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Many of you have emailed that this is your first year packing boxes and you want some ideas to help get started.  We finally got most of our box items together so I thought we would make a quick video of packing time.

There is so much that can go in a box, and nothing needs to be expensive or flashy.  The kids that receive this will love everything that you give them no matter what it is.

For our box most items came from Dollar General thanks to a gift card they sent me a while ago (though I doubt they intended it for this) and using their $5 off $25 printable coupons.

If you can’t decide about making a box, I urge you to watch this, it’s a glimpse of pure joy!

As you pack your box to take pictures of a box and submit it for the “Best Box” contest.  One reader will win $300, for so many of you that would be a huge help over the holiday’s or for others think about how much more you can donate and help others with $300!

    • GiGi

      Our Church, Village Church, Blythewood does this each year. Our womens’ group will be volunteering at the distribution center in Charlotte on December 11th. Any one can do this as long as they are over 13 years of age. Go to http://www.samaritanspurse.org/ for more information.

    • Arinedge

      Thank you for posting this video. Thanks to your site, I am saving hundreds of dollars a month and actually have a surplus every month. Thanks for the great idea of how to share and donate for the holiday season! Thanks for all you do!

    • Melissa

      i am doing an OCC box for the first time this year. i was wondering if i should take items out of the packaging so i can fit more items in there, or do i need to leave everything in the packages? thanks!

      • We took most items out of their packages for size reasons and also because some would have required scissors or even a knife to open. This way they can open the box and start playing!

        • Samplequeen9

          I also might add that it might be good to take things out of the package so they will not be returned to the store for cash. Some people may use the cash to buy things that are not very good. You have to be careful in this day and age.

          • Jen

            You don't have to worry about that in 99.9% of the places these boxes are going. But that is definately something to think about with other ministries around here.

            • Melissa

              thanks ladies! i took it all out of packages except for maybe the slinky in its little box and i still have so much room to fill. a trip to the dollar store is coming in the next few days i think! :-)

            • brook0405

              I stuffed hard tac candy inside my slinky in the box last time:)

    • Heather_three2487

      I do this every year and I'm glad you're trying to get others involved!! Thanks Jenny!! Your girls are very well behaved :)

    • Brooke

      Thanks so much for the video! Now I know what they should look like and some ideas of things to put in them. Very helpful!

    • Jnomcafee

      Packing a shoe box has become a Christmas tradition at our house. Thank you for being such an advocate for OCC! Thank you for your blog. It has been such a blessing to my family.

    • Amber

      One of the greatest joys I have had is volunteering at the processing center in Charlotte for OCC. It is a truly remarkable experience. When we went through training they told us to remember that people don't pack the box-God does. And He knows what the child your box is intended wants/needs. Go with your heart when packing and remember no liquids, glass or melt-able candy. :-) Also, don't be afraid to pack that box full-the tape they use in the processing center is GOOD! ;-)

      • Pdudeck

        Yes it is! Hope your plastic boxes are treated gently – so many arrive at the center cracked, and have to go to the shoe box hospital. : (

      • Cayman Richardson

        I agree…it's certainly a moving experience being help to not only pack a box for a child, but also to help in the process of getting it to them. Went to the one in Charlotte, and would LOVE to make it a full time job!!

    • Jdunca

      Don't forget that you can use that leftover Halloween hard candy (not the chocolate or meltable stuff) as filler! Put it all in a ziploc bag if you don''t like it loose.

    • I am so excited about doing the Operation Christmas Child boxes this year! My church participates in this charity as well, so between church and Southern Savers, I was doubly motivated. It is so cool to be able to use our couponing skills to give back.

