to purchase that month. These are suggestions based on what is typically on sale during the month.

Now that we have established some reasons to start planning for next year, let’s get to the plan!  The first month of this plan is December, so don’t be thrown off by the numbering.

1. December – Planning, A-Roll List

To-Do List

  • Decide how many shoeboxes you want to pack, whether you want to send them to a girl or boy, what age group, and the themes of your boxes. You can streamline the process by choosing the same gender and age for each box, or you can be more creative by changing it up. Pray and think about it.
  • Designate a space in your home to organize the gifts you find throughout the year. Make sure the space is cool and dry and that it’s away from anyone (including pets) getting into them. This could be where you keep gift wrap or in a closet. You just don’t want the space to become junky or disorganized. It needs to be easily accessible throughout the year.
  • Consider what worked and what didn’t work this year. Which items gave you the most joy to pack? What are some items you wanted to include but couldn’t fit in the box? What items will you include or not include this year?
  • Grab your calendar/agenda/diary/planner and write down a plan and a budget for the year. Include how much you want to spend, the items you plan to purchase each month, and the dates by when you’ll complete your shopping that month. give yourself deadlines. Factor in the cost for each box and the $7 shipping/tracking donation.
  • Go ahead and pencil into your planner when you will shop for your gifts each month. For example, you could say that during the third week of the month is when you will go shopping for the items on your list.
  • Divide up your list by A-Roll and B-Roll. Your A-Roll list includes the items that are on sale each month. Plan to purchase those items during those months to save money. Your B-Roll list includes the items you can plan to purchase during the months that don’t have major sales. Click here for an long list of items and where to find them.

What to Buy

  • Toys. It’s Christmastime. Toys are everywhere. Toys are on sale.
  • Makeup. Most cosmetic companies offer gift sets for the holidays at jaw-dropping prices. This is a great time to stock up on things like eye shadow, lip stick, eye pencils, and brush sets for the girls. Sephora has really good deals between late November and throughout December.
  • Blankets are usually on sale.
  • The dollar section in Target is usually full of fun items in December.
  • December is a great time to find a lot of items on sale.
2. January – A-Roll List

To-Do List

  • Prioritize your goals for the year.
  • Make a list of what items are on sale each month and which items you will purchase during months that have fewer discounts. This will help you save money and avoid buying the same item twice.
  • Get into couponing. No, don’t roll your eyes at me. If you want to stretch those dollars, coupons can help you do so. You don’t have to be weird about it. Just get a binder, put clear 3-ring sheet protectors in them (you know, those clear things you stick papers in to keep them organized in a binder), cut out coupons from the Sunday paper, and stick ’em in the sheet protectors in the binder. If you want to get spiffy about it, just type “couponing” in the browser on Pinterest.

What to Buy

  • Winter clothes, shoes, & accessories. This is the best time to buy shoes. You can find great deals even at department stores, and most stores by now want to clear out their inventory to transition easily into spring.
  • Linens. You could include a sheet set. These are typically packaged in a way that would fit in a shoebox. You could also include a blanket – make sure it will fit, though. Also, Target sells packs of hand towels. These are great items to include in your boxes. You can purchase two or three packs and divide them up among the boxes.
  • Toys are still on sale.
3. February – B-Roll List

To-Do List

  • This is a by-month, so use it to purchase items from your B-Roll list. Now’s a time to pull out those coupons.
  • Look at sale and clearance racks in discount stores like TJ Maxx, Nordstrom Rack, and the like. You will find the steepest discounts at these stores when you buy clothes outside the current season. So, during the winter season, you’ll find the lowest prices to be on spring and summer clothes, and in the summer season is when you will find lowest prices on winter items. And when I say lowest prices, I mean single-digit amounts often lower than what you might find at Walmart or Target.

What to Buy

  • Hygiene items
  • Cosmetics (hairbrushes, ponytail holders, hair clips, other hair fasteners, plastic mirror, comb)
  • Off-season clothes from discount retailers
4. March – Transition from Winter to Spring, A-Roll and B-Roll

To-Do List

  • Review and Refine your list. Check off items that you’ve already purchased. Add or remove items from your list.
  • Contact missionaries from your church or community. Ask them what needs they see among the kids in their part of the world. Edit your list based on this information.

