June 30, 2018

OCC Shoebox Stockpile Saturday ~ 6/30/2018 ~ Aunts

 We didn't get any shopping done in the past week, but that doesn't mean our stockpile didn't grow!  Thanks to my aunts, it actually grew quite a bit! :)  First, the aunt who packs with us came for a visit with a stash she'd built up of packing items.

Then I got a box from my other aunt who had called when she found a deal on flip-flops to see if/what kind/how many we needed.  She and my great aunt cut off all the extra packaging, and got them all ready for us to pack!

Finally, I asked a friend if she had any leftover bags from the VBS she was running if I could have them for shoeboxes-she brought me the few that were left.  Then she asked if I had any use for lanyards as they had more of those left.  I said I sure could use them-I have whistles to hang on them if nothing else!  Such colorful and practical items!

Spent from shoebox packing budget: $0

June 16, 2018

OCC Shoebox Stockpile Saturday ~ 6/16/2018 ~ Tools

We had a really good week for tools/practical items for our 10-14 boy boxes.  First, we had a gift card for Harbor Freight for shoeboxes, so my Dad and I went to check out what they had he wanted for the 10-14 boy boxes he packs.  Thanks to a lot of ideas shared on the Simply Shoeboxes Facebook Page, we had a lot of ideas what to look for!  We planned to pick up a lot of stuff and both check out with 20% off & free item coupons, plus make a plan for what to pick up with future coupons.  We were able to get what we wanted to pick up right away, and leave a good amount left to pick up in the weeks/months ahead as we get coupons.  So much fun stuff:

We like to send work gloves in all our older boxes, and my dad was really excited about the leather ones.  Also some tools-we went with screwdrivers and pliers as they're more universal than say wrenches in metric or standard, and Dad wasn't too thrilled with the hammers.  We got one tool box to pack as a shoebox.  Also some really nice tool bags that we think we'll be able to fit creatively in reasonable sized shoeboxes.  Plus some wooden 3D puzzles-these are really great as 10-14 boy toys were on my "still needed" list and that checked them off, and I wasn't planning on being able to use the gift card value toward that!!

My sister and I ran buy today when out running errands, and what we were planning to buy was only $0.99 this week-and the 20 % off worked on it, so we spent less than $2 from the gift card on all of this.

Then, we stopped at Mighty Dollar, and were able to find some nice, 80# test weight para-cord to send in boxes or as drawstring for our pencil bags. 

I think we're going to have some great 10-14 boy boxes with these practical items, plus the normal, game, toys, stuffed animal, ball, clothing item(s), hygiene, school and art supplies!  I'm really enjoying adding tools to the boxes-probably kind of a replacement for the space candy used to take.  Here's a tool themed box I packed last year.

Spent from shoebox packing budget: $8.54 

Spent from free gift cards: $121.27  

Saved thru Harbor Freight Coupons:  $13.96

Saved by Mighty Dollar Prices over Original: $40

June 13, 2018

Stories and Advice from Shoebox Distributions in Malawi

On this blog I mostly write about packing, shopping, crafting, etc. for shoeboxes, but I thought it'd be encouraging to share some distribution stories, plus I love to get more ideas and feedback on things to include from first hand reports.  Since I've never been on a distribution, I send questions to those who have.

My name is Debbie Pottorff and I’m the Church Relations Coordinator for the Big Bend / Tallahassee Area (Florida / P.R. Region) My husband, John, and I have been married for decades now and have 5 grown children (complete with grandchildren, children-in-laws, and “bonus” grandchildren).  We’re still both working full time but since the kids are gone (out of the house) our lives would seem a bit empty without our shoebox kids.  John is the leader of the Main Drop-Off location in our Area and since our Area Team is relatively small, we try to help out our Area Coordinators in other roles, as best we can.  We truly believe in the OCC mission, the Great Commission and Matthew 1:8  “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."  For us, this is the way to live!   Our Area Team has a facebook page:  OCC Tallahassee/Big Bend FL that we'd love to have anyone to "like" and follow and we have a monthly email newletter that can be accessed throught the fb page.

>>When & where did you distribute shoeboxes? 
I was invited to go on a Harvest Vision Trip to Malawi in May of 2018 and I definitely brought back far more to share than I had expected from this adventure.

>>Please share a little about your trip and the distributions and about how many kids were at the distribution(s) you attended? 
When we arrived in Malawi, we were divided into three teams.  Each team consisted of about 10-12 Connect Volunteers and OCC staff members, plus 2 interpreters and 1-2 members of Malawi’s National Leadership Team. During our stay, each team attended 5 different Outreach Events (Distributions) and one The Greatest Journey Event.  My team’s Outreach Events were to schools and churches and had anywhere from 95 – 200 children present.  The Greatest Journey Event was to one of their weekly classes at a church and was attended by about 25 enthusiast students.

>>What's your favorite memory? 
The favorite memory about my trip is what “My Story” and my presentation to share with groups and churches in my area will be about:  Spiritual Warfare.  My team’s very first Event was to the first graders at Mziiza Primary School.  We were given this brief description of the location. The community surrounding the school is heavily influenced by a traditional occultic religion that focuses on worship of the spirits of the dead.  Ritual ceremonies are held in the graveyards and much of the practices are kept secret, known only to members.  Children are initiated into this secret society at a young age, sometimes forcibly.” A similar description was also given for a few other locations in our Team packet so we didn’t think much of it. 

Following the typical Outreach event (consisting of music, a gospel presentation, introduction of the Greatest Gift, passing out & opening of the shoeboxes, interaction with the children, and a time of prayer with the Pastor & Directors) we loaded up on the bus and went just around the corner where, unknown to us, we were escorted to a row of chairs in the front row of a circle that was beginning to form.  At first the circle was only a couple of people deep but as all the children from the school and most of the adults from the village continued to arrive, the circumference appeared to swell to about 4-6 people thick.  Soon the women started a singing chant that was then accompanied by drums and eventually the first two “spirit dancers” arrived.  The village chief was translating (or giving a description of) what was happening at first but later ceased.  These “spirits” were not friendly and the stories surrounding them were far from heartwarming.  Still, not quite sure what we were experiencing, our collective feeling was “uncomfortable” to say the very least.  We witnessed about 4 or 5 of these different demonstrations and looking around the circle I noticed a group of little 5-6 year old girls, from the school, with looks of sheer terror on their faces.(It must have been at this time when I realized this was a very real happening and I wasn’t at a Disney World performance.)  Fast forward a few demonic demonstrations and I look over at the girls again.  One little girl has opened up her GO box and taken out her brand new blonde Barbie and she and her friends are now oblivious to their dark surrounds and playing with her new toy that was packed, with love, by someone who wanted to share the hope and love found in Jesus Christ with these children.  Allelujah!

I do want to point out that the older children in the Mziiza Primary School had received shoeboxes last year and many were given the opportunity to take part in The Greatest Journey.  And, for those that completed the course, not a single one has returned to the graveyard rituals.  The presence of Operation Christmas Child in this area has also resulted in families turning to Christ and leaving behind the magic and witchcraft which are dominant in this community.  There is heavy spiritual warfare for the souls of these people. Please pray for these children and their families.

God has definitely shown me that spiritual warfare is real and I intend on using this experience to make sure my fellow shoebox packers remember to pray and join in the battle for the souls of children (and their families) all over the world.

>>What item(s) did you notice the kids really enjoying and/or needing? Maybe something you'll be adding to or emphasizing more in your packing it the future?
It would be very hard to pick one item that most of the children enjoyed or seemed to need. I will say that at one event you’d ask them what they got in their box and almost all of them would simply hold up their flip flops.

