It might seem a bit premature to be whipping out the Christmas posts already. But, in keeping with the local Walmart stores around the country...it's never too early! Once the school supply aisles are liquidated, it's time for Christmas garland...right?!
Well, there is a bit more method to my madness...
We're chattin' about Christmas today in honor of one of my family's MOST FAVORITE Service Saturday projects...the annual Operation Christmas Child packing party...consider it a fabulous Christmas bash one month early.
If you are not familiar with OCC, it is one of the world-wide ministries of Samaritan's Purse. Folks all around the globe pack empty shoe boxes full of needed essentials and small toys for children of impoverished countries. Gospel tracts are included with each box as the folks of Samaritan's Purse recognize salvation to be a person's greatest need. Boxes are dropped off at collection sites in Australia, Canada, UK, and the USA and then sent off to children in need.
Our family has packed, or helped to pack, shoeboxes for the past eight years and hopes to continue the tradition again this year. Fortunately for us, our church just happens to be the local collection site for our area. Every year towards the latter part of October/early November, the missionary corner of the church campus gets flooded with small parcels stuffed with love and much prayer.
The annual packing party has been one of the more successful events in encouraging families to join together to fill dozens and dozens, if not hundreds, of shoebox gifts.
I share the following simple tips for hosting a packing party in hopes that some might be inspired to host a similar event in their church or community.
I have participated in two different types of group packing get-togethers. Both, had a common theme of bulk-buying. Instead of one family purchasing one pair of socks, one box of toothpaste, one watercolor paint set, etc., encourage families to buy one bulk package of something to be divided and shared among a handful of boxes. Each family can then be asked to donate one or two "fun" items like balls or race cars. On the whole, this type of packing seems to be much more cost effective. In addition, it enables packers of ALL financial situations to be able to contribute...you don't have to pack an entire box, but can contribute to one.
There is a reason that factories have assembly lines. It is just more space and time efficient. But, don't think that a factory-eque packing line can't be fun and personal. Set up tables all the way around the perimeter of a large room. Fill large bins with a different bulk item...socks, undies, toothbrushes...and set them on the tables. Direct folks to start at one end of the room. With box in hand, they can take one of each type of item and begin stuffing their shoebox. "Fun" items should be at the tail end of the assembly line so that they are the items placed right on the top of the box..ready and waiting to greet a deserving child.
Keep tables low to the ground ensuring that even the smallest of eager packers can see all the fun things he/she can add to a box. Round up enough volunteers to stand behind the table stations to help direct traffic. If it is a community event, park greeters at all entrances to help direct traffic to the right locations. Have plenty of empty shoeboxes on hand in case anyone forgets to bring one. Consider arranging a stationary table at the end of the assembly line so that families can write short notes to the shoebox recipients. (Our church usually has a preschool friendly form letter for little ones to be able to circle and color selected "letter" parts.) Have all the completed shoeboxes stacked in a visible location. Little ones get so excited knowing that they had a small part in a large contribution. (In our family picture, you can see that the towering boxes behind us nearly reached the ceiling. My kids were thrilled to see their boxes piled on top!)
Make it a PARTY!
Who cares if it is not even Thanksgiving yet! Dig out your best Christmas music and hit "play". Consider serving some Christmas cookies and punch to finished packers. Our church even opens up a side room and provides a family Christmas craft...usually a DIY Advent wreath.
For More Info
Be sure to visit Operation Christmas Child to locate a collection site near you, to learn more about what to pack into each shoebox gift, or to track your box to its final destination.
Whether you choose to pack in a group setting or in the quiet, comfort of your own home, I encourage you to pack a shoebox this year.
National Collection Week is Nov. 12-19, 2012
One box with the Gospel message can help change the lives of many!
Linking up with these lovely blogs.