For what seemed like hours, I stood in the middle of a toy aisle with my son and two daughters. They were each holding up school supplies, books, trinkets and puzzles. We were trying to determine which ones would fit in a shoe box. When I had to put a puzzle back on the shelf because it was too wide, my son looked defeated.
"I thought a boy would really like that one as a gift," he said. "I wish we could send a bigger box."
My family and I participated in packing shoe boxes full of tiny gifts as part of Operation Christmas Child (OCC) through Heritage Baptist Church in Annapolis. More than 50 boxes were collected at Heritage and will be delivered to boys and girls around the world. According to the OCC website, 8 million children received boxes of goodies last year.
We've packed shoe boxes for several years and it's a tradition that helps kick off the "giving season" since the boxes must be packed, wrapped and collected before Thanksgiving. Shoe boxes all over Annapolis and across the country will be collected until Nov. 22 as part of the efforts of Samaritan's Purse, a nondenominational Christian organization that provides international aid to people.
If you'd like, you can personalize your gift by writing a note to the child who will receive your box and include a photo. There's even a chance if you include your name and mailing address that the child will write back.
Unlike some charities where you donate a toy or money and aren't sure where it's going, OCC uses tracking technology that allows you to "follow your box." Donors are asked to include a $7 check in each shoe box to help with shipping and other related costs. However, if you choose to donate $7 online (using a debit or credit card instead of writing a check), you will receive a label with a barcode that will enable OCC to track the box. You'll later get an e-mail that tells you the destination of your box.
Although this year's OCC campaign is coming to a close, it's never too early to start collecting items that will fit in a shoe box for next year.
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