      I was so excited about this project that I decided to promote it on my blog as well. If you click the link on my name you can leave a comment about what you are doing to give back this holiday season and be entered to win one of 3 $15 Starbucks gift cards. Obviously that's not why we give, but it is always fun to win a little something! :-)

    • 3monkeysmom

      This is just awesome! I really want to do this with my kids, so I think I will take each of them shopping to pick things out for a kid their age. My daughters are 8 and 5 and I know that age group/gender will be easy to buy for. However,my son is 13 and I have no idea what to buy for a 13 year old boy besides video games and dvds. Any ideas on what kinds of items would be good??

      Oh and Jenny I have to say, your daughters were so well-behaved…they didn't interrupt you once!! I think Mommy deserves a pat on the back for raising such respectful girls!!!

      • Sdavisva

        Maybe an idea or two to get you rolling on 13 year old boy ideas…

        tennis balls, hackysack, jacks, deck of cards, or maybe some kind of small building-kit (legos?) or those balsa wood structures from the dollar store. HTH!

        • 3monkeysmom

          Great ideas :) Thank you so much!!!

        • Meagan

          Our church is a drop off location for the boxes and I have worked at the warehouses for the past two years. One thing to remember is that 13 yr. old boys from the places these boxes are going have not had anything to play with many times so small cars/trucks, jump ropes, any toys that younger kids here in the U.S. would like is what they would like too. One good item to always include in every box is a stuffed animal of some sort. They love and cherish these items so much!!! Fill those shoeboxes!!!!

          • sarah

            thanks, Meagan! I usually pack boxes for the younger ages, because I would not know what a 13 year old child would want! I'm glad you posted this!

      • Kpashchuk

        My mom is one of the regional contacts for OCC and she said that one really great item is a soccer ball because it's the top sport in many countries around the world and often there will only be one available ball for an entire villiage of children (if that). Last year I purchased a couple from Target (with GC from the money maker glade deal last fall) and packed them deflated with a small $2 hand pump and they fit into box just fine along with a few other things.

        • momof3inATL

          The small hand pump is a necessity. My kids play soccer. I've learned that if you purchase an inexpensive soccer ball, it will deflate often. The small pump extends the life of the ball… and kids LOVE them.

        • 3monkeysmom

          That's an awesome idea :) Can you buy a soccer ball already deflated or do you deflate it yourself and if so how do you go about doing that???? Thanks!!!

          • Kpashchuk

            You can deflate the ball by inserting a pump needle (comes with the ball pump) and the pressing the air out that way, just takes a couple of minutes. I haven't seen the balls sold already deflated but some stores might carry them that way.

            • 3monkeysmom

              Thanks :)


        Hi, we did boxes for the older boys (10-13 age group), my husband added small tape measures. Also we did balls, and hair brushes for them. I think I am going to add a tee shirt as well. Maybe some chapstick!

      • Occmom

        You can include hammers and screwdriver even nails. Even if they are older they still need a stuffed animal.

      • 3monkeysmom

        Thanks to everyone for your ideas and help!!!!

    • Lexi

      Thank you so much for the wonderful idea. I love the thought of helping kids that otherwise wouldn't be getting anything. I will definitely be participating!!

    • christy g

      Your kids did really well! Our boxes are nearing the ready stage now– we raided the Halloween stash for hard candy!

    • Love this ideal ! I am so going to do this !
      Your girls are so cute !

    • c.turner

      The people at our church who are heading OCC up this year said a few good things to pack are tennis balls and plastic cups. Might sound silly to us, but for a child who doesnt have them, sounds like fun.

      • sarah

        the plastic cups are a great idea that I would not have thought of!

      • Occmom

        Tennis balls are great. I have a guy at my church that goes to a few tennis clubs and ask for their tennis balls after they play. They only use them once and then throw them away. We collect them, go thru and get rid of the dirty ones and put the good ones into the shoe boxes. Also the container from the tennis balls makes for a great pencil container!!

    • Bnimmons

      How would a child receive this gift box?

