Saturday, December 6, 2008

Operation Christmas Child Distribution Center

I had the opportunity on Thursday to travel to Atlanta with my church to the Warehouse where the Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes are sent. This warehouse is one of their six distribution sites. This site will send out approximately 500,000 boxes this year. The boxes are headed to India, Ghana and Benin. We were trained for 30 minutes and worked for 3 1/2 hours. We worked with several people who came as individuals to volunteer and a group from the Chick Fil A corporate offices. There were many other churches there working other "lines". There was even a youth group working. It was an incredible experience. I recommend anyone who has ever packed a shoebox to do this at least once. It helps you understand that your little box is definitely part of something HUGE. This is our one of our Co-Pastors (Bro. Jim) working to collect the boxes once they are sorted by gender. We were working the line for 10 - 14 year old children. When he received the box they were ready to put into a container / box. The goal is to get 14 shoe boxes in a box.
If you had a box that was broken, you were to give it to a red or blue shirted person (they represent the staff). It would then be taken to the Shoe Box Hospital where the ladies there would repair them or find them a new box.
There were pallets and pallets of shoe boxes. It was so AMAZING! I was so overwhelmed.

I worked as an Inspector of the boxes (the step before inspection is pre-sort, where the donation of $7 is taken out and placed in a trunk). My job was to go through the box and make sure all of the items deemed "inappropriate" were taken out. Items that were inappropriate included (but not limited to- not sure I remember everything, glad there was a chart).
liquid items -you do not want the box content to be ruined if it busts in shipping
breakable items or razors -they do not want a child to reach into their box and possibly get cut
camouflage items -unless they are the girl colors
war related items -guns, planes with army on it
real money -children could be hurt by someone trying to steal their money
play money -they might think it is real since they do not know what our money looks like
Pokemon or Harry Potter - the Nationals in many countries have asked this not be included
snakes - they are looked at differently in other countries (if in pack, it was opened & removed)
food- attracts bugs while in shipping
chocolate - melts (tootsie rolls included - however, colored tootsie rolls okay)
Vitamins or medicine - because it has an expiration date
aerosols - because of it's potential to explode in shipment or when they open it
As you can see this person had a great idea in helping ALL their items fit into the box- they included what to do with this teddy bear!
I was very impressed with the "integrity of the box" talk. We were reminded several times that other than the items deemed not appropriate, all items were to be put back in the box. It was our job to get it all back in and then tape the box up. They mentioned numerous times the integrity of each box was important because the person who packed the box expected that child to get ALL the things in the box. We were not to make judgement calls if we thought they had to much or if the item was appropriate for that age. They indicated they believe God take care of all that on the other end. For example they shared the following- In a box for a 10 -14 year old girl there was a dress for a one year old little girl. However, when this girl received her box they discovered ALL she asked for or wanted for Christmas was a dress for her one year old sister. Isn't God good?

Friends from church working on the boxes. For those wondering, if we had to take things out of a box there were fillers - school supplies, flip flops, candy, etc.

It was all so organized- the boxes behind us, space to walk, containers for our rubber bands we take off, containers in the floor for the things deemed "inappropriate" (meaning items removed from boxes), garbage bags attached to our work stations, tape dispensers with extra rolls of tape, the little roller thing we put our finished boxes on and the filler items. We worked 3 to a table, and their were numerous tables on our line as well as people across from us. If you are wondering where all the inappropriate things go - to children in need in Atlanta. Most of the items I saw go into these buckets as inappropriate were liquids and tootsie rolls. Lots of lotions, shampoos, conditioners, lip gloss and deodorants. Toothpaste on the other hand is okay.
They provided a breakroom where you could get water and juice free. There were vending machines and an area selling Chick Fil A. They also provided microwaves and many workers and volunteers had brought their lunch. We met one of the workers at lunch. He began working there through a temp agency in Atlanta. He had spent the last year in Iraq as a contractor. He had never heard of Operation Christmas Child before coming to work there. He thought it was a really neat ministry to help others. It was then I realized that another part of Samaritan's Purse was to those who came to work for them.
One neat aspect of this day for me was the two times they asked everyone in the warehouse to stop working! The Christmas music stopped. They ask you to tell your neighbors "I love Shoe boxes!" They ask you to pick up the box you are working on or are getting ready to work on. They ask you to get to know it- boy, girl and age of the child to receive it. They then ask you to put in both your hands, bring it to your chest and hug it. They ask you to pray for this child and for the shoebox to impact the child's life. Then there is someone who led in a corporate prayer. It was a very emotional but worshipful time for me.

I came home so excited that my husband, father, mother and two sisters have all agreed to take off work next year and go down and work a day. I believe they begin scheduling people to work on August 1st each year. Anyone 13 and older can volunteer. It was a neat experience. They were so nice and gave each person working a t-shirt and an ornament that will help you spread the excitement of shoe boxes!

The one last thing I would like to share with you is a new way to give to Operation Christmas Child. This is where you give online through EZ give. You are able to make your donation online at and print out an EZ give receipt. You attach it to your box top and are able to follow your box. You know when it was packed at the warehouse and when it was received by a child - as well as where it went. I thought that was SO cool. I didn't realize this was an option but will definitely choose this option next year!
If you didn't pack a shoebox this year - would you please consider it next year?
Everyone needs to remember that Christmas is more about giving than getting! Are you reaching out to those around you this season?
Merry Christmas!


Hadias said...

Hey Mrs.Tara

I agree that Publix is a bit pricier but you get what you pay for. My publix has outstanding customer service, but then the one only 10 minutes away is terrible. So my saying may not ring true.

In order mostly/only sale items at Publix. I head straight for BOGO free items and stack my coupons. I end up paying pennies for a good deal of items.

The vaccum sealed teddy bear made me tear up. My Sunday school class donated 25 as a class last year and our church donated over 1000.

It was a great opportunity to be able to see where everything gets processed. A true blessing it is to give. This year I am stockpiling much of my grocery/drugstore savings to donate to local shelters for women and children.

If you ever have a question about weekly deals at Publix just shoot me an email or leave a comment. I usually post the weekly deals that I'm going to snag. Consider subscribing in order to stay up to date with sales and deals.

maximamom said...

I stumbled on your blog when googling the Atlanta Operation Child Distribution Center. The church I attend in Louisiana would like to send a team this year to help. Your information and pictures were wonderful. I was wondering if you could provide me with any other information about how your group actually signed up to volunteer. I recieved information from Samaritin's Purse and it was for an individual volunteer, not a group. Thanks for posting your information and God Bless.