What to Buy

  • Steep discounts on winter clothes, especially coats
  • Art Items (coloring books, crayons, watercolor paint sets)
  • Books, educational materials
5. April – A-Roll and B-Roll

To-Do List

  • Connect with other people in your community who are doing Operation Christmas Child this year.  Contact your church to see if they are collecting shoeboxes, get in touch with your small group, or connect with organizations in your area. Packing shoeboxes can be a great mission project for your small group. Go ahead and announce it now so people have time to organize their boxes.
  • Find out who will be collecting shoeboxes in your area. You can find this information on the locations for the year here. This information may not be posted yet, but you can check it as it gets closer to the time to send them out.
  • Organize a company-wide shoebox event. Clients and customers are more endeared to companies who give back. They want to know that your business cares about the world outside their walls. Have your company plan to give a number of boxes. You can let this be something that’s between you and your colleagues, or you can include your customers. If you’re a retailer, you could plan to have customers bring in their shoeboxes during a week in October. When they bring them into your store, you could offer discounts that week on items that customers will include in their boxes.

What to Buy

  • Sneakers, tennis shoes
  • Spring clothes
  • Accessories (socks, headbands, bookbags, sunglasses)
6. May – Outdoor Gear, A-Roll and B-Roll

To-Do List

  • Solidify who in your group will be packing shoeboxes.
  • Clarify the plans for your company’s event.
  • Start announcing via social media.

What to Buy

  • Resusable eating utensils and dishware (needs to be plastic, not glass or anything breakable)
  • Athletic clothes
  • Outdoor gear
  • Tumblers (You know, those double-walled cups that keep drinks cold or hot? These fit nicely into the boxes and you can stuff them with smaller items. Make sure they’re plastic.)
7. June – A-Roll List

To-Do List

  • As you did in March, review your list and the items remaining on it. Look at the items you’ve purchased and remind yourself of the items you still need to to purchase. This will let you know where you are in the process.
  • Refress your coupons. You should actually do this each month, but if you haven’t done so by now, go find you more coupons in the Sunday paper, cut them out, and put them in your binder.

What to Buy

  • Summer sports gear and apparel
  • Dishware (plastic, resuable utensils)
  • Spring clothes
8. July – B-Roll List

To-Do List

  • Consider themed shoeboxes. Since this is a B-roll month, come up with some themes for your shoeboxes. See this post for theme ideas.
  • Continue plans for your company event.

What to Buy

  • Themed shoeboxes
  • Underwear (bras, panties, briefs, boxers, socks)
  • Basic shirts
  • Pajamas
9. August – Back-to-School, A-Roll List

To-Do List

  • Note when the tax-free weekend is in your state. Stores have to honor this, but you may have to bring it up at the register.
  • This is the best time to buy school supplies. You can find them everywhere. If you have kids, pay attention to the items on their school list, because you might find something on their that you’re forgetting.
  • Advertise your company’s shoebox event like crazy. Don’t be obsessive, but make sure your customers know about it if you want them to contribute.

What to Buy

  • Back-to-School supplies. You know. Tax-free weekend & school supplies everywhere.
  • Clothes (summer clothes on sale, and fall clothes in stock)
10. September – Kids Clothes, A-Roll and B-Roll List

To-Do List

  • If you’re having an event next month, make sure you have the specific dates set and advertised. You want people to know about it. Specify the details.
  • Coordinate with your small group for shoebox project.

What to Buy

  • Clothes
  • More school supplies
  • Small, acoustic musical instruments (recorders, xylophone, flute, tambourine)
11. October – Mostly B-Roll Items

To-Do List

  • Some stores will have discounts on new fall merchandise.
  • If your business has decided to do a shoebox collection, designate a visible place in your store or office that people will see. If you have shoeboxes that are already packed, place them in your designated place.

What to Buy

  • Fall clothes
  • Jeans
  • Sports items
12. November – Packing, Final Items

To-Do List

  • Decide if you will use the shoeboxes that OCC provides, your own shoeboxes, or those plastic storage bins of the same size.
  • Pack your items.
  • Drop off your shoeboxes at the proper location.

What to Buy

  • Candy (hard candies)
  • Flatware
  • Plastic storage boxes (same size as shoeboxes)

Let a year-long plan inspire you to put missions into your budget and challenge you to give more than you thought you could. A year-round plan will add purpose to your budget.

 

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