      • J Masters

        Once you take your box to a collection site, they forward it to an Operation Christmas Child (OCC) pack/sort center. From there, the boxes are shipped to villages worldwide and distributed to less fortunate kids. You can check out the details at http://www.samaritanspurse.org/occ. They’ve also posted videos of previous years’ distributions so you can watch them in action. Our family has participated in this for years, both in packing boxes and volunteering at drop off locations. It’s such a blessing, not only for the recipients of the boxes, but also for you and your family. It’s hard to imagine the joy these kids have in discovering that someone cared enough about them to pack a box of goodies for them without even knowing their name!

      • Noramk

        If you go to samaritanspurse.org and check out all the Operation Christmas Child info, you’ll see where the boxes go. Many of the children receiving them are in countries where they have been orphaned by war or natural disasters. Billy Graham’s son, Franklin Graham, heads up this wonderful program, sharing the love of Christ to children all over the world. Fun toys, toiletries, and necessities are all appreciated.

      • ChrissyPunkin

        Click on the link above that says “watch this” and I think that will help answer your question. :-)

      • Amy

        Click the “helpful links” in the post above and then click “Journey of a Shoebox” on the right.

    • Sfinley941

      I LOVE what you do Jenny! You seriously are a great human being! Thanks for all your helpful tips & knowledge! You're awesome! God bless you!

    • there are a few folks from our church who have taken mission trips to haiti and africa. they told me (i'm the contact person for our church) that a square yard of fabric can be used in so many ways for those who have nothing!

    • Savinallykat

      Thank you so much for the great ideas!! I am going to do this with my scout troop for our holiday charity!! The boys will love it!!

    • Kb

      I noticed that OCC asks for a $7 donation to be included with your box to help ofset delivery cost. I can see the point, but before we read that, we decided to go with multiple boxes sonce we get multiple freebies with couponing. Honestly, I don't feel we can donate $7 for each box. Is this ness. or not?

      • MomofKLA

        It's not necessary.

      • Occmom

        if you do this again next year start a “money jar” and drop your change in each day and before you know it you have enough $$ to cover the shipping donation and maybe enough to buy the items in your box also!!

    • Molly Bridges

      great video for a wonderful charity!

      Every time I “drug store” I get something from the toy, art, office supply or party isle as my filler item. At the end of the year I have every little thing I need on hand to pack my boxes! :)

    • Molly Bridges

      oh! and another way to come up with the $7 donation is to ask older adult sunday school classes at your church.

      Tell them you have already purchased and packaged the boxes and you are looking for sponsors to ship the boxes. It is a great way to get others involved who might not have to take the time to pack a box themselves.

      • Occmom

        This is cool, we call it “adopt a box”

    • Kmjeffares

      Thanks Jenny! I have never even heard of this but I think it will be a great project for me to do with my grandchildren. By the way your girls are ADORABLE!!!

    • Amy

      What about play-doh or modeling clay? Anyone using those?

      • sarah

        I have sent the mini-playdough containers that you can find 1/2 price after Halloween or just at the Dollar Stores year round!

    • Alztimers

      We always added a short sleeved T-shirt and underpants, making sure they are the appropriate size or a bit bigger. They are easy to buy at the end of summer clearance sales. We chose these items rather than socks because so many go barefoot. A box is so precious to so many.

    • Missmandy9276

      Wow Jenny! Thanks so much for showing me this video. I plan on doing this with my kids to teach them the importance of giving back!

    • The Johnson's Soap Buddies would be perfect for the boxes. All the WAGS filler items are great too! Jenny your girls were soo well behaved for the video, Kudos to them too! Thanks for all you do and showing everyone how to give back, and pay it forward… there's sooo much when you coupon! Merry Christmas!

      • Kb

        what and where do you get the jhonsons soap buddies?

        • Hi KB, they were free and had an overage at Publix this year… they go for 1.09 each at my Publix… perfect because they are kids bars of soap that are wrapped in a sponge type cover that you just throw away when the soap is used… and it is sealed in plastic!

