Right now, if you wander the aisles of the big stores, those wonderful cardboard boxes of school supplies are starting to fill the aisles of your local stores. Have you noticed? I have. For the past two weeks, there have been “free after Extra Care Bucks” school supply items in the sales paper for CVS. Did you get them? Or have you visited Office Max or Staples or Office Depot for the 0.01 promotions? Or glance at the Walgreen’s paper for the deals? Or, did you glance and the paper and think, “Well, I don’t need that so I’m not bothering with it.” If that’s you, I’d like to issue you a challenge.
I know that a lot of people don’t have children. Maybe you’re past that stage in your life, or perhaps you’re waiting to have children, trying to have a baby, or maybe you’re already pregnant. Whatever season of life that you are in, if you’re anything like me, you still love a deal. Am I right? And you also love to be able to give to those in need. Am I right?
So my challenge to you (and me) is to think bigger. Think broader. Think outside the box…or inside the box…
As a mother of two children who are both going to be in preschool this year, I know how much things cost “for real” during the year. And can I just step up on my soap box and ask, why can’t Crayola crayons and Elmer’s glue cost 0.25 any other time of the year? Pirates. Anyway, these school supplies are such great deals right now. And there is something that you can do with them, even if you don’t have children or grandchildren. There’s something that you can do with them even if you don’t attend a church or have a preschool to donate supplies. There’s something you can do with them even if you don’t have friends with children that could most certainly use them or know someone who could use them. Are you intrigued? Do you want to know what that is?
Franklin Graham (Billy Graham’s son) is the Director of an organization called the Samaritan’s Purse. This organization works to provide basic necessities in areas of need across the globe and has built relationships with foreign governments that allows them to enter countries that other ministries have been unable to get assistance to those in need.
Logo courtesy of Samaritan’s Purse
Part of Samaritan’s Purse is a program called Operation Christmas Child which is a very simple program that anyone can take part in, regardless of your denomination or faith. Looking through the materials they send occasionally in the mail, it hurts to think that there is a mother out there worrying about how she will feed her child or whether or not they have enough drinking water while I sit here and fret over spending $70 a week on groceries or over something as simple as school supplies.
Here’s the challenge: Over the next three months, start buying up some of these school supplies at ridiculously low prices and put them in a box that you can keep in the bottom of your closet. Wander down those aisles you’re avoiding and buy what you can of these cheap school supplies now and…Give. Them. Away. Can you do that for me? Please? Watch for deals on simple toiletries like tooth brushes, tooth paste, bar soap, hair bows, brushes, combs, hard candy, little toys, small books, hats, gloves, etc. Set yourself a little budget just for this when go to the store. If you look at the Operation Christmas Child website, they break the boxes into age groups and also by boy/girl so keep that in mind when you’re buying.
The Samaritan’s Purse website has a list of suggested items including:
TOYS small cars, balls, dolls, stuffed animals, kazoos, harmonicas, yo-yos, jump ropes, small Etch A Sketch®, toys that light up or make noise (with extra batteries), Slinky®, etc.
SCHOOL SUPPLIES pens, pencils and sharpener, crayons or markers, stamps and ink pad sets, writing pads or paper, solar calculators, coloring and picture books, etc.
HYGIENE ITEMS toothbrush, toothpaste, mild bar soap (in a plastic bag), comb, washcloth, etc. OTHER Hard candy and lollipops (please double bag all candy), mints, gum, T-shirts, socks, ball caps; sunglasses, hair clips, toy jewelry, watches, flashlights (with extra batteries)
A PERSONAL NOTE In a separate envelope, you may enclose a note to the child and a photo of yourself or your family. (If you include your name and address, the child may write back).
DO NOT INCLUDE: Used or damaged items; war-related items such as toy guns, knives or military figures; chocolate or food; out-of-date candy; liquids or lotions; medications or vitamins; breakable items such as snowglobes or glass containers; aerosol cans
Then, here’s the fun part. Simply save a shoe box (or better yet, spend $1.50 and buy a plastic one at Wally World or the Dollar Store that can be reused by these children). Wrap the cardboard shoe box or line the inside of the plastic ones with tissue paper and fill it up with these perfect items that you’ve bought for next to nothing. Put a big rubberband around it and wait. National Collection Week begins on November 16, 2009. You can find drop off sites across the country for these boxes by visiting the Operation Christmas Child site in upcoming weeks.
Samaritan’s Purse does ask for a $7 donation to help pay to transport these boxes but it’s such a small price to pay to provide these children with the basic supplies and toiletries that we have so readily available. These boxes are sent to children in other countries who cannot afford simple, basic items like school supplies, fun little toys, toiletries, books, etc. Boxes also go out to areas that have been impacted by natural disasters.
Please take a minute to look at the Samaritan’s Purse website and the Operation Christmas Child page. It’s a wonderful ministry and really, it’s the least we can do. I think of this ministry each year and try to start buying the little things now so that I have no excuses in November for not participating. Last year, the boys and I really enjoyed packaging the boxes together and leaving them at our church. Hunter and I have done these boxes together since we were dating. Operation Christmas Child has also given me a way to teach JP and JL about how lucky we are and how it is our responsibility to share our blessings with others. And yes, I know that it’s August. But, November will be here before you know it and we’ll be thinking about our Christmas lists’ and “how tight our money is.”
Samaritan’s Purse also has a catalog detailing various other needs for local communities such as food, clothing, medicine, emergency kits, and livestock and giving us an opportunity to give toward those causes as well. It’s something we’ve talked about and this year, I plan for us to make an additional donation for one of these earmarked line items. You can even make a small donation toward a bigger item like building a church or buying an airline ticket for medical treatments. Here’s the link to the electronic catalog if you’d like to find out more.
Ok, that’s it. It’s that simple. Can you handle this easy challenge? I think we should each set a goal for your family and see how many OCC boxes we can donate this year. We, as a family, have normally done 3 each year. This year, I pledge to do 6. I’ll try to set something up as a reminder to us all to keep collecting for this cause on the blog.
What about you? What will you and your family do? Does anyone else participate in the Operation Christmas Child program?