At last, the week we had waited for all year long had arrived – Operation Christmas Child’s National Collection Week! Hands down, this is our favorite time of the year. Being co-coordinator at church for the area’s Collection Center makes for a busy week of shoeboxes and volunteers. Here’s a recap of the week…
A few days before Halloween, Collection Week preparations began as we hung Operation Christmas Child collection date posters throughout our church and set up the information table. Our shoebox thermometer goal was set and the giant shoebox we made was the highlight of the display!
Next, we set up the Collection Center at church. This year, we were given a new portable building to use for the week! It was much bigger than last year’s location and featured more parking for the trailers, volunteers and people dropping off shoeboxes. The extra space was such a blessing!
One of the new items included in our Collection Center supplies from Samaritan’s Purse was this cool Drop-Off Location flag! Despite crazy winds and heavy rains we experienced during Collection Week, the flag lasted through it all.
While setting up the tables and decorations in the Collection Center, a reporter from a local college tv station stopped by to interview us. we were so nervous! She was writing a story about Operation Christmas Child and was very excited to learn more about this amazing ministry.
Next, we took a look at the new banner that was made to post by the road and direct traffic to our new location. The print shop did a wonderful job and even added a border and faint snowflakes to the banner. It was beautiful! We added this year’s Collection Week dates to the bottom of the banner and got it ready to be staked at the road.
The welcome table was the next area we set up. Just like our location last year, the Christmas tree was too tall to fit in the room so we decorated it and put a Santa hat on top then decorated the top of the tree and set it on the snack table! Not a single person noticed that our tree was missing its top!
On the Sunday before Collection Week, we took the 18 shoeboxes that were created with the profits from sales of our Packing Party Products this year to the Collection Center. It was an exciting moment to load them onto the wagon and cart them inside! Each box has a Follow Your Box label and we’re looking forward to receiving an email from Samaritan’s Purse with the name of the country they went to!
Thank you to everyone who purchased those products and helped change the lives of 18 sweet children!
By Monday, the first day of Collection Week, we had over a thousand shoeboxes lining the walls and covering the floor! See those white plastic shoeboxes in the corner of the room? All of those were created by one lady over the course of the year! There are 600 shoeboxes! What an amazing lady.
We had to take pieces of extra cardboard to make temporary walls to separate the piles of shoeboxes that various groups and churches that came by to drop off. There were more shoeboxes in the building than we knew what to do with and we were running out of room – fast! It was simply amazing to look around and imagine the children who would receive each of these boxes specifically packed for them! Wow.
In the back of the room, we had an area for volunteers to fill shoeboxes using items that were donated to the Collection Center throughout the year. Our goal was to create 200 shoeboxes but by the end of the week, we had created over 250 shoeboxes! These volunteers wrapped each shoebox in colorful Christmas paper so that the next shift of volunteers could fill them. They sure had talent!
By the end of the first day, there were over 110 cartons of shoeboxes ready to be loaded onto the first trailer! There are nearly 2,000 shoeboxes in the cartons in this photo! Each day there were 4 shifts of 6-10 volunteers that lasted 2 to 2.5 hours per shift. The last shift of the day featured the trailer loading team with some strong guys to help get all these cartons onto the trailer! They sure got a workout on Monday!
A storm system moved through during the first two days of Collection Week and brought quite a lot of rain. The parking lot was flooded! We hurried to sweep nearly 4 inches water from the parking lot into the ditches before people arrived to drop off shoeboxes. When the handle of the broom we were using broke, we had to resort to using packing tape-covered cardboard to push water out of the parking lot. Phew, it was hard work!
Each shift of volunteers helped with several different tasks from packing shoeboxes into cartons, filling shoeboxes, welcoming visitors and loading the trailer. Did you know that 15 plastic shoeboxes can fit in a carton? Meanwhile, 23 G.O. boxes (the red and green shoeboxes) can fit in a carton! Gotta love those red and green shoeboxes…
Wednesday featured one of our team member’s birthday! What better way to spend the day than at the Collection Center surrounded by shoeboxes? It was a great birthday!
By Thursday, the first trailer was full of 350 cartons and ready to be picked up by the trucking company and sent down to the Processing Center! We gathered around the trailer before locking the door and prayed over the shoeboxes inside.
Moments after locking the first trailer, one of our relay centers arrived with a U-Haul full of cartons! We had them back up to the second trailer and began moving the boxes over. They filled almost half of the trailer with over 140 cartons! When relay centers arrive with a large load of cartons, things can get a little crazy!
One of the most-popular spots in the Collection Center was near our map on the wall. Volunteers and shoebox donors alike loved to stop and gather around for a look and even take a photo on their phones. The map showed the locations of the countries our area’s Processing center are sending boxes to. See our Shoebox Packing Party Banner hanging below it on the wall?
This year, the shoeboxes collected in our area will be sent to: Panama, Ukraine, Ecuador and Madagascar. We’ll find out in a few weeks where our shoeboxes created with the profits from our Packing Party profits went to! As soon as we find out, we’ll post the news!
This is the view of the inside of the second trailer on Friday night. There are 209 cartons on the trailer with room for only 141 more! Excitement was mounting as we tried to guesstimate how many shoeboxes we’d collect by the end of the week. Would we top last year’s amount of 16,135 shoeboxes?
By the afternoon on Sunday, we had filled the second trailer and started loading cartons onto the third! We began guessing how many more shoeboxes we were expecting to receive and whether or not we would need to order a fourth trailer in the morning. By the afternoon on Monday, we made the call and asked for a fourth trailer to be sent over! It arrived as we were packing up the Collection Center and putting everything away.
After being at the Collection Center from 8:30 am until 7 pm or later every day for 8 days, we can honestly say it is the most-rewarding, fun-filled, exciting week of the year. We love interacting with the hundreds of volunteers and shoebox donors that visit the Collection Center. Yes, it has some stressful moments, but you get to meet some amazing people who have a passion for this ministry. What was our final shoebox count, you ask? 18,182! Think about that… 18,182 shoeboxes passed through our Collection Center’s doors, on their way to 18,182 children whose lives will be forever changed with the simple gift of a shoebox. Each child will receive the good news of Jesus Christ and a shoebox that was packed especially for them, guided by God from the person who filled it all the way into their little hands. If you have never filled a shoebox, please consider doing so and touching a child’s heart that is a world away. For those of you who already fill shoeboxes, here is a catchy quote for you – pack one more than you’ve packed before!
Let the countdown to Collection Week 2016 begin!