          • Gingiraffe

            I was thinking of the bath buddies too! My daughter loves them! I get them for 97 cents at Target and sometimes you can use the J&J coupons (but most of them exclude the bath buddies).

    • brook0405

      @KB Many churches will pick up the $7 fee for shipping. Just check with them and if not there are many organizations that are local were children could benefit from these gifts. Also if shipping overseas we were always told to be sure to include a washcloth too:)

    • Shayelyn

      Does anyone know if glow sticks would be considered liquid?

      • Janie

        Yes they are. They can break and get all over the childs things. Or they could get to the child and the child would break it on themselves.

        • Shayelyn

          Thanks! The more I thought about it after I posted, the more I thought it would be a bad idea.

    • Hael80

      Jenny, your girls were so well behaved while you made your video! I'm impressed. Mine would have been bouncing off the walls! LOL

    • Leigh

      My two younger daughters have been filling shoe boxes for a few years. This past weekend we went shopping at the local Dollar Tree and were able to get enough stuff for 2 boxes for under $30. We bought notebooks, notepaper, pencils, pens, erasers, pencil bags, tooth brushes and toothpaste, soap and wash cloths, brushes, hair bands, socks, tissue, stickers, and carry all bags to put everything in. At home, I had crocheted scarves to add and quart size zip loc bags full of left over Halloween hard candy. Both included a note with our address so the girls that get their boxes can write back. We also included extra stamped envelopes for that purpose. My youngest daughter is an aspiring artest so she included a drawing and the older daughter included a stuffed cat that she had made over the summer. I am also going to make necklaces and bracelets to add in. By the time everything is packed in, the boxes are so full I’m afraid rubber bands aren’t going to hold up until they get to the processing center!! LOL And, I agree that the 10-14 age group doesn’t get that many boxes. That’s the age group we work on.

    • Tricia

      From a packing pro overseas packing… Always separate batteries from the item it will be used in a plastic bags (sometimes they leak). It is best to double bag either candy or the soap products cause the cargo hold is not climate controlled. Sample products are great because you can get more in the package.

    • Crystal

      Thanks so much for posting this info! For those in Newton/Walton/Jasper Mansfield Baptist Church is a drop off location. We are located at 101 Woodlawn Rd Mansfield right off Hwy 11.

      Thanks and God Bless!

    • djm

      I love doing the Operation Christmas, this was started and continues to be run by the Billy Graham Ministry. I try to do 12, 6 girls and 6 boys. I am retired on fixed income but I start months ahead and when I find things with coupons I am very happy! I go to Sams club and buy the 24 pkg wash cloths ( about 11.00 ) and I accumulate plastic shoe boxes over the year. Soap, toothpaste & brush, combs, sox ( Ohio State t shirts were my big expense, though I buy them at Marshalls ) pencils, note pads, hair ornaments, flashlights and I double bag, bags of hard candy, also I send a card with a brief message and have at one time sent a picture of me, the sample Pert 2 in one shampoo ( 1.00 coupon in 10/17 smartsource, makes it free at Kroger ) was perfect. I add a Beanie Baby to each one, coloring or activity books, crayons etc. My church fills several semi's to send to NC where they are shipped from. I know I am rambling, but I have a passion for this, we in America are so blessed.

    • Grace4me

      Just wanted to say Thank you Jenny for all you do. I heard a missionary say once that they use the plastic container to carry water back to their families. We are such a blessed people.

    • 2summit16

      It's always great to find a bargain, right?! Keeping shoe-boxes in mind all year there are some major bargains you can find to put in there. We always get soooo excited when we find things greatly reduced that would go perfectly in there. I don't have to think “that is such a deal, I wish I knew someone who could use it.” Instead it's now ” Ohhh, that's perfect for shoe boxes!!” We are blessed! Really don't realize how much. The plastic shoe box is a gift in itself too. We were told that sometimes that is the only thing they might have to keep something completely dry- rice, important papers or whatever so go ahead and spend that extra 1.50 to buy a plastic shoe box if you can.

