drrrrrrrrrr….and the announcement is…..320 Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes delivered this year, thanks to generous friends.
Age 2 – 4 32 63 95
Age 5 – 9 64 97 161
Age 10 – 14 33 31 64
Totals 129 191 320
That “generous friends” phrase isn’t an empty, oh-isn’t-that-nice acknowledgement. It’s the truth. This would not happen with a whole lot of other people. You know who you are.
Why was this year so big as compared to 2013 (234), or 2012 (185?) I think because: (1) We had odds and ends left over from previous years that we purposed to use. (2) 2014 was “the year of the elephant,” which I will explain momentarily. (3) We had a lot of very generous donations from a wide variety of friends.
We bag all cloth items to keep them clean, plus, the ziplock bags are a much-valued part of the gift. This year, Lisa and Mimi donated about 200 wash rags, so, we collected hotel soaps to go with them. (Note: Doing that in 2015, too, so please bring home those little bars!) My friend Paula and her daughter Kelley do 99% of the dirt work of bagging. It’s really tedious work, and really necessary, and deserves much more than the “thanks” given here. Anyway…..we discovered that one bag on the soap-wrapped-wash-rags wasn’t enough. The soap smell still came through, and threatened to ruin the taste of the candy to come later. So young friends Mabry and Olivia added a second bag over the first. The air has to be squeezed out – not quick.
Julia and friend Abby tackled school supplies single-handedly one Sunday afternoon. Pens, pencils, note pads, etc. all separated. We had a great supply of “One Direction” pens, pencils and note pads at Target 70% off – Keith and I bought all they had, and skimmed them out for the Boys/Girls ages 10 – 14.
My friend of almost 40 years – Shelley – was the first to tackle the elephant herd. A friend gave us hundreds of stuffed elephants leftover from an event. Cute! Plush! Lovely! But too big for the boxes. So Keith thought of running them through our (now groaning) vacuum food sealer. It took about five minutes to shrink an elephant in a custom-cut bag. At lunch time, I gave Shelley what I was eating (a flat bread and salad). When Hannah found out I hadn’t bought her lunch out, she said, “I don’t understand why Shelley still speaks to you.” I replied, “Remember I’ve known her more than twice as long as I’ve known you.” Shelley also did much of the organizing required in our packing area (game room), which is no fun at all.
Friends Steve and Jo drove in from Houston to do more dirt work, i.e., shrinking the elephant herd, as well as filling toddler bottles with candy (nothing ships empty), and stuffing “littles” into boxes. Steve was the pastor of my growing-up church in Houston, and was kind enough not to share too many insights into my past. I’ll mail you that dollar later, Steve.
A herd of elephants a la vacuum sealer. Takes about 5 minutes to shrink an elephant – not counting the time to cut and seal the bag.
Julia and her best friend Toni packed the first boxes for girls ages 5 -9. They’re both experienced pros. Two weeks ago, they helped me figure out how many plastic shoe boxes we actually had, and pre-fill them with a bag of some sort, and a Christmas greeting. GREAT NEWS – It would appear Samaritan’s Purse is going to standardize the plastic shoe box – see it here.
We packed two evenings, and one afternoon, plus all the last-minute stuff on Saturday. We had some really neat, unusual stuff this year like….
Sewing kits for girls. Genius!
And spoons. We’ve had neat toddler silverware sets before – had many this year – but why did nobody ever think of spoons before Lisa? So smart. The “Go Packs” (crayons, activity book) shown on the left were quite awesome, and we had a lovely variety.
First time to have three generations packing! Cathy, Amy and Amy’s daughters Abby and Emmy. They are w-o-r-k-e-r-s.
Filling the boxes!
Friend Stephanie has five kids, and is adopting three more from Ukraine, but still squeezed in an afternoon’s packing. When something needs to be done, ask the busiest people. Truth.
They also serve who cannot pack – like Amy, who dropped by cases of drinks on a precious Sunday afternoon, and had plastic shoe boxes delivered here. Plus the shipping money! Omigosh, this literally would not happen without that. Yes, my kitchen looked like this. It was the maid’s month off.
Friend Kelley invested hundreds of hours this year melting and re-forming broken crayons into……
….much smaller crayons, and novelties like wax rings and small airplanes. What a win – for the environment, and for the kids who get them. Kelley worked on crayons all year, in spite of surgery and therapies. You can’t keep a good woman down! Note: Broken crayons are appreciated any time you can donate! We’ll be doing this in 2015, too.
