Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Welcome to the wonderful and rewarding experience of filling lots of shoeboxes with fun gifts for needy children around the world through Operation Christmas Child.  Operation Christmas Child has instructions on filling a shoebox, and I will show you how to fill a shoebox on a shoestring budget.

How to fill a shoebox on a shoestring budget

If you have a passion to fill more shoeboxes and have a limited budget, then this is the place for you.  I have learned how to fill a large number of shoeboxes on a shoestring budget by making fun, easy and inexpensive gifts.  You can double or triple the number of shoeboxes with about the same cost using these simple suggestions. Whether you want to fill one or a hundred or a thousand shoe boxes, the following information will help you meet your goal.

The goal of this blog is to help you fill more shoeboxes - the more things you make, the cost of each box goes down, and the number of filled shoeboxes increases.

Here is the who, what, where, when, why and how of filling more shoeboxes.  The "how" or "projects to make" are listed at the bottom of this article with directions by category in the sidebar under "Pages". Scroll through the different pages and find the items you want to make.

What stuff to find:
Think bright colors, variety of textures, and stuff that makes noise. Remember, many of these children live in a hard bleak colorless world resulting from war, famine, and hard-times. What fun it would be to cuddle up with a pretty fleece nap blanket or soft stuffed animal; put on a brand new clean T-shirt or ball cap; wear bright colorful jewelry; make your own music (or joyful noise) with a kazoo or Maracas, draw a picture with treasured crayons and paper. While on the hunt for fun stuff, don’t forget to share your finds with others. I am always open to new ideas and things to make.
Reminder: please no war-related items like toy guns, knives, and military figures or used/damaged items. Thanks!

Where to find stuff:
1) Shop for clearance and sale items at your favorite stores all year long
2) Dollar stores – lots of inexpensive ideas, look for multiply packs like party favors
3) Seasonal and coupon items – especially at Walmart, Target, Walgreens, or other stores.
4) For gift items using a party gift bag - look for holiday clearance sale on party gift bags (example, Valentine's Day, Easter)
5) Your company store – for discounted or clearance items
6) Yard or garage sales for new or like new items or craft materials – I often find “like-new” small stuffed animals that just sat on a shelf or in a box (like Beanie Babies, or Valentine bears, or Easter bunnies) for 25 cents to a dollar each
7) Fabric or craft stores have a wealth of ideas and good sales – don’t forget to use the 40% off coupons at Michael’s and Jo-Ann fabric & craft store – coupons are often interchangeable at these stores, but check with your store. Don’t forget about online shopping and using the online coupons as well.
8) If you find a bargain, let others know. A friend of mine in Minnesota sends out emails about “finds” and sales she has found to a group of like-minded women and even blogs about it.
9) Some stores will donate discontinued items, but you may need to show a non-profit number to qualify.

When to find stuff:

1) The after Christmas sales of 50-75-90% off are a gold mine for inexpensive materials. For example: wooden bead garland to make jewelry; decorative velvet or fabric bows to make hair bows; holiday/trim-a-tree metal garland to make princess crowns; Christmas felt in bright colors to make tote bags and dart boards for Velcro darts; clearance fleece material to make small nap blankets for preschoolers; foam stickers to make stick puppets; decorative paper and stickers to make paper airplane kits and greeting card kits; Christmas ribbon to decorate tote bags, jump rope handles, princess crowns, washing mitts, and many other craft items; bells to make noise makers, necklaces and crafts. Christmas wrapping paper to cover the shoeboxes.
2) Candy canes and other hard candies. Hard candies have a long shelf life since they are primarily just sugar.
3) Clearance multiple pack toys – party favors, toy jewelry, yo-yos, little Slinky's, pinball games, noise makers, harmonicas/kazoos, etc.
4) Clearance Christmas clothing – T-shirts, ball caps, socks, gloves, hats, sunglasses
5) Clearance stocking gifts, toys, craft kits, stuffed animals, pencils, pens, markers, etc.

