Lessons from OCC’s Boone Processing Center, Part III: “Finding” Money for Shoe Box Packing and Weird Stuff I Found in Boxes


I was pleased to spend each shift last week inspecting boxes to make sure no forbidden items were included. That was very instructive. I’ve already discussed how I’d undervalued the WOW item and I’ve mentioned that presentation of the gift really does make a difference. Today I’m going to talk first about ways to find money in your budget for shoe box packing. Then I’ll look at the the weird, crazy, useless stuff I found in boxes. Then we’ll look at Fillers.



New to OCC Shoe Box packing?

First, if you are new to Shoe Box packing, read this post and follow the links in it to the Operation Christmas Child website.


Finding Money for Shoe Box Packing

First of all, remember: One well-packed shoe box is a HUGE help. You need not break records for numbers of boxes packed. One box helps. Quality matters.

Three Ways I’m “Finding” Money This Year:

  1. My Swag Bucks Account. I’m not a huge Swag Bucks Points earner. The videos usually result in viruses and I’m not glued to social media to catch all the codes. That really doesn’t matter. I earn swag bucks by doing my Walmart and Old Navy shopping thru them. If I need to order anything else online I check the site first to see if the store participates. I also do the simple daily poll (1 question). I used to do the search but it seems to take ages to earn with that now. There are all kinds of bloggers who can teach you ways to maximize this (or any other system like this). Just Google it. I’m dedicating this to getting some cool toys for WOW items using Amazon Gift cards. Plus Amazon has great “Add on” items in toys as well–if you spend X amount you can add great toy X for $X. That sort of thing. If you are a Prime member (I’m not) there are also super toy deals just for members.
  2. My monthly Kroger Pharmacy $2 coupon. I get one of these on the paperwork that accompanies a monthly prescription. I usually just toss it in with the grocery coupons, but this year I’m using it either for on-sale school supplies or a discount on a better toy, stuffed animal, soap or soap containers (see this post for the type food container I now buy for soap in some boxes).
  3. Canceled Netflix. I’ll buy myself one month to binge a show I like, but that basically pays the suggested $9 donation for 11 boxes.

Other Ways To Find or Save Money for Shoe boxes

  1. The blogs Simply Shoeboxes and Shoebox Shoppers have other tips–CVS points and Walgreens deals and all that sort of thing. Susan at Girls in White Dresses told me that Menards often has tools for older boy boxes (see yesterday’s post) for free or almost free with rebates. Remember to save pads of paper, pens, good sturdy bags, water bottles, free make-up bags and things you receive at conferences or events–they can at least be filer items when needed. Also save extra kids party favors (always, always as “extra” in a box, clothing your kid didn’t want (that is appropriate) and similar.
  2. Hold a garage sale or sell on Ebay or Facebook or Craig’s List and apply your earnings to your shoe box fund.
  3. Ask friends,  co-workers, book club, etc to donate similar items or give you shoe boxes.
  4. Give up your Starbucks or after work beer with the guys or lunch out one day a week and put the money in a jar for shoe boxes.
  5. Make a meatless pancake dinner once a week instead of having fast food and put the money in a jar.
  6. Ask failed home sales people to donate APPROPRIATE Discovery Toys, Thirty-One bags or other appropriate products.
  7. Cancel the gym membership you never use or the over-price cable tv that you don’t need.
  8. Call Flo and see if you can reduce your car insurance.
  9. If money isn’t super tight look at the “You Saved X Much” on your grocery receipt and put that much cash away–you could easily buy in bulk with that!
  10. Transfer a prescription and use the amount saved on shoe box stuff.
  11. Apply all rebates earned to the shoe box fund.
  12. Dump your change in a jar for shoe box stuff–include any found in the washer!
  13. Say no to ridiculous birthday parties, bake a cake mix cake, and have kids bring pencils, sharpeners, crayons and notebooks instead of gifts.
  14. “Charge” admission to New Year’s or Super Bowl or 4th of July or whatever parties to be paid in shoe boxes, kids’s shirts, soap or whatever for shoe boxes.
  15. Sell or use gift cards you don’t want to buy shoe box stuff. Wal-mart buys cards.
  16. Say NO to one kid activity and put the cost in the shoe box fund. Remember to add the cost gas, uniform/shoes, supplies etc savings to the jar as well, if possible.
  17. Earn money doing online surveys and save the money (the blog Money Saving Mom has a list of safe, reputable companies who do this).
  18. Enter blog giveaways and do store surveys from your receipt to win gift cards to sell or use for shoe box supplies. Save any appropriate door prizes you win or, if cash or cards, use/sell for your shoe box fun.
  19. Have deposit on bottles in your state? Paid Recycling? Add that.
  20. Win at the Casino or lottery? Win at Bridge, Euchre or  Mahjongg club? Pay a sin tax into your shoe box fund. Even a $2 pay out on a scratch off will increase the fund!




The Worst Items I Found In Shoe Boxes

  1. Candy-sized balls of homemade soap wrapped like candy. [Thrown away until we each discovered there was a label–it was that small.]
  2. A partial package of kid-sized sack race sacks.
  3. An item that was either a tube top or a very tight infinity scarf.
  4. A used party banner.
  5. A newborn sized Onesie (age 2 is the earliest). I put it in for a new baby.
  6. A lady’s size XL active wear skort. [I’m hoping this was an accident–like maybe she exercised in the shoe box room and hubby was helping wrap up the final boxes and stuffed it in….]
  7. Whoopee Cushion
  8. A dirty fly swatter
  9. Ziplock bag full of gift bag confetti
  10. Poo Emoji item [Some cultures have strict rules about “poo” and would not be amused at all]
  11. Three printed paper napkins of dubious vintage
  12. A tube-top style ladies top with one shoulder strap
  13. Box consuming, chunky hand knit winter scarves****
  14. Huge packs of bar soap**** (2 kids got boxes with barely more than a 6 pack of soap!)
  15. Swim goggles****
  16. Very used shoes (more in another post)
  17. Multiple packages of Band Aids****
  18. A box of just Happy Meal Toys****
  19. Wet Wipes
  20. Deodorant
  21. Kleenex
  22. Bath poof-scrubbies (which DO make fun toys, but have you tried to use one with BAR SOAP??) No one would associate them with bathing. Maybe with scrubbing pans.

The scarves might be nice in Siberia or in an European refugee camp, but please wrap them tightly in Saran Wrap or stuff them into a Ziplock bag and suck the air out thru a straw. No one really wants just a scarf. A few that I saw were HUGE. Swim goggles? Really? They may not have enough water locally to bathe daily. No one is in danger of chlorine irritating their eyes. First World Item. Leave it at home. I don’t care if they were two pairs for a 25 cents. Happy Meal toys–sigh. ONE is plenty. More than one in a box ONLY if they are a set. Remove the packaging.  I’ll have more to say on these soon.

Please–hygiene items ARE very important. But send extra toothbrushes, not six bars of Zest! One, at most two, bars of soap is enough. A couple of Band-aides are fine, but give whole boxes of Band-Aides to medical missions. Most kids won’t know what they are.


These are the Holy Trinity of  First World Items and their use cannot be sustained. Plus all create trash which has nowhere to go. I cannot believe they are even suggested. Deodorant contains dangerous chemicals if a toddler eats it. Does your 3 year old wear it? I found some in a 2-4 year old box and several in age 5-9 year olds’ boxes. 14 year-olds in Burkina Faso or Suriname don’t use it. All three of these products are best  donated to local food pantries, homeless shelters and/or domestic disaster relief.

Whenever possible REMOVE ALL PACKAGING

Do you want a child’s joy destroyed by maiming Barbie trying to yank her out of our absurd packaging? There is no garbage truck coming around to take this junk away. It also costs a lot of extra money to ship it. Remove it unless it provides storage for the product–a crayon box is a good example. Remember, you are not mailing these personally, so you are not subject to the whims of an individual customs examiner wanting to extort import duties! Packaging just adds expense to the shipping. If you are worried of it breaking (it won’t if it isn’t crap) then wrap it in a clothing item or washcloth or pack it in a storage container that can be reused. A well-packed box is too full for things to break!


Photo logo OCC 250x250(1)


4 thoughts on “Lessons from OCC’s Boone Processing Center, Part III: “Finding” Money for Shoe Box Packing and Weird Stuff I Found in Boxes

  1. New items in packaging: I suspect that many people were worried like I was about the Barbie thing. Yes, it needs to be new stuff, BUT, I worried that if not new in packaging, someone at the sorting center might think it was a used item (no winning, lol). No thoughts about lack of refuse pick up goes into the thinking process.

    The used shoes….I can’t even.

    The goggles…that one, well, until last year, I would have agreed with you. Except, last year, my boxes stayed here in the USA and went to a Reservation. Children in the USA DO use goggles. Only way I can get G3 to put his head under water (sensory issues…). I suspect, if they end up in a box, they are meant for someone. I know other boxes have ended up going to what some would think of 2nd world countries and the children were trying to figure out why they got toothpaste & toothbrushes, etc. in their boxes because they already had those things in their homes.

    There is no winning, lol!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. LOL–my own opinions. But no, packaging isn’t how they tell if its “new”. You can TELL right off if it is used. Trust me. lol…. Goggles aren’t the worst–I am just trying to point out a few things its ok to skip. I really can’t show how much the WOW item matters when you open that box. It really DOES make the experience. And, yes on the 2nd World, but they too can play them forward to charity! lol…. And, many, many of the boxes go straight to orphanges or very impoverished school groups or churches in 2nd world countries. As we discovered with our local charity, there were plenty of kids in rural ohio who didn’t have a toothbrush, or underwear or swim goggles (log) or whatever. That charity gets a lot of me, too!!! Local disasters, national disasters, homeless shelters 80-100% free reduced lunch schools, all NEED these things, too. So, those swim goggles (I’m beating a dead horse!) could be VERY appreciated at Head Start or for special outings for impoverished kids or for free swimming lessons for underprivileged kids right here at home. It’s cool that your box went to a reservation. That’s a very, very impoverished and under served community here that deserves all kinds of aid. Tomorrow you’ll get to hear about filler….


  2. I love these posts! One thing I learned from you this year was to remove packaging. What you say makes sense. I think I was just thinking the packaging said “new” to someone. It’s hard to know what someone else is thinking — esp. someone in a totally different culture! I’ve always included kids’ meal toys because honestly I love most of them and think they’re cute (well, some aren’t). I’ll have to re-think that one too! Ugh on some of the items you found in boxes!


    1. Tomorrow we’ll talk about Filler items and later on I’ll post about fast food toys. Some ARE cute and fine. Some aren’t. And, as always, these are MY opinions, based on MY experience. Later in the year I’ll even be showing a few examples of packing a WOW item for less trash but maximum impact for the recipient.


I enjoy reading your comments!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s