Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes {Sharing our Frugal Finds}

Every year, our family loves putting together shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child!

I know, I know… I’m talking about Christmas and it’s only July, but now is a great time to start collecting items for your shoeboxes with all of the fabulous Back-To-School Deals going on!

Back to School Deals
It has been such a special tradition for my boys, hubby and I to gather up goodies and pack up shoeboxes for children in impoverished countries, that might not otherwise even receive a gift!

As Frugal Girls, it’s easy for us all to stumble across great deals and freebies, and this is such a great way to give back to others and share our frugal finds!

Boxes Can Include:

Just look at how excited these kiddos in Bogota, Columbia were when they received their gifts…

If you’d like to participate, here’s what you’ll need to do:

Have YOU ever packed a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child?

What are some things you like to include when packing your shoeboxes??

Leave a comment and share!

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  1. Emily says

    We love filling shoeboxes with our great finds! This year we got pens and crayons for super cheap at staples, so far.

  2. Alicia says

    I like to use round looms to crochet hats for the boxes. You can make different sized children’s hats for really cheap with decent yarn, and using a loom is not really crocheting because it is so darn easy.

  3. says

    this is the first I’v heard of this organization, I think it is a wonderful gift from the heart, I felt the love and joy of doing this so I got my 2 shoe boxes, one for a boy and one for a girl in the 13-14 age group and I went out on a shopping spree today… I had more fun shopping for a little girl I don’t know, her box is a bit full and I hope it will close tightly as I am unable to get it to at this time, hopefully I’ll manage it, I enjoyed myself fully, Now my next shopping trip is going to be for my boy, which will be a bit harder since I have never had boys around, but I’m sure I’ll find some fun things for him also, I am so excited, I also give to Toys for Tots… frugal girls is the best!!!! Darlene

    • amanda says

      I’m also doing a box for a Boy in that age group and I thought I’d share what I bought mine :crayons, pencils, pens, markers, notebook, slinky, combs, toothbrush, toothpaste, hard candy, harmonica (plastic), deck of cards, socks, shoes, etch a setch and gum!

      • Kimberly says

        Just for future reference, decks of cards are not allowed due to the high rate of gambling in some of the countries.

        • cindy says

          I just got off the phone with Samaritans Purse. In USA boxes playing cards AND dice ARE ALLOWED in the shoeboxes.
          We bring them on all mission trips for older kids and they have fun making up their own games. It’s tough to gamble when you don’t own anything :>).
          Glass marbles are also allowed if properly bagged for older kids.

  4. Jenny says

    I have heard of this before and want to do it, but I wasn’t able to see on there site where they do collections. Is it across the country or only in NC? I would hate to get it all ready and then not have a drop off location near me here in WA and they don’t let you check until October.

    • Megan R says

      They have dropoff locations EVERYWHERE in the US and in quite a few places in Canada, too. If you call, they can help you find either a local church you can take your boxes to, or they’ll tell you where a collection center is located (usually a church that can handle a big influx of boxes). Boxes do all end up in regional collection centers for sorting, etc., to make sure they’ll get through customs in the various countries they’re headed to.

    • Olivia says

      Hi, most Chic Fil A stores are collection sites as well. You also have the option to ship directly to Samaritan’s Purse (the organization that runs the Operation Christmas Child program). Good luck and God Bless!

    • Ricki says

      Jenny, I live in Ocean Shores, WA and we collect here at our church and then we drive them in to Aberdeen where there is an official collection spot. I promise, wherever you are in WA there will be a local drop off. Also when it gets closer to time you can call a local Christian radio station and they’ll be able to tell you :)

    • Karla says

      Where in Washington are you located? There are collection sites in almost all areas, but if you are very rural, you may need to drop them off when you are on a shopping trip in the “big city” (wherever that is).
      When we were in eastern Oregon, we had to drive 13 miles for our collection center. NOT a big deal at all!

    • Cherie Burrows says

      Check local churches to see if they participate. We donate locally & then they are shipped in big boxes to NC. I’ve done it for years & it is so much fun.