    • rosewood4

      is chap-stick and deodorant considered a liquid? I want to do a box for 10-14 year old girl and thought those might be good to add.

      • G8rleslie

        I think you will be OK in packing chap-stick and deoderant. If you have any concerns, you could put them in a plastic ziploc bag.

      • Occmom

        no, you can include these

      • Donna

        no they are great items!

    • rosewood4

      ok so another ? for the 10-14 year old girl box would it be appropriate to include pads, etc? i would not exactly be thrilled to see it but hey, they may need it soon.

      • rosewood4

        and is it ok so make them something like a necklace

    • Amy

      One thing to note…since I am in CVS one or two times a week…my CVS friends know me pretty well. From that relationship, they always keep me in mind when items go on clearance. So, let them know what you are doing all year long…they will help you out! Even if they do not do a shoebox individually, they really get a blessing by blessing you (and the OCC kids) as well!

      One other thing…because of our location (Knoxville), we have a pretty high 'homeless' rate in our city. Many from my church are at the concrete bridges every week. We have a group of couponers in my church that focus on the free items for hygiene packs for this ministry. Every six months or so, we send zippie bags with washcloths, soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant and a comb to each person. (Our youth also works and gets blankets throughout the year as well.)

      Keep doing those shoeboxes!!!

      • Melanieplynch

        Wonderful ministry, Amy! God bless you!

    • Occmom

      Jenny, Thank you so much for all you do and for including OCC in your blog this year. I am an Area Coordinator for OCC in FL and have been blessed by this ministry for many years. I was blessed to go to Jamaica to deliver these precious “gospel opportunities” The kids love everything that is in their box but mostly the pictures and letters. Thank you for mentioning in your video about the size of the box. It is important to keep it a standard size so more boxes will be packed into the cartons. But if a large box, like a boot box or bigger is packed THEY WILL NOT repack it. It goes as it was intended from the donor. The integrity of the shoe box is very important to this ministry, but we need to pass on the word that standard is best. After all it is not really about the shoe box but the greatest gift of all Jesus Christ that is shared with every child that receives a box. Thank you again.

    • Occmom

      The other comment I would make is that the age 10 – 14 usually doesn't get as many boxes packed as the other ages. So if you feel lead please pack one for that age.

      • Thank you, I read that to my 11 yr old son and he wanted to make a box for a 10-14 yr old boy! We have never heard of this until now, and were making a box for toddlers. I was floored at how much stuff was in our “freebie bin” that was perfect for gift boxes! We even found a crayon sharpener we got free awhile back! My son is going out this weekend to buy a cool pr of sunglasses for the box, with his own money! SCORE!!! That means a lot to me, he wanted to use his money he has saved all year to buy a portable dvd player, batteries, and movies for the shoebox, but I told him that was probably too expensive of a gift to put in these shoeboxes. I was definitely moved!

      • PoohRules

        I love your video. I found out about this where i work and I too assumed that ages 10-14 are the ones really in need. Futhermore, I would assume a boy box for ages 10-14 is even more rare. I decided to pack four boxes this year, 2 for girls and 2 for boys – both in the 10-14 age range. I had SO much fun shopping for all of the children, but admit I am struggling with the boys. I could really use some age appropriate suggestions for boys age 10-14 in regards to toys. Also, I am stuggling with sizes. I really want to get them tshirts and stocks, but hate to get them something that wont fit. Can you help me? Much appreciated.

    • Kim

      We love packing boxes each year. We usually buy a box for each member of our family and buy year round so it isn't all at once that you have to purchase items.

      I found some cute strawberry tote bags at the Dollar Treen recently. They looked like a small strawberry but opened up into a reusable tote bag. I bought those for the girl boxes. I figured they would be good for carrying around supplies or carrying items.

