It started out a little bumpy. And by 10:30, I was sitting in my physical therapist’s office trying to hold everything together. Finally I gave up. I just looked at her and bluntly said, “I’m going to cry now, okay?”
And I did.
Quite a bit.
(I think I freaked her out a little.)
I had a friend watching my children today for me so I could go to the appointment alone. And when I was done, I just couldn’t face life yet. So after checking in with her to make sure my kids were behaving themselves, I escaped to my happy place. The Target clearance racks.
(You think I’m kidding, don’t you?)
As usual, Operation Christmas Child was on my brain. I knew that many Christmas items were going to be marked down. I grabbed a cart and beelines to the Dollar Spot. I didn’t see any signs up, but I found a few items that looked Christmas-ey. I took them to the price scanner and realized that they were 70% off. 30 cents each?? Let the good times roll!
As I have told you, shopping for Operation Christmas Child is one of my very favorite things to do. And for a beautiful hour, I forgot about my problems. I (mostly) forgot about my physical pain and my frustrations and my sadness. I focused on the children who would be opening these shoeboxes next year. I thought about their little faces and their excited voices. I imagined children who have never had a gift to open. I wondered which books these little ones might enjoy, which socks would be the right size, which stickers would be their favorites.
Initially I was just going to grab a few things. But as I looked at these wonderful items, only 30 cents each, I realized something – I had lots of points saved up from Shopkick. (If you haven’t checked it out yet, you can read the post I wrote for my cousin’s website.) I pulled out my phone, and within seconds I had redeemed my points for a $25 Target gift card. Then … it was go time!
One lesson I have learned from packing shoeboxes in the past – it’s a lot more efficient to shop for shoebox items if you have a plan. Although the little Hello Kitty socks were adorable, and I initially grabbed handfuls, I realized that I only needed 8 pairs for my little girl boxes. I checked the sizes, bought what I needed, and left the rest for someone to find. Although I was tempted to buy more (only 30 cents!!) I knew I had grabbed what I needed, and I was excited to leave many on the shelf for someone else to discover.
So I happily shopped, carefully selecting what I knew I would use in this year’s shoeboxes. And people, as I walked up to the checkout counter and began to unload my treasures, I started thinking of my problems again.
They didn’t seem so bad.
They really, truly didn’t.
When we serve, we are blessed. I believe that with my whole heart. When we focus on the needs of others, we are distracted from our own. And the perspective we gain from serving those who are less fortunate than we are – it can be just what we need to give us the courage to face life again.
So friends, if you’re having a tough day today, I understand. I really, really do. But here’s the thing: if you do something nice for someone else, you will feel better.
I hope you had a joyful Christmas! I had a wonderful time with my family and with great friends. And Santa even found my house, which is always a plus. 🙂
Do you remember The Shoebox Challenge? (If you’re new to Let’s Do Some Good Today, you can check it out here.) This year, with the help of some wonderful friends, I was able to pack 33 shoeboxes. It was such a joy to do! If you participated this year – thank you! If not, there’s always next year. And now is the time to start!
First of all, I’d like to share my exciting news. If you pay your $7 shipping donation online, you are able to print off tags to add to the top of your boxes. When your boxes are received, you get an e-mail telling you where they ended up. Two days before Christmas, I opened my inbox and found four e-mails from Samaritan’s Purse. This year, my shoeboxes (and possibly the shoeboxes shipped by the winners of our challenges) ended up in Mexico, Ukraine, Ghana, and Indonesia. So fun!
If you’d like to pack a shoebox next November, I’d encourage you to start thinking about it right now. Packing can always be done at the last minute, but if you start planning now, you can stretch your budget!
If you’re new to packing shoeboxes, you can read my original posts here and here. You can also check out my Pinterest page – I have this board that’s full of shoebox ideas!
If you’re new to this and you’d like to pack one box this idea, now is the time to make a list of the things you’d like to include. Each month, just buy one item and set it aside. If you’re on a tight budget, this is a great way to pack a shoebox! And if you put aside a few quarters each month, you’ll easily collect your $7 shipping donation. Remember to buy things “in season”. (For instance, buy crayons in August when school supplies are on sale.)
