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What Kind of Shoeboxes to Use for Packing OCC Shoebox Gifts

What kind of box to pack an Operation Christmas Child Shoebox gift in
So, we all read about packing Operation Christmas Child "shoeboxes", but what exactly does that mean?  Should I use normal shoeboxes, boot boxes, plastic shoeboxes, GO Box, or will just a normal box do?  In the USA, Operation Christmas Child gives these guidelines on shoeboxes:
"Operation Christmas Child ...we prefer medium-sized shoeboxes, since more of these fit in our larger shipping containers, which helps us maximize your shipping donation. This also helps ensure children receive similar sized shoebox gifts at outreach events. We do accept and ship every shoebox we receive, regardless of size." (OCC Facebook page)

So, let's look at some of the options.

GO Box

(Theses are often available at local churches, Christian stores, etc.  You can also order
them by the 100 for a donation to cover production and shipping costs here)

23 Operation Christmas Child GO shoeboxes fit in a carton   Pros

 -Uniform size/shape to fit in cartons well...they can fit 23 to a carton for shipping with no wasted space!
        -That helps OCC save money on shipping
        -They send cartons to churches, etc. for distributions based on an estimated number of boxes per carton, with GO boxes they're sure to have enough for all the kids planned to come, there are accounts of them running out of shoeboxes if there are not enough in the cartons and kids getting ones for the wrong ages or none at all.
     -Thin walls & planned shape, means no wasted space in the carton
     -Uniform size so the kids all get similar gifts
     -Easy to get (order) lots for packing parties, etc.
     -Cheap (donation to cover shipping and production is about 30 cents a piece)
     -A full size spiral notebook can fit in one (see this post:  How to Fit a Spiral Notebook in an Operation Christmas Child GO Box)


     -Some people find them small to fit in everything they want to send, but you can actually get a surprising amount in them, here are some ideas on how to fit lots into an OCC GO box.  
     -There is a cost (if you don't have access to a local business or church handing them out-but it still is cost for them)
     -They can't go to some special access countries, but there are normally plenty of the others to go around, so probably not a problem, unless you hope your boxes go to one of those countries 
     -Thin walls seem a little flimsy...on the other hand, that does help squeeze things in better.

Regular sized normal shoebox

(If you only pack a few boxes, you may be able to just use your family's boxes from shoe purchases, if you need more, you can ask shoe stores to save them, or collect from family and friends, we've used this poster to collect them)

     -Can be more easily personalized/decorated/wrapped which can make the boxes seem more personal gifts
     -Some can hold a little more than an OCC GO box.
     -If you're careful with the size, it doesn't mess up the carton count. (I've heard a good way to decide is a about a lady's size 8)
     -For some of us who've been packing for years, this is traditional/how it all started (now I know that's not really a good reason, but Christmas is steeped in tradition)


     -Can be hard to get enough if you pack a number
     -Odd sizes/shapes can be hard to fit in the cartons.
     -Can be hard to decide what exactly is "regular size"  Personally we plan to limit it to not over 520 cubic inches, my best guess/calculation as to how much room a basic plastic shoebox would take up.  My personal boxes are normally about 350-450 cubic inches.

Plastic Shoebox (6qt)

(it seems best to use Sterlite or a similar sturdy brand, dollar store ones often break before processing, never reaching the children)

Carton of plastic shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child   Pros

     -It gives the child something permanent to keep the items in
     -Holds a little more than than a GO box.


     -Takes up more room in the carton then a Go Box
     -It's odd shape can often take up much more space in the carton than what the shoebox holds.

Then, there are various other options: photo boxes, tins of about the same size, etc.  These can make for special boxes, but keep in mind the sizes and the issues that come with that as you can see from the above posts.
Operation Christmas Child new plastic shoeboxes

EDITED: OCC now has their own plastic boxes I hope to review soon, you can order the new boxes here.

We should try to avoid sending:

Oversized shoebox/boot box
Effects of using large shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child   Pros

     -You can fit lots of items in the shoebox, but the longer you pack, the more you can get more in even a smaller box, here are some ideas on how to fit more into shoeboxes.

     -Is not what Operation Christmas Child requests,  and they are responsible for this
     -Takes up too much room in shipping cartons
        -Costs more for OCC to ship
        -Then can end up without enough boxes at a distribution and some kids may not get anything
     -It causes great disparity in the size of boxes (some large ones are 2 times or more larger) the children receive, which could cause disappointment/envy/etc.

Boot boxes used for Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes

Thanks to Shoebox Shoppers on Facebook for the photos (here & here ) of the shoeboxes in cartons.  It's a great place to find deals and more ideas about Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes!

Want to see an illustration of packing shoeboxes inexpensively without shopping year round?  Check out this post:  How to Pack Three OCC GO Boxes for Under $30.


Anonymous said...

This was my first year serving at the processing center and my second year packing. I learned so much about the boxes. In our first year we spend so much time wrapping the boxes. It was so easy the second year to use the go boxes.
The first year we had some boot boxes and we had to put extra items because they looked empty. The second year, we couldn't believe how much goodies we could fit in the go box. Finally, at the processing center it was clear how different it would be for a child to receive a smaller box versus a go box or a boot box. And I saw several cracked plastic boxes. We will be using the go boxes in the future!

Anonymous said...

I have packed boxes for years and worked at our area church collection site several years and now at the processing center twice - this year was the 2nd time for my husband and I to go to Atlanta. I personally like larger shoe boxes for the oldest children's age group especially so they can receive more things appropriate for their age (which usually take more room). The older kids are more likely to be the ones who will share with others in their Community as well. My husband has felt led for the last few years to pack special sturdy plastic containers which contain a deflated regular size soccer ball, a pump, needles and 4 of the flat cones to mark the playing area along with other helpful items for an older boy who is probably a leader in his home and among the children in his neighborhood. We feel these boys probably have a lot of responsibility on them and may have never received anything for themselves but will also be most likely to use their items to help many others! Also school supplies like notebook paper and notebooks or folders and things like that do not fit very well in the other smaller boxes! My husband and I feel like God has led us to send these boxes each year even though we can only do a few of that size and extra money is always sent to help cover the cost of shipping. We do plenty of the other size boxes as well. I know that God uses each and every gift to touch the life of the child it's supposed to touch and He lays on our hearts what to put in them according to where they will be sent! We also did a observe this year at the food processing center that the cheaper plastic shoe box size containers did not do well and did break during shipping so if any plastic containers are used they should be sturdy. Some of the plastic containers were actually even broke already when they were brought to the church location in our area! :-( people also like using the plastic containers instead of the cardboard ones because they know they will last longer for the children to use in other ways at home. I would like to say that the church collection site where my husband and I have served over the last few years has volunteers that are excellent at putting in the most shoe boxes possible into a shipping box and goes by all of the regulations. You would be amazed at how well they can pack them!:)

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