Tips for OCC: Packin' It Right

October 29, 2015

Last year, a group from our church volunteered at the Operation Christmas Child processing center in Charlotte, North Carolina. It was such a blessing to see those donated boxes on a ginormous scale! What I learned from the experience leads me to share with you how to pack OCC boxes, how to get your church or organization involved, and what happens once they leave your hands and arrive to the warehouse.

If you have no previous experience with Operation Christmas Child, please watch the video below. For those who already know about OCC, perhaps you'll get refreshed on what to do this year.

Pack Your Box
Here is a 7-point plan for packing your shoebox:

1. Get a shoebox. Any shoebox will do. Order a quantity of 100 premade OCC boxes here.

2. Decide on gender and age range. Boy or Girl. Toddler (2-4), young child (5-9), older child (10-14).

3. Load the shoebox with lots of goodies.
  • Okay: Small toys, socks, school supplies, books, stickers, blankets, hygiene items (toothbrush, comb, hair clips, etc.)
  • Add a personal note with a photo, if desired, so the child can see who sent the box
  • NOT OKAY: Military items, liquids (including nail polish), chocolate, medicine, seeds, snow globes, aerosol cans
  • For more details about how to load your shoebox, click here.
4. Include $7.00 check for shipping IN THE BOX. Write your check to Samaritan's Purse with "OCC" in the memo line. Donate online and print a tracking label if you wish to track your shoebox.

5.  Place rubber bands around the shoebox. DO NOT TAPE THE BOX.

6. PRAY, PRAY, PRAY for the child to whom you are sending your box.

7. Take completed shoeboxes to your local drop-off location during National Collection Week, usually the third week of November (For 2015, it's the 16th-23rd). Find a location here.

Get Your Group Involved
Our church is a drop-off location for Operation Christmas Child. The volume of donation requires that we use a portable storage unit. That's an awesome showing of support!

We also participate in the process by hosting a shoebox packing party, where members and friends gather together for food (what church doesn't get together to I right?), fellowship, and fun. Entire families get in on the festivities -- all ages from 3 to 93. It's never too early, or too late, to get involved.

During the packing party, we'll listen to Christmas music to get us in the spirit of the season. We usually set up stations where volunteers fill shoeboxes with a variety of items purchased from the dollar store, as well as items donated by groups and individuals. By the end of the night, we are all exhausted, but collectively we can pack over 250 boxes!

Volunteer at the Packing Warehouse
As I state at the beginning, a group from our church drove up to volunteer for a day at the Operation Christmas Child processing center in Charlotte, North Carolina. If you have never been there, it's a must-do for your family, group, or church. There are processing centers in eight cities across the United States. Get volunteer information here. They allow anyone 13 or older to participate. My kids have a couple of years until they can join in, but they will definitely be there when they are old enough

Each person in our group was given a task, which are all completed in an assembly line. We had a money collector, several goodies inspectors, a shoebox taper, and case retrievers. Each shoebox is opened (this is why they recommend not taping them beforehand). The money is gathered and put on a slot in the work table for collection at the end of the day. The inspectors make sure the contents are correct, and removes items that are not allowed. They also add items if the boxes still have room leftover. Once the shoeboxes have passed inspection, they are taped closed and placed in large cases of 20-24. Our strong guys moved the completed cases to the roller conveyor, which are sent to the end of the row and collected on pallets.

We noticed on our day, that Barbie dolls had to be removed because the boxes being processed were going to a country with strict modesty laws. We were not told the country name due to security issues. No worries, though, because the dolls were kept safe and placed in other boxes on another day.

Here's a photo of our fabulous group of workers. We enjoyed every minute of our experience at the Operation Christmas Child processing center. I hope that you will consider donating a shoebox, leading in the collection of shoeboxes, and volunteering at a processing center. You will truly be blessed through the experience, and humbled that you can be part of something great!

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