1) After Valentine’s Day clearance sales for inexpensive materials – foam stickers for stick puppets; paper and shiny stickers for crafts and greeting card kits; ribbons and bows for variety of uses; 3-D valentine cards to add to your school supply bag; pretty Valentines to make into a picture puzzle kit
2) Clearance Valentine’s Day clothing – T-shirts, socks
3) Look for packs of valentines that contain items for shoebox use – stickers, pencils, markers, etc.
4) Clearance single and multiple pack toys – toy jewelry of plastic rings, bracelets, and necklaces; small toys; pinball games; stickers; pencils and erasers; stuffed animals; coloring and writing pads; etc.
5) Forget the chocolate but snatch up any colorfully wrapped hard candy.

1) After Easter clearance sales for inexpensive materials – plastic eggs to make Maracas or fill with hard candy; stickers for lots of uses; etc.
2) Clearance Easter clothing – T-shirts, socks
3) Clearance Easter candy – fun Pez candy containers; hard candy only; please no chocolate or egg-shaped candy with soft centers as they will spoil and get hard
4) St. Patrick’s Day clearance items are usually very limited for our purposes but you can find green necklaces, packs of toys, stickers, and noise makers.
5) Clearance multiple packs of toys and crafts – foam stickers for stick puppets and activity kits; fun jewelry; pencils, erasers, sharpeners; little books; crafts; games; various toys

1) This is the beginning of the summer sales – both in stores and yard/garage sales. Many towns have neighborhood advertised garage sale weekends. Check your town and surrounding areas for advertised sales.
2) Garage sales are great for finding lots of inexpensive materials. For example: fabric for caps or hats; scrunches and headbands, tote bags, washing mitts, and nap blankets; beads and jewelry for making jewelry; art and craft supplies; school supplies; fast food toys in original bags, and lots more.
3) I often find “like-new” small stuffed animals that were not played with and sat on a shelf or in a box (like Beanie Babies, or Valentine bears, or Easter bunnies) for 25 cents to a dollar each. All my shoe boxes (all ages and both girls and boys) get a stuffed animal.
4) Memorial Day clearance items may be more limited to our patriotic themes but there are plenty of useful and colorful items for the shoe boxes. Look for: T-shirts, ball caps, stickers, ribbon, multiple pack toys, etc.

1) July is the big time sales month – cleaning out spring and summer items and getting ready for fall and holiday merchandise. This is a good time to look for those super sales.
2) Many craft and fabric stores will have their Christmas in July sales as well. Look for colorful fleece on sale to make those small nap blankets and felt for tote bags and Velcro dart games.
3) 4th of July clearance items are more limited to our patriotic themes but still useful and colorful. Look for: T-shirts, ball caps, stickers, ribbon, multiple pack toys, noise-makers, etc.
4) Choose the craft projects you want to do and look for those supplies. You will probably find most of your supplies on sale.
5) Some back-to-school sales start in July. Watch the ads and pick up the very inexpensive items for school supplies.

1) Back-to-school sales are abundant everywhere. Cut coupons and make multiple trips to stores with the best sales. Pick up: reams of inexpensive copy paper and colored paper, packs of construction paper, packs of lined binder paper and/or spiral notebook for each shoe box, thick coloring books that can be torn apart, colorful paper folders, notepads or notebooks, post-it note pads, pencils, pens, pencil sharpeners, erasers, crayons and/or markers, solar calculators, ruler, etc.
2) Basic school supplies most children need are: pencils, erasers, pencil sharpener, crayons and/or markers, and paper. For older children add: pens, calculator, ruler, glue stick, spiral notebook, post-it note pads, small note pad or notebook, etc. May want to include some of these items in the younger child shoeboxes too as the parents or older children will use them.
3) Minimum supplies: pencils and sharpener, crayons, and paper. Many children are not allowed to go to school without these basic items. In some countries a pack of crayons costs a week or more salary. During sale time we can buy a pack of crayons for 20-25 cents.
4) Colorful paper folders are great for many projects: drawing and writing kits that include sheets of plain copy paper and/or colored paper, several pages torn out of a coloring book, and lined notebook paper; greeting card kits with various sheets of paper, stickers, and envelopes.
5) Some churches and organizations have donation drives for backpacks filled with school supplies to give to children in their communities. Ask for the left-over items to include in your shoeboxes. This helps to defray your costs and nothing goes to waste.