      I would like to remind those that haven't done it before, don't overstuff the box. If you do, they will have to take some items out. Before sending, the boxes are looked through and items not appropriate will be taken out. They also put in Christian literature so you need to leave a tiny bit of room at the top for the booklet that goes onside.

      Our church also make sure to put rubber bands around each box to keep them closed while in transport.

      Basic items I always like to include:

      bar of soap (in ziploc bag)

      washcloth (I like the tiny ones that are pressed into a shape then it opens up with water)


      toothpaste (in ziploc bag)

      small flashlight (with batteries and at least one extra set of batteries in ziploc)




      color book or notebook (I found the large size takes up too much room so I usually by 5X7 size notebooks or small color tablets)

      ziploc bag of hard candy and suckers (I used Halloween stash but make sure there are no halloween images on candy. I usually fill bag almost half full)

      You can tuck the bag of candy inside a small plastic cup

      pair of socks

      hair accesories for girls

      comb or brush (I bought a brush/mirror combo for the girls for 99 Cents)

      sunglasses (I remember seeing a video and the kids LOVED the sunglasses they received in their boxes.)

      small toys, like a small nerf ball, small doll, etc.

      My daughter received so many bead kits for her birthday, we made beaded bracelets for each girl box.

      I really hope everyone will answer the call and make some boxes. If you can't do it alone, get with a group and maybe one buy all soap, another buy toothbrushes, etc and combine them all into boxes. I keep the boxes in my closet and add to them throughout the year. In July when school supplies went on sale I loaded up with all the supplies for my boxes and added them then. I usually buy my boxes in Jan or Feb when the stores restock.

    • LOVED the link to the videos! Our church does this and I have seven boxes almost ready. I really loved reading all of the ideas!

    • Fotomama1

      I was in Chick Fil A today and they are partnering with Operation Christmas child. You can pick up a box, and return it filled by 11/11 (double check the date) . They'll give you a free chicken sandwich! I would do it anyway, but I thought it was a good way to get people involved.

    • Jlhiggins1527

      Like, like, and like!!

    • Donnas527

      I am a collection site coordinator for Operation Christmas Child. Thank you for this promotion!! Just wanted to say that the thing the children love most of all is a picture of you/your family and a letter.

    • Mgriffin211

      Michael's is a also a great place to pick up small items that will fit in the box. They have $1.00 bins and will often put these bins on sale 2/$1, especially after a holiday. I shop year round for my boxes. My husband and I don't have kids and we love doing this, along with the Angel Tree, as a way of helping kids. . We usually do at least 6 boxes.

    • Emma

      hello everyone. I just wanted to ask if you feel that we should not help other countries. Check in your area for foster home centers. I beleive in helping others. I will do what ever it takes to make someone happy. I can't afford to give money for my boxes to be shipped.

      If you call your DSS offices they will be happy to give you a contact number for you to drop a box off to foster children who are in transit during the holiday times.

      We have been couponing for over a year and just put together 28 boxes for older children in foster care. so if you don't have the money to send with your boxes Foster children love you also.

      thanks for careing for others.

    • I belong to my local freecycle group, and my husband got into the giving spirit while we packed shoe boxes, and decided to freecycle his nintendo ds lite. We offered it, and I worded my offer just like that – about OCC spurring his generosity, and so many people wrote back asking what the OCC program is! I think it's awesome that so many of us can spread the word about this program in so many ways :)

    • Linda

      I went to Family Dollar and picked up enough multi pack toys, note books, candy, tooth brushes, soap etc to do 6 boxes for $38. :) Fun for the kids too!

    • Beepampered

      What about new bubble containers? They have the silver seal so it seems okay if I put in a bag. Thoughts?

    • michelle

      what about tootsie rolls?

    • Emily

      Is it okay if our items under 50 cents are actually also free? Is it okay if our items under 50 cents came from a big pack of candy that was split up? Thanks.

    • Miafuller

      wanted to do this with a large group but not getting together until 12/10. ANy chance of getting it out after that??