And speaking of that — it’s time to start shopping! Why? Because Christmas items are on clearance now! I do a lot of my shoebox shopping in the first week of January. Soon, Target will have their Christmas items marked down to 70% off (if they’re not already), and Michaels will be down to 80%. These are the stores that I have had great luck at in the past, but keep your eyes out everywhere you go! And as the weather warms up, start looking for winter items on clearance. Small things like hats and mittens are fantastic additions to your shoebox.
A few final notes. I highly recommend the website Clip With Purpose. This website is dedicated to shoebox packing on a budget. I love the tips that they share – everything from craft ideas to sales to clearance finds. I have liked them on Facebook, so the great deals pop up in my newsfeed. And speaking of Facebook – if you haven’t liked Operation Christmas Child, I’d recommend it. All year, they share stories and videos from children who receive the shoeboxes. It’s great motivation to keep packing!
This week, in fact, they shared this little story: ” “My name is Anna, and I am 9-years-old. In my life, miracles just do not happen. I live with my mom and I don’t have a dad. My mom has to work a lot though it’s hard to find a job in the place where we live. To sell fish on the market place is the only option. Very often my mom is not at home. Once during the school break, men and women came to me to bring me a gift. I was very surprised. My first thought was that it’s not for me, but they confirmed that it was mine. Then those people told me that God has love for me and He will not leave me and my mom alone if we would come to Him in prayer. So thank you everybody – I don’t know who you are and how you know me that you’ve brought me a gift. I am very glad and I tell everyone – just believe – the miracles come true! I am sure about it.” – Note from shoebox recipient in Ukraine.”
What are the odds that this little girl received one of the shoeboxes I packed? Very, very slim. But it still touched my heart. Maybe she DID receive one of my boxes. Maybe she opened it and cuddled the doll that I was delighted to find on clearance at Target. Maybe she was touched to find the soup and toothpaste that I carefully couponed for at CVS. Maybe the toothbrush that my dentist donated was an answer to her prayers. Maybe she combed her hair and pulled it back with her new headband and she felt beautiful. Maybe she looked at the box, lovingly wrapped by my friends, and she realized that somewhere, strangers cared enough about her to pack this little box of gifts.
Maybe whoever opened my shoeboxes realized that miracles can happen.
And so, friends – for those maybes – I pack again.
Will you join me?
If you have any questions about Operation Christmas Child, please let me know – I’ll try to answer it, or I’ll see if I can find an answer for you! Thank you SO much for joining me on this adventure.
For those of you who are new to Let’s Do Some Good Today … welcome! I’m so glad you’ve found us here! Every Thursday, we issue a new service challenge. And one of our first challenges was one of my favorites: the Pack a Shoebox Challenge. This week’s challenge is a continuation of that one. If you haven’t read our initial post, you can do so here.
If you have been packing a shoebox for the last two months, great! But if not, there’s still time. Shoebox dropoff is November 17th to 24th, so if you’ve been picking up items to pack, time to pull it all together! And if you haven’t … let’s get started!
Remember, if you haven’t read it yet, check out the original challenge to learn about Operation Christmas Child and to find information on how to pack a shoebox. If you want some more ideas, I have also created an Operation Christmas Child Pinterest board, collecting ideas from people who are a lot more creative than I am. 🙂 Finally, here are a few ideas for putting together a last-minute shoebox:
Ask for help. Reach out to friends and tell them what you’re doing. I’ve had friends donate unopened Happy Meal stuffed animals, like-new small toys, leftover Halloween candy, sample-sized soap and toothpaste, reusable tote bags, and much more. People might have things at home they’re willing to donate – or they might be willing to help with your shipping costs. You’ll never know until you ask!