    • Lysa says

      Jenny, there’s a spot right on the website where you can enter your zipcode to see where the closest location to you is! :)

  5. Kathy Antoon says

    I’ve been very blessed for many years now by making these
    boxes. A comment was made several years ago that everyone
    tends to get excited and make boxes for a little boy or girl. But the teenagers are forgotten. A lady from the mission where our boxes went told me that everyone gathers around for the boxes to be distributed. The teenagers stand
    on the periphery, expecting nothing, which is exactly what they get. That year, at least half of us made boxes for teenage boys & girls. We received a note with a photo of the small chidren, but the teenagers as well, many holding up their boxes. I now make about 10 boxes. I pick up small
    things all year at great prices, so there is no great expense all at once. I label my boxes child:girl…teenage:
    boy…Mother or Father. That way I have covered a whole family. Hint: I’ve been told that the teen boys and men LOVE socks. Hope you are as blessed as I doing his small
    thing for people who consider it huge.

    • Kellie says

      Teenage boys also would love tools. Like a hammer, tape measure, screwdriver, or even a crescent wrench. They can build things or fix things. All this stuff can be bought at a dollar store too. Yes, we will be making boxes for older boys too.

    • Melissa says

      Thank you for letting us know about the teenagers. I think I’ll suggest this to our small group and see if they would like to assist in this.

  6. Karen Horsley says

    Don’t forgot to shop at garage sales – it requires patience and diligence, as you don’t find things in large quantities, but I often find toys in the original packaging, brand-new T-shirts and socks with tags still on them – sometimes even tooth brushes!

  7. Caryl Lasswell says

    I have participated in this awesome ministry for several years. I shop garage sales, goodwill, dollar stores and wherever I can find a good deal all year long, because I help the kids in our Sunday School classes fill boxes every year. Then I drive them up to the processing center in Minneapolis and help them check boxes & put them in cartons for shipping. The past 2 years the boxes from that Processing Center have gone to poor parts of India. Some things I love to find cheap and include are backpacks (small enough to fold into a larger shoebox). Got 2/$5 at Walgreens today and some plastic pencil boxes for 59 cents. Am waiting for crayons to go on sale for 25 cents a box like they usually do every year! Good luck collecting and sending! This is such an awesome ministry!

    • Jazmine says

      Awesome!! I have worked at that processing center for the last 2 year!! It’s so amazming to see what we can do to help these children! I also smile when I get to read the letters people place in the boxes!

  8. Pam says

    I love putting flip flops in and small flashlights with extra batteries. And ALWAYS a stuffed animal – even for the older children.

  9. Rose Carter says

    I have fixed Shoeboxes for years. The first time I did two, next I did 4, next I did 6, next I did 8 , but for several years now I have fix Six. I buy things all year. After Christmas when things are 75% off I buy little things, after Valentine, & Easter I do the samething. When they put School Supplies out I get them at different stores at a good price. I try to buy the soft Stuffed Animals you can put them in a ziploc bag and mash the air out of them it works good. I have worked at the distribution center several times and it is amazing some of the things people put in them. I like to put a little T shirt, Shoes, Socks, something they can wear. I enjoy fixing my shoe boxes.

    • Cindy says

      What kinds of things have you seen people put in the boxes you think are great? Always looking for new ideas! We make a lot of things to put in the boxes!

  10. Lori Viars says

    Go by the rules on the official website: http://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/OCC/Pack_A_Shoe_Box/
    I like to pack: Beanie Baby, small bouncy ball, regular size ball, Nerf balls, Hotwheels or Matchbox car, washcloth, soap, toothbrush & paste, socks, candy that won’t melt (ie, Smarties, Nerds, DumDum lollipops), slinky, Barrell of Monkeys, colored pencils, pens, reg. pencils, pencil sharpener, pads of paper, child’s scissors, jewelry & hair items for girls, tote bags (folded), sunglasses, tshirts, tap lights, etc. No war-related items allowed (no guns, tanks, toy soldiers). No liquids. Dollar Stores are great, but WalMart & Kroger often have sales on Hotwheels & school supplies.

    • Mary says

      I love your blog & am so encouraged that you & I share the same values as followers of Christ! My family also fills shoeboxes for OCC (as we call it)!

  11. says

    Our homeschool co-op does Operation Shoebox every year and my kids LOVE it. This will be our 3rd year. They love going shopping to pick out school and toiletry items for other children, then my son (now 8yo) gets to pick out two boy toys and my daughter (now 6yo ) picks out two girl toys. We will have to start buying another girl box with my now 15mo daughter. :) Even if the co-op stops, we will find another outlet to continue this mission. I’m hoping as they get older, we can do even more for this cause.

  12. Jazmine says

    I have packed shoeboxes for this since I was very young. I have worked in the Minnesota processing center for the last two years. I love this organization and I think it is just wonderfull!!! Even though it is only July, I have been saving since last November. I currently have enough stuff for about 10 boxes!!!

  13. Ricki says

    This year a friend and I are packing 50 boxes, 30 are already done. Each box gets: Toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, washcloth,comb. Pencils, erasers, sharpener, scissor, coloring crayons or pencils, notepad. Socks. T-shirt bag (bag made from a t-shirt, tutorial online…rolled up and rubber banded with a picture and label of what it is) Deck of playing cards (donated from local casino and we print off instructions for simple games, fold and rubber band onto the card box). Bouncy ball, rubber bracelet with Christian theme (oriental trading), little kids get a happy meal toy (local McDonalds donated 200 toys to our cause this year, the rest will be available at church for others to use in their boxes) and stuffed animal, older kids: boys will get at least one tool ($store) girls will get a small sewing kit. Everyone gets candy and other small filler items that we randomly acquire over the year. Everyone gets a hand written card with our picture in it and we hand color the John 3:16 verse and tape it to the inside top of the lid so when they open it, it’s the first thing they see :)

  14. says

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE OCC! And I agree.. buying throughout the year, like at back to school sales… can really help stretch the dollar. And what a blessing the school supplies are to the children. Our area leaders went on a distribution to Uganda and the school supplies were SO thankfully received as that simple gift meant the children could attend school!

  15. Karla says

    I’ve been packing shoeboxes for about 10 years now and each year end up packing a different amount. Last year we gathered stuff all year long and when it was time to pack, we pulled it all out and counted – we had exactly 32 of nearly everything (except 31 toothbrushes??????) so we decided the Lord must want us to do 32 (and promptly bought a toothbrush).

    My favorite frugal find for this year is large bouncy balls from Old Navy. I never realized this, but each ON store has a giant bouncy ball machine that looks like a bubble gum machine and the balls are only 25 cents! I’ve seen them in other places for $1. Yikes! Whenever I’m close to an Old Navy store, I pop in and buy however many quarters’ worth I have in my purse. Yesterday I went in to the local ON store and was disappointed to find an empty machine. So I asked a clerk if there were any and she brought me one I could “just have”. I said “just one?” and she asked how many I wanted. I counted my quarters – 11 please. She ended up selling me the last 17 balls they had in the store for the price of 11. What a deal!

  16. Elizabeth Glenn says

    We love doing the Operation Shoebox. Our church does it for Vacation Bible School. All of the children bring a filled box or items to go in one. My daughter is too old now. You’ve inspired me to do one. We always found cute items at Dollar Tree and JoAnn Crafts. We love to include Girly items! My daughter I’ll include her picture and a note.

  17. Heather says

    Anyone have more links for freebies? I have purchased a lot of school supplies and don’t have any more money to spend, but I want to continue to collect. Thanks!

  18. Carolyn says

    I would love to do a dozen boxes, but they ask for $7.00 per box for the shipping expenses. That’s where I have to really pull back and can’t afford to send all I would like to.

  19. lisa says

    Only a month to go until the Official Collection Date! Let’s gather up what we can and try to bless as many others as we can! :-)

  20. Brittany says

    Our church here in GA collected donations from the congregation over several Sundays…one was dedicated to girl stuff, one to boys, one to flashlights and batteries, one to candy and this Sunday will be a love offering for shipping costs. We had a “packing party” this past Wednesday night where the kids packed the boxes. We had tables set up for things that every box gets, one for unisex things, one for boys and one for girls. We had a pizza party first, then the kids picked out the stuff to pack with an adults help. They included their pictures and an all about me page. Afterwards, we had hot chocolate and cookies. It was GREAT fun!

  21. leah walding says

    My mom and I were filling our boxes and we got “bungee cords” and small boxes and put sewing needles in one, safety pins, nails and screws, along with the screw drivers and toys for the “older” children. We had heard that they often are left out. Just a thought…We also bought rolls of thread and tape! (WHo doesnt need duct tape!) Even threw in a few plastic slip ties! My parents have been to Mexico and were told that children (around age 10-11) are already working all day to get money for their families. Figured these things and the candy and gum would not only give them help through their normal day, but give them some joy as well. We wrote them notes and sent them a Christmas card with a verse inside. Sent them paper with our address and a pre addressed, stamped envelope if they wanted or could write back! (Just a thought)

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