And, while I would always advise people to pray over your box and if you feel led to pack an item (not on the inappropriate list)…just do it but if you’re trying to decide on what type of ball to pack and not feeling led in any certain directions, pack a soccer or other round ball. I spent a lot of time with the older boys and most of them had never seen nor heard of American football. Then when you’d try to explain it was a football they’d try to play with it by kicking it. I’m sure they’ll eventually figure out a fun use.  The other interesting gift was a ball & glove.  (And I would never encourage against these because they are BIG items in Central & South America.) The boys in Malawi weren’t quite sure what the glove was.  One guy finally decided the glove was a hat.  Through our interpreter (named Hope) I did explain that the glove went on his hand but then when Hope tried to show him how, he had never put on a mitt and tried showing him on the wrong hand.  Children are very resourceful so I’m sure all their gifts will be put in use but just keep in mind that soccer balls seem to be universal.

 >>Is there anything you personally won't be packing as much in boxes in the future based on what you saw?
There isn’t an item that I won’t be packing in the future but I will try to emphasize to others to please remove the packaging when possible (we had a hard time even with our box cutters and scissors!) and please try to make sure to send “working” items.  I’m not saying it has to be “top of the line” quality but at least make sure the noisemakers make noise and the yo-yo does more than just yo (make sure they spin freely).

 >>Is there anything else you'd like to share with fellow shoebox packers?
Please, please, please don’t get hung up so much on the gifts inside the box that you forget about the bigger purpose:The mission of Operation Christmas Child is to demonstrate God's love in a tangible way to children in need around the world, and together with the local church worldwide, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.

REMINDER: this advice is just based on one person's opinion based on their personal experience in one country.  This is not official from Operation Christmas Child whose guidelines are the only thing incumbent on us to follow and are based on thousands of distributions in dozens of countries over many years and based on feedback from local partners as well as customs regulations.  These regulations are different for different sending countries, so be sure to check out the rules for your own country/region (OCC USAOCC CanadaOCC UKOCC AUOCC Japan, etc.).

June 10, 2018

June 9, 2018

OCC Shoebox Stockpile Saturday ~ 6/9/2018 ~ Fun Finds

I got some fun things for shoeboxes this week!

At Mighty Dollar I got a few more scissors, plus a super cute set of water colors.  A couple pencil cases for Pencil Granny & Friends project, and a super cute padded box I'm planning to make into a sewing kit - I think she'll also be able to use it as a pin cushion. 

I also ordered from Raymond Geddes.   I saw a free shipping code on Pencil Granny & Friends, so thought I'd try it out.

Here's an up-close of what I got some watercolors on sale.  Also mechanical pencil leads-I was really fascinated by the colored pencil lead-I think that will be so fun to include this year! 

My sister crocheted 3 Aunt Ida hats.

Spent from shoebox packing budget: $30.25 

Saved $25 on sales/discount stores + free shipping.

June 7, 2018

Have you tried Swagbucking for Shoeboxes yet?

Links to Swagbucks in this post are my referral links. I also earned SB for sharing this promotion.

I like to share about Swagbuks from time to time on this blog as we've found it a good way to make a little extra money, and others have been able to get money for shoeboxes through it, as well.  All through June you can earn large bonuses when sign up as my referral on Swagbucks. Swagbucks is a rewards site where you earn points (called SB) for things you're probably doing online already, like searching the web, watching videos, shopping, discovering deals, and taking surveys. Then you take those points and exchange them for gift cards to places like Amazon, Walmart, or PayPal cash.

When you sign up through me this month, you can earn a 300 SB bonus! Here's how:

1. Sign up using this link

2. Earn 300 SB total before July 1st, 2018. You'll get a 300 SB bonus for it! (& you'll have more than enough for a $5 gift card!)

Disclosure:  Links to Swagbucks in this post are my referral links.  Thank you for using my links it helps me earn extra SB.  I also earned SB for sharing this promotion.

June 6, 2018

2-4 Year Old Girl's Shoebox with Large Stuffed Dog

We had this supper cute stuffed animal for an Operation Christmas Child Shoebox, but it was a little big...could we still send it?  We didn't want leave out anything on our basic packing list (hygiene, school, and art supplies, clothing, whistle, etc as well as toys including a ball and stuffed animal with a family photo) or use too large of a box that might be hard to fit in the cartons.  Since it was a very soft stuffed animal, it ended up fitting just fine in a GoBox with lots of other great items!

Often people find it helpful to see how the box is packed to fit everything in, so here's some photos of how these items fit in the shoebox.

For more ideas/fun boxes, check out other shoeboxes we packed for 2-4 year old girls or our themed boxes!

June 5, 2018

Why Affiliate Links, Posts, Ads?

This is slightly off the topic of shoeboxes, more of a personal note to my readers.  You may have noticed on this blog, the Simply Shoebox Facebook page, and/or Youtube channel affiliate disclaimers or ads on this blog.  I know some people may be wondering, "Why are you trying to make money off helping children?"  So, I thought I'd explain.

First, a little about me.  I'm the media director at my church.  I also organize the packing of shoeboxes with extended family and help from friends-over 100 a year, also most years of late I've organized my church's church-wide drive and one or more packing parties at my church.  So, all that eats into my available time to volunteer (Media Director alone requires 4 hours on-campus on Sundays plus a few more from home throughout the week).  While I could probably find a little time to share an occasional post, last year there were 112 posts on the blog, a half dozen videos on the new YouTube Channel, plus countless Facebook posts.  I just don't have enough free time to do all of that...but...if I can make a little bit of money (& trust me it's not a lot) while doing it, I can dedicate more time to it.  Plus, based on passages like 1 Corinthians 9, I believe it is fine for me to get compensation while working on ministry.

Second, a little bit of the history of the blog.  This blog started to share our journey of packing shoeboxes.   A Facebook page was started to share posts, and has grown to share other ideas, photos, links, etc.  The YouTube channel was started, in part, because many videos I stumbled on there seemed to have outdated, confusing, or even, on occasion, wrong info.  At the time we started the blog we were running the Simply CVS blog to make a little money on the side. Recently I had to close Simply CVS for a couple reasons, which means I needed a little more money, but also had some more time, so am trying to dedicate it to this blog.

I try very hard to not just post something because it could be lucrative, but because I feel it could be helpful, inspiring, etc, to other shoebox packers.

If you're interested these are the different ways I "monetize"  this blog.
  • Since it's very easy to add Google Ads to a blog, and isn't a trouble to anyone, and we had them on our other blog we added them here, too.   It should be pretty easy to see what's an ad.  I don't control which ones they show (although I have blocked a few objectionable ones).
  • I have a couple of companies I have an affiliate relationships with.  That means if you go through a link on my blog to the company and then make a purchase, I will   Whenever I post an affiliate link, I'll add a disclosure to the post so you know and also to comply with FTC regulations.  The two main ones at the moment are:
    • Dollar Tree
    • MD Supplies & Services
  • Also, while it's not really monetizing, but sometimes I'll be given free product to right a review post from, this will also be disclosed, but most the time the items just go into shoeboxes after I look at them.
  • Sometimes there will be a printable coupon that would be good for a shoebox deal, I will be compensated only if you think it'll be a helpful coupon for you and you print it.
  • There are some places we use to make a little bit extra money online or as an app, and these often have programs to be rewarded if someone signs up under you.  So, if I share them, I'll use the link they offer (with disclosure) so if you decide to try it, I'll get what they're offering to give me-often this is only if it actually works out for you and you've gotten rewarded, too.
  • Occasionally there will be a sponsored post.  This will be disclosed in the post, and what it means is they're paying me a set amount to post about a certain topic at a certain time.  But I'll only do this if I feel it can be an interest/good/inspiring/helpful, etc. post. The post may also include a link I'd be compensated if you took an action after going through, which will also be disclosed.
So, I hope this helps you understand what ways I may make a little money from this blog, and why I choose to do that.  I thankful for these opportunities to get money from doing this blog as it enables me to share my passion for it even more!

June 1, 2018

Toys for Shoeboxes Collection Poster

Samaritan's Purse has suggested items of the month for packing Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes, and for June, that's toys!  I thought maybe a collection poster would be of use to churches and others who followed OCC's items of the month.  So, here's what I came up with.  Feel free to print it out, share online, etc. as needed to get more toys for shoeboxes.
If you like this poster, you may want to check out our other collection posters.

Disclosure: Links on Simply Shoeboxes may be affiliate partners or referrals.