Host a shoebox party! (That’s what I’ll be doing!) I’ve been hitting up sales and clearance racks all year, and my closet is getting full. So next week, I’ll be having some friends over to help me sort, wrap, and pack my shoeboxes. I’m so excited! You can keep it simple – invite a few friends over for dessert and ask everyone to bring one item or a few dollars. Many people love the idea of doing something like this, and would love to help out if you give them the opportunity.
See what you already have at home. (Remember, all donated items need to be either new or like-new.) Do you have any Beanie Babies that have never been played with? A drawer full of extra pens? A promotional water bottle or shirt that you have never used? A small notebook you’ve never written in? Some Hot Wheels that look brand new? Leftover Halloween candy? Start with what you have – you might not need to buy much at all!
And because I love Operation Christmas Child so, SO much … I am doing another giveaway! When I pay for my shipping, I’ll make a donation to cover your box, as well. I’ll e-mail you the label to print off and tape to the top of your shoebox. That label will have a unique barcode on it, which means we get to find out where your box goes. Awesome, isn’t it?
Here are the details: (Each action is worth one entry to the giveaway, but remember to come back to this blog post and leave one separate comment per activity)
RSVP for the shoebox challenge by commenting below
Ask a question either on this page or on my Facebook page – I’ll do my best to answer!
Share this post on your Facebook page and/or Instagram account (including a link to this blog post), or Pin it!
Comment on my Facebook page telling me you’ve accepted the challenge (and let us know what you’ve done so far, if you’ve started)
Post a picture on my Facebook page of your shoebox
Write a note or post a picture on your own Facebook page sharing what you’ve done so far, and include a link to this post
So you can earn up to six entries in this giveaway – but be sure to leave a separate comment for each action! This giveaway will end Tuesday, November 18th at noon (Central time) and I will announce the winner that afternoon. Thanks for joining this week’s challenge! I hope this brings you as much joy as it brings me. Because … y’all.
As I’ve mentioned previously, I have been writing a series of guest posts at TodaysTheBestDay.com. This isn’t a couponing website, and I’m not planning on sharing tons of money saving/money making posts over here. But I am a HUGE believer in being a good steward over your money. There might be a few things you can do to save a little bit of money here and there, or perhaps to earn a bit of extra cash. And if you can save (or earn) an extra $10 this week, I’d invite you to consider giving some of it away. Scatter quarters around, donate a few dollars to a good cause – whatever “your thing” is, do it! Here are a few links for you to check out, if you’re interested:
If you’d like to learn how to save money at Walmart, check out this post. If Target is your store, check here.
If you’d like to learn how to make a little bit of money with your smartphone, this post might be interesting for you to read.
If you want to check out a new generation of “mail-in” rebates (minus the “mail” part), here is an article for you. (It’s actually really easy. No stamp required.)
And finally, if you’d like to check out my favorite website that offers ways to earn a little bit of cash from home, you can check out this article.
There are lots of ideas – hopefully you can learn something new. I have personally used every one of these sites/apps/tips, and they have allowed me to give more generously. I have made blessing bags with the money I’ve earned from Shopkick, I’ve packed shoeboxes and taken my kids out on lunch dates with Swagbucks money, and I’ve used my couponing skills to allow me to purchase items to donate to my local women’s shelter for almost no money out of pocket.
If you have any couponing questions, please know you can ALWAYS ask me. I’m happy to help!
A few weeks ago, our weekly challenge was to start packing a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child. Several of you have told me (online or in person) that you’re planning on packing a shoebox this year, and I am SO thrilled! I “shoebox shop” all year, and it is such a joy.
Yesterday I was at Walgreens looking for items for blessing bags, and I stumbled across a great find – school supplies on clearance!
All of this cost me a whopping $13.38. I am thrilled! I had been hoping to stock up on pencil cases but never found a great deal. And I am so excited about the balls – there are less shoeboxes packed for boys than for girls, so I am always on the lookout for things to add to boy shoeboxes.
(Note – different stores mark things down on different days. Your local stores might already be sold out, items might not be marked down yet, or you might find a whole treasure trove of clearance items. It’s not worth a lot of time and gas to drive out of your way to clearance shop. But if you’re nearby, pop into Walgreens and check it out – you might be pleasantly surprised!)
