Operation Christmas Child Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Christmas Child

Project Overview

What is Operation Christmas Child?

Operation Christmas Child is a project of Samaritan’s Purse, an international relief organization. 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.

Can I find out where my shoebox is sent?

Yes! You can discover the destination country of your shoebox gift by making your $10 per shoebox suggested donation online. Activate your shoebox tracking label at samaritanspurse.org/activate or print your own label by donating on our Labels Landing Page.

Who started Operation Christmas Child?

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 220 million children in more than 170 countries and territories.

Why shoebox gifts?

Shoebox gifts demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to children in need around the world. By partnering with the local church worldwide, each shoebox gift is a powerful tool for sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ.

What happens after my shoebox gift is delivered?

Local ministry partners distribute your gifts 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, ministry partners are able to establish long-term, caring relationships with children and families, sharing the love of Jesus Christ. Learn more about how God is using Operation Christmas Child in the work of evangelism, discipleship, and the multiplication of believers.

Are gifts delivered by Christmas?

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 may be delayed due to complex international shipping procedures. They may not clear customs in receiving countries until spring. In addition, many countries that receive shoebox 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!

Can I sponsor the child who received my shoebox gift?

Operation Christmas Child is unable to facilitate this; however, you are welcome to include personal contact information at your own discretion in hopes of establishing communication with the child who receives your gift. With a $6 donation to The Greatest Journey, you can also sponsor one shoebox recipient’s complete participation in our follow-up discipleship program, including workbook, graduation certificate, and a copy of the New Testament written in his or her own language. Samaritan’s Purse also has a gift catalog with a variety of items that support the needs of children and families outside of shoebox gifts.

Global Influence of Operation Christmas Child

Who delivers shoebox gifts?

Operation Christmas Child is a global program facilitated through hundreds of thousands of trained volunteers. Local believers in more than 170 countries deliver Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts, present the Gospel, and facilitate our follow-up discipleship program, The Greatest Journey.

With this approach, local Christians who know the culture and language best are given effective resources with a solid biblical foundation to share the Gospel in their communities. We equip ministry partners—local pastors or church leaