Pleas for money come fast and furious, especially during the holidays. It is really hard when you live on a shoestring budget to figure out how to give to others when you are struggling to get gifts for your own friends and family.
Even while raising our sons on an income which averaged 30% below the national median, we wanted them to understand the importance of giving to the less fortunate.
When they were young, we set aside $20 a month for Christmas. That’s right! Our entire Christmas budget was $240. We spent $25-$30 per child. The remainder was for other family members, co-workers, teachers, etc.
To that list, we always added one more item:
A shoebox for Samaritan’s Purse.
Today, I want to introduce you to something that we did for many years to help our children remember that the reason for the season was to show love to others. Samaritan’s Purse is the perfect way for your children to show kindness, compassion, and the love of Jesus to other children.
Here is the missions statement taken directly from their website: “Samaritan’s Purse is a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world. Since 1970, Samaritan’s Purse has helped meet needs of people who are victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine with the purpose of sharing God’s love through His Son, Jesus Christ. The organization serves the Church worldwide to promote the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Each year they give thousands of shoeboxes full of toys, school supplies, and personal care items to needy children. I LOVE the idea of my children reaching out to touch the life of another child directly and to know that they can make a difference, even though they are young.
How to Pack a Box
Step 1: Go to the Website
Go to the Samaritan’s Purse website and click on the Operation Christmas Child tab.
Step 2: Choose to build a virtual or physical shoebox
You can choose to build a virtual shoebox on-line and let Samaritan select items for your box for $25 or you can build your own shoebox and drop it off at a shoebox drop off location near you during National Drop off Week: November 12-19th. I like this option better! My boys loved taking the $20 bill I gave them, going to the stores, and filling the box personally! There is an easy-to-find link on the website to help you find drop-off locations near your home. I found about 10 drop-off locations within 25 miles of my home. I would call the drop-off location that you choose to see if there are certain days or hours during which they are accepting the shoeboxes.
Step 3: Choose Age and Gender
- The general age and gender of the child who will receive your box.
- If you are packing a physical box, download a special label to put on the front of your box.
Step 4: Get a Box and Fill It
We got our box from our orthodontist’s office. They are a drop-off location this year and had “official” Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas shoeboxes. If you don’t have an official shoebox, no worries. Just get any shoebox to fill.
Step 5: What to Pack in the Box
Check this link on the website for helpful hints on what to pack and, more importantly, what not to pack in the box. Many of these children live in war-torn countries. So, certain toys and images would be upsetting to them. I was so grateful that Samaritan had these cautions on their website.
It was also provided a wonderful moment for me to talk with my sons about war, poverty, and how to pray for others.
Samaritan has a great list of ideas, sorted by age and gender, to get you started. Before we went shopping, I let my sons look at the on-line lists and then create their own custom list of exactly what they wanted to put in their box. We were able to get mainly items from Dollar Tree and filled the box with over a dozen items for under $20.
Here are Samaritan’s Purse suggestions for filling the box.
- A “Wow” item
- Clothing and accessories
- Crafts and activities
- Personal care items
- A personal note
What NOT to pack in the box:
There are some items that just don’t ship well. Samaritan asks that you not include them in your box. Additionally, many of these children are from war-torn areas of the world. So, any toys or gifts with war or violence related themes are not accepted
It’s actually a pretty short list of items which are not accepted.
Here is the list of what not to pack in the box.
- used or damaged items
- war-related items such as toy guns, knives, or military figures
- chocolate or food
- fruit rolls or other fruit snacks
- drink mixes (powdered or liquid)
- liquids or lotions
- medications or vitamins
- breakable items such as snow globes or glass containers
- aerosol cans.
The most important items in the box!
- Your prayers
- Personal notes from your family and your children to the recipient of the box!
How to find a shipping location near you.
Samaritan’s Purse has an interactive map on their website, listing all of the drop off locations. It’s easy to find one near you.
Peace and blessings to you and your family this holiday season.
If you need help stretching your holiday budget, click below.