Most stores are clearancing out some of their school supplies right now to make room for their Halloween displays, so if you’re out and about, keep your eyes peeled!
And the winner of the Shoebox Challenge giveaway is …Annaliese Lemmon!
Thank you SO much to all those who participated in this week’s challenge. I’ve been touched to read your comments here and on Facebook. If you’re interested in packing a shoebox, no rush – you have two whole months to get it done! But I’d recommend hitting up the school supply clearance deals ASAP. You can also follow Operation Christmas Child on Facebook to hear lots of sweet stories, and ClipWithPurpose.com is a fabulous resource for shoebox shopping on a budget. And please know you can reach out to me ANY time! If I don’t have an answer, I’ll try to find it for you!
Today we were out running errands and we stopped by Target. I’d heard from several people about the great clearance at the Dollar Spot, so I took a look. And I’m SO glad I did!
Now here’s the nitty gritty – Target clearance can vary widely from store to store. But generally, here’s how it works. Each new “season” (Christmas, back to school, spring, etc.) a new line of items will come into the dollar spot. They will all have the same little image on it by the barcode (a small picture of a shape in a certain color, like black triangle or red circle).
At the end of that “season”, everything in that line will go on clearance at the same time. So right now, everything with a black triangle on it is being clearanced out. At your store, the clearance items might already be gone. Or maybe they’re only at 30 or 50% off. But I got very lucky at mine – the clearance price was ringing out at 70% off. There were no signs, but since I knew what I was looking for, I found an item with a black triangle and scanned it at the price machine. It came up at 30 cents. I let out a little whoop, and my daughter and I went to town!
If you’re at Target today, check out your Dollar Spot and see what you can find! And in the future, keep an eye out for clearance. Your shoebox budget will go SO much farther if you wait to buy items on sale!
(Just one more note – not every item listed here will get put into a shoebox. The puzzles, for instance, are too large to fit into a standard box. But at 30 cents, I snagged them to donate to a local children’s program. I wanted to show you everything I got, just in case there are no signs up in your store and you want to know what to be looking for.)
Can you imagine being a child and having experienced nothing but poverty your entire life? Not having the stability of a comfortable home, not knowing if food would be on the table, not knowing if you’d be able to attend school … Life would be very uncertain. And likely, quite bleak.
Then imagine attending a church meeting. You likely have no idea what is coming. To your amazement, someone opens a crate and begins handing out boxes. Shoeboxes, in fact. Brightly-wrapped shoeboxes, full of wonderful gifts. And then you learn that these gifts are free. They have been donated by people who you have never met, and there is one for YOU.
(And maybe grab a tissue if you’re a crier.)
Samaritan’s Purse is an organization that truly fulfills their mission of being a “Good Samaritan” by reaching out to those who most need help. One of their wonderful ministries is Operation Christmas Child.
I love this program so much, it makes my heart hurt. I love the way it allows me to teach my children to serve those that they have never met. And since I shop for shoeboxes all year long, I love the way it encourages me to think about others every time I’m at the store.
Here’s how it works: You get a shoebox (or a shoebox-sized container). You decide if you want to fill it with gifts for a boy or a girl, and you choose an age group (2-4, 5-9, and 10-14). You pack it with small gifts and a few practical items. You drop it off at a local collection center in late November. You donate $7 to cover shipping. And then you feel amazingly wonderful for a long, long time.
There are details on the website, but here are the answers to a few common questions:
What do I put in a shoebox? Anything that will be enjoyed by a child! I always include hygiene items (soap, washcloth, toothbrush, toothpaste, comb), toys, something to cuddle, candy, school supplies, and then whatever else I can cram in there! For more ideas, and to see what you CAN’T pack, check out http://www.samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child/pack-a-shoe-box/.
Where and when do I drop it off? Drop-off week is November 17th-24th. Starting October 1st, you will be able to find your closest drop-off location here: http://www.samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child/drop-off-locations/ . In my area, the two closest locations are a large church and a university library, both within 10 minutes of my home. There are over 4,000 sites, so there is likely one easily accessible to you.
How do I know what a child would want? Ask your child, ask neighborhood children, ask your Facebook friends. And rest assured that almost anything you can think of to send will be cherished and deeply appreciated. I follow Operation Christmas Child on Facebook, and they will share stories year-round about the children who receive the shoeboxes. One little girl (who lived in an area with a very warm climate) received mittens. She was thrilled because she was in charge of taking hot food off of the fire, and she was so grateful to have something to protect her hands from getting burned. Another little girl lived in an orphanage and her favorite gift was a new toothbrush – she had previously been sharing one with twenty children, and she was thrilled to have a toothbrush of her very own. (Does that kind of feel like a warm hug and a slap-in-the-face wake-up call to you, too?)
How do I pay for shipping? They ask for a $7 donation to cover each box. You can write a check the day you drop them off, or you can pay online. When you make your online donation, you get to print off a barcode to tape to the top of each box. When they arrive at their destination, that barcode will be scanned and you’ll receive an email telling you where your boxes ended up! Last year, mine were split into different shipments and they ended up going to the Ukraine, the Republic of Congo, China, and the Philippines.
What if I can’t afford to send a shoebox but I’d love to pack one? Every donated shoebox will be accepted, so don’t let that be the reason you don’t pack one. But you can also ask and see if any of your friends want to split the cost with you. Maybe you have a family member who wants to support this cause but doesn’t have time to pack – they can be your sponsor. Or …
I’ll pay for it!
For this week’s service challenge, I will choose one person who participates in the challenge and I will pay $7 to cover your shoebox donation! You will receive a copy of the e-mail with the attached barcode, so all you’ll have to do is print it off and stick it to your shoebox.
So here’s what you do for this week’s challenge:
Get a box. It can be a shoebox you have lying at home, or you can go to a shoe store and ask for an extra one. I’ve found employees to be very helpful – one even told me that next time I needed some, I could call the store the day before and they would save them for me. The small plastic tote bins from the dollar store work great as well, and they might end up being a very useful part of the gift.
Put one item in it. (Yup, that’s it!) This time of year is a great time to start shopping because many stores have school supplies on sale, or even on clearance. This will be ending very soon, so now might be a good time to grab a box of crayons, pencils, whatever.
That’s it! You’re started on your shoebox journey! And if you pick up one item a week from now until drop-off time, you’ll have a great little shoebox packed!
Here are the ways you can enter our free shipping giveaway: Each action is worth one entry, but remember to come back to this blog post and leave one separate comment per activity:
RSVP for the shoebox challenge on this post
Share the shoebox challenge on your Facebook page and/or Instagram account and include #theshoeboxchallenge in your comment
Comment on my Facebook page when you complete the challenge and share what you did with the rest of us
Post a picture on my Facebook page account of your shoebox and include #theshoeboxchallenge in your comment
Write a note on your own Facebook page sharing what you did and include #theshoeboxchallenge
Thank you for taking the time to read this post! Operation Christmas Child is something I truly feel passionate about. I hope I’ve encouraged you to think about packing a box of your own this year. You’ll be so glad you did!
P.S. Here are a few tips for packing on a budget:
Don’t be afraid to ask for donations. Many dentists will give you an extra toothbrush or two (or sometimes many more) if they know you’re donating to a good cause. Many companies will give you promotional materials (like T-shirts and pens) if you ask.
Every time you’re in a store, look at the clearance rack! If you find something kid-friendly, small, and sturdy, snag it!
Use coupons. My Michaels has small pads for stickers for $1.00. Every time I’m nearby and I have a 50% off coupon, I swing in and grab one for 50 cents.
Ask others to help! I have received TONS of helpful items from friends. Share a little bit about OCC on your Facebook page – you might be surprised by how many people want to help.
Check out my Operation Christmas Child page on Pinterest – I’ve gathered a few ideas that might help you get started. http://www.pinterest.com/letsdosomegoodt/operation-christmas-child/