1) Halloween is big in most of our communities and schools but I have found very little that is appropriate for shoe boxes. The dark and scary themes with spiders, bats, ghosts, witches, and the like are direct opposite of the bright, colorful, cheerful and positive themes we want in our shoeboxes. Operation Christmas Child requests no war related items of weapons, toy guns, knives, or military items like army figurines, tanks, jeeps, and planes. In some countries even police cars are not a positive theme.
2) Contact your favorite shoe store and ask them to save shoe boxes for you. If you are filling a large number of shoe boxes, you may want to start collecting shoeboxes in September or earlier. You may want to cover the shoeboxes with colorful (Christmas) wrapping paper with top and bottom wrapped separately.
3) Start filling your shoeboxes.

November – down to the finish line
1) Finish filling your shoeboxes and take them to the collection center.
2) Take inventory of remaining miscellaneous items and box them up.
3) Think of the smiles and the impact you are making around the world. Job well done!

Who can make this stuff:
Individuals, families, kids of all ages, Girl and Boy Scouts, church groups, youth groups, any age group, classrooms or whole schools, MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers), senior centers, professional groups, organizations, and clubs to name a few
Why make stuff – for Precious Children
I’ve been filling shoeboxes for over ten years.  In that time I have received many precious thank you letters from children in Eastern Europe, Congo/Rwanda, India, and the Philippines.  They call me “Grandy” just like my own grandchildren, and then they write their stories:
“This is first time to get this much gifts in my life.  So happy to get a Grandy like you.”
Two young sisters whose mother died last year and being raised by grandma, “We are bless and thankful for your effort giving the gifts.”
“All items in box are very nice and my daughter always playing with the rabbit (stuffed animal).”
“I learn English, Russian and French, and I am so happy to have a Grandy who thought of me.”
“I have fun putting gloves on my hands.  We don’t use these here in Philippines.”
“We are happy with the toys.  We cannot able to buy.  The work of Papa is enough to buy food.”
“Thank you from the bottom of my heart for received me this box of gift.”
“Thank you for making us happy.”
“Daughter said thank you for great love you show her.”
“We share others that can use box.  The toothpaste, soap, tooth brush are big help.”
“You make us happy and give hope.”
My scrapbook of letters continues to grow.  Each letter touches this grandmother’s heart and motivates me to fill more shoe boxes. 
How to make stuff – directions for making projects are listed by category in the “Pages” in the sidebar above
Check this site often as more projects will be added periodically.
Arts and Crafts
Bracelet Kit

Drawing Kit
Lanyard Key Chain Kit
Mini Puzzle
Necklace Kit
Paper Airplane Kits
Puppet Kit
Sticker Fun Pack

Comfy and Wearable

Child Nap Blanket
Fancy Bracelet

Easy Fabric Hat

Easy Fleece Scarf
Fun Novelty Necklace
Pretty Necklace

Hair and Hygiene
Pretty Bow Barrette

Pretty Bow Headband
Ponytail Scrunchi
Child Washing Mitt
Toothbrush Gift Bag

Play Time
Felt Dart Board and Velcro Darts
Fun Jump Rope

Festive Maracas
Princess Crown and Wand
Ring Toss Game
Streamer Ribbon
“Tell Me a Story” Puppets

School Surprises
Note Pads

Party Bag of School Surprises

Tote Bags