Candy. Oh, candy – I so screwed up this year, though Bart (a.k.a., “The Candy Man” on the right) and other friends were kind enough not to guilt me. A few friends donated bags in advance – very helpful, since we had toddler water bottles to fill, and I couldn’t afford to buy the candy until Saturday (the day after Halloween.) Okay, got those done. Then our church was kind enough to give me the non-chocolate candy after our Fall Festival – two nice big shopping bags of it. Awesome! Knew we needed more, so Keith and I bought nine gynormous bags at Wal-mart early Saturday. I totally miscalculated, though, and….
….I had to ask poor Hannah to dash out Saturday and buy 18 more bags, while everyone waited. And ate doughnuts and drank Cokes, and waited….embarrassed me no end to waste people’s time. Never again. I’ll buy literally double what I think we need and return the remainder if needed. And the worst part? Our last box – Boy, 5 – 9 – is the first, last and ONLY box we’ve ever sent or will send without candy. There was just no easy way to retrieve boxes loaded in the car and re-shuffle contents. So I am counting on Samaritan’s Purse to fix that in the Distribution Center. Dumb!!! Thanks Jay, Angela and Robbin for not handing me my head.
Hannah – a business major at UTSA – was the last stop in the packing chain. She did a final check of all boxes, and kept the stroke sheet. Nothing left the house without her okay.
Our good neighbor Kim – with her child’s mind and faith – never, ever fails to “come to help” when she sees activity at our house. No one would press Kim to contribute. No one would fault her for not helping. But she offers. I have always found it interesting that the people who have some of the best reasons not to do something are often the ones who do the most. It’s kind of like asking the busiest people to do something.
I adore young legs. They carry boxes out to the car with smiles.
Keith played “Expedition Tetris” and managed to wedge in all 320 boxes. I was incredulous. But now I know how to answer if anyone asks me the capacity of the 2011 Expedition. It’s 320 shoe boxes!
Unloading at church Sunday – everybody coming in grabbed a stack including our children’s minister, Ms. Reby. She leads by example.
Keith asked young friend Copeland to climb in the back and keep handing out boxes after he’d cleared an arm’s length. Keith then rolled down a side passenger window and started grabbing them out of it.
Finally dropped off! Again – love those young legs!
From here, our 320 boxes will be packed into crates (usually 14 – 18 boxes per crate) and trucked to a warehouse on the south side. At the warehouse, the crates will be shrink-wrapped into pallets and loaded onto an 18-wheeler for Denver. And from Denver, they’ll be flown to needy children somewhere in the world. And those plastic shoe boxes are likely to be carrying water.
Unique in 2014: Much more for toddlers, and older kids. The elephant herd. Spoons, sewing kits, abundance of playing cards, plastic whistles, washrags/soap. Three generations of packers. The one box without candy because I’m an idiot (sniff.)
There’s no way to list everyone who helped. You know who you are, and so does God. You’ll never get a “thanks” from the child who gets a pencil and can now return to school, or the toddler with AIDS who dies with that stuffed elephant clutched in his fist. Of course, you weren’t asking for thanks anyway, or you’d be doing something flashy instead of haunting the Target Dollar Spot, or scouring eBay, or sacrificing money for shipping when there are things you’d like to have yourself. Like this hypothetical, and I’m not mentioning a hypothetical name – someone who has a 10-year-cancer-free check-up and decides instead of (rightfully!) spending money on herself, to give. You amaze me.
I had a very strong feeling this year about Girls 10 – 14 – a real “burning in the bosom.” I felt it off and on through the year, and almost constantly when we packed. In fact – I packed most of the Girls 10 – 14 boxes myself, because I felt driven to do so. I think there’s something special for some girl somewhere in one of those boxes. I don’t say this to be dramatic – I have four daughters, I hate drama. I’ll never know who got the box, or why it was important. But I think it was.
The 320 is great….but….it’s never been about the number, and it never will be. It’s about doing as many boxes as we’re supposed to do. This year, it was 320. Next year – don’t know. But please keep saving your hotel soaps, and grabbing those broken crayons.
Because – God willing – we’ll be doing it again. In fact….I can hear the drum beating now…