Frequently Asked Questions
We’ve gathered a list of frequently asked questions about Operation Christmas Child and The Greatest Journey and organized them all on this page. Just click through the drop-down menus on the left to learn more about how you can make a difference in the lives of hurting children and families all over the world.
About Operation Christmas ChildWhat is Operation Christmas Child?
Operation Christmas Child is a project of the international relief organization, Samaritan’s Purse. Our mission is to provide local partners around the world with shoeboxes filled with small toys, hygiene items, and school supplies as a means of reaching out to children in their own communities with the Good News of Jesus Christ. We ship these simple gifts outside the United States to children affected by war, poverty, natural disaster, famine and disease; and to children living on Native American reservations in the U.S.
Yes! You can Follow Your Box and discover the destination of your shoebox by making the $7 shipping donation online. Just print and attach your unique shipping label to your shoebox gift.
The program was started in the United Kingdom in 1990 by Dave and Jill Cooke. Three years after this beginning, the Wales-based shoebox gift project merged in a partnership with Samaritan’s Purse, allowing us to share 20 years of expertise in relief and aid work with the project, and expand the reach of the shoebox gifts to more than 28,000 children that year. Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has delivered gift-filled shoeboxes to over 135 million children in more than 150 countries and territories.
Shoebox gifts are a way to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to needy children around the world, and together with the local church worldwide, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Our local ministry partners distribute your shoeboxes to children in their communities. After receiving shoebox gifts, many boys and girls are invited to enroll in The Greatest Journey, our 12-lesson discipleship program. Through the program, our local ministry partners are able to establish long-term, caring relationships with children and families by sharing the love of Jesus Christ. Click here to learn more about the eternal impact of a shoebox.
We do accept shoebox gifts at our headquarters year-round. They can be mailed to Samaritan’s Purse, 801 Bamboo Road, Boone, NC, 28607. We also hear of many churches, families, and groups who collect items monthly. It’s good for each shoebox to contain at least one “wow” item, such as a doll or soccer ball, as well as other fun toys, hygiene items, and school supplies. If you make your own year-round packing list, be sure to include a mixture of these items, as well as one month for collecting the suggested $7 per box donation. Here is our suggestion of monthly items for those who would like to pack year-round:
- January – Hats, Gloves & Scarves
- February – Dental Hygiene Items
- March – Quality Crafts
- April – Stuffed Animals
- May – Hygiene items
- June – Toys
- July – Clothing Items
- August – School Supplies
- September – Games
- October – Letter & Photo
- November – $7 Donation
- December – Prayer
To learn more about year-round packing and other fun tips, click here.
Dedicated volunteers work year-round to promote and pray for Operation Christmas Child. Starting in September, people can sign up to volunteer at processing centers as well. Check out our long-term and short-term volunteer opportunities pages. We also have a resource page full of ideas and materials that will help you, your family, church, business, or community center get involved in Operation Christmas Child.
The shoebox gifts are shipped out from our processing centers by the middle of December, and depending on the distance they must travel, some are delivered by Christmas—primarily those in Central/South America and Eastern Europe. Most of the gifts are sent via ship. Although the collection of Operation Christmas Child gifts is during the Thanksgiving/Christmas season, the delivery of some gifts is sometimes delayed due to international shipping. They may not clear customs in receiving countries until spring. In addition, many countries that receive the gifts must transport the gifts to rural areas using very poor roads. Distributions typically occur from late December through spring each year, extending the joy of Christmas to children that receive them!
Operation Christmas Child is unable to facilitate this; however, if you are contacted by your recipient child, you may be able to make arrangements to do this on your own. Samaritan’s Purse does have a gift catalog with several items supporting young children, such as a donation for a week’s supply of food for a hungry baby. You can also give a scholarship to a child to participate in The Greatest Journey discipleship program. It takes $6 to provide a child the opportunity to participate and receive discipleship materials including a certificate and New Testament in their language. Donors can fund one child, equip a church, or sponsor a country.
Samaritan’s Purse and Operation Christmas Child seek to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way through each shoebox gift. One of our core values is to never be manipulative. We work in and through local volunteers in each country that understand their context and are respectful to the people they serve. At the same time, we do seek to share the Gospel wherever we go, which can be challenging at times. In some regions, we are not permitted to distribute literature, but we are still grateful for the opportunity to bless the children with gift-boxes carefully prepared by people who love children. Children do not have to do or say anything to receive their gifts.
How to Pack a Shoebox GiftHow do I pack my shoebox gift?
Everything you need to learn how to pack a shoebox gift can be found here. That includes what kind of box to use, what items can be included, how to learn the destination of your shoebox gift, and much more!
You can use any shoebox, cardboard or plastic. Operation Christmas Child also has red-and-green boxes that are also available to order now for a suggested donation.
You can find a list of suggested items and items not to include here.
The $7 per gift is a suggested donation. This donation makes it possible for Operation Christmas Child to transport each box from the person who packed it to a child who will receive it thousands of miles away. We do accept all shoebox gifts regardless of whether or not they include the shipping donations. We encourage those who are unable to include the $7 per box to consider asking a group in their church or a family member to sponsor the shipping of their boxes.
National Collection Week is the third week in November every year. This year, National Collection Week will be November 14-21, 2016, but you may send completed boxes year-round to our headquarters:
Operation Christmas Child
P.O. Box 3000
801 Bamboo Road
Boone, NC 28607
We have drop-off locations around the United States during National Collection Week, the third week in November each year. Find the location nearest to you here.
Countries vary from year to year. If you make your shipping donation online through Follow Your Box, you can discover the destination of your shoebox.
Our goal is to collect and distribute millions of shoebox gifts in over 100 countries this year. Because of the tremendous growth of Operation Christmas Child, the logistics involved in collecting, processing, and distributing this many boxes prevent us from designating specific boxes for certain countries or climates according to the contents. We can assure you, however, that whoever receives your box will need and appreciate your gift.
We understand and respect that you carefully choose the items you include in your shoebox gifts. Volunteers at our processing centers are trained to remove only items on the “do not include” list found on our website. When these items are removed, they are donated to local charities and still put to good use.
Follow Your BoxHow do I follow my box?
To learn the destination of your shoebox gift, make your $7 donation online Follow Your Box and receive your shipping labels. After you complete your payment information, you will receive a barcoded label that enables us to track each shoebox gift you pack. Print the label and attach it to your shoebox gift(s). The same label can be placed on all of your shoeboxes. The unique barcode is connected to your email address and enables us to notify you of the destination of your gifts.
After completing your donation, we will send you an email containing your labels. Click the link in your email to view the printable version of your label, right click, and select “Print.” You can also go to File/Print in your browser navigation bar, or hold down the Ctrl and P buttons on your keyboard. From the attachment in your email, click to view the web browser printable link, or save the labels to your computer.
Samaritan’s Purse delivers Follow Your Box labels to the email address associated with the online donation. There are a few reasons why you may not have received your labels. Unsubscribing from our emails, typing the email address incorrectly in payment, or email servers occasionally blocking incoming mail could all prevent label delivery. Also, check your spam folder or junk mail inbox. You may need to add firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com to your safe senders list. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 828-262-1980 if you need assistance.
You will receive one boy and one girl barcoded label that enables us to track each shoebox gift you pack. Your specific barcode is connected to your email address, so you can use this label for all of your shoeboxes. Please print or copy the label as many times as needed and attach one label to each of your shoeboxes.
You will receive one email per country where your gifts are delivered, not one email per shoebox. If you packed five boxes and all five were shipped to Panama, you will receive one email. If you packed five boxes and two were shipped to Panama and three were shipped to Mexico, you will receive two emails.
No. The barcode label indicates that the $7 per shoebox has already been donated online.
There is not an area of our website to enter your label number and “track” the progress of your boxes. Instead, you will receive an email from Samaritan’s Purse telling you the destination country of your shoeboxes. After you have attached your barcode label and taken your shoeboxes to your local drop-off site, you do not need to do anything except check your email. Most people who donate through Follow Your Box receive an email around the end of the year, but some go out until as late as February.
No, the barcode is associated with your email address. Even if your shoeboxes are shipped to different countries, you will still receive a notification email for each destination your boxes are sent.
Build a Shoebox OnlineWhat is Build a Shoebox Online?
You can still help share God’s love with children around the world even if you don’t have a way to shop for and pack an Operation Christmas Child shoebox gift. With a few clicks of your mouse or swipes on your touchscreen, you can build a shoebox online. Make it your own by choosing from a list of gifts, and adding a personal letter and photo. We’ll pack your shoebox and send it for you, for a suggested donation of just $25. You can access Build a Shoebox Online here.
Shoebox gifts can be built online here. We will automatically send a Follow Your Box notification to the email address associated with the donation. Many of our shoebox gifts built online are delivered to sensitive countries or hard to reach areas.
No, there is no way for us to designate the specific country to which the boxes will be sent.
Fast PassWhat is a FAST PASS?
A FAST PASS allows your group to expedite check in at the Processing Center and provides each group member with a printed name tag.
There are two qualifiers for a FAST PASS:
- Every member in a group must complete their online waiver before arriving at a Processing Center.
- A group size must match the number of reserved spots. If a reservation is for 10 spots, all 10 members must show up to be eligible for a FAST PASS. If a member is unable to attend, the reservation must be updated to reflect the new group size.
Reservations can be updated at www.occvolunteersignup.com.
Reservations can be updated any time before your selected date and time. You can even update your reservation before you leave for the Processing Center. If your group size decreases, it is critical to the operation of the Processing Center that you notify us so these spaces may be made available to volunteers on our waiting list. To increase your group size, check availability at www.occvolunteersignup.com.
When Volunteer Coordinators invite group members to join a reservation, an email is sent to each group member with a link that will guide them through submitting their waiver. In order for your group to qualify for a Fast Pass, all group members must complete their online waiver.
Volunteer Coordinators will receive an email with a QR Code when they have qualified for a FAST PASS. When your group arrives at the Processing Center, there will be a priority line where you can scan your QR Code and go straight to orientation.
About The Greatest JourneyWhat is The Greatest Journey?
The Greatest Journey is a discipleship experience offered by local churches to many of the children who receive shoebox gifts. The 12-lesson program introduces boys and girls to salvation through faith in Christ and encourages them to grow as faithful followers. This connects children to local churches who can, through discipling relationships, teach and nurture the children in faith.
The Greatest Journey is an investment not only in children, but also in the teachers and the local churches that can learn, grow, and continue to serve Christ with the momentum that is gained through the program. It takes $6 to provide a child the opportunity to participate in The Greatest Journey and receive discipleship materials, including a certificate and New Testament in their language. You can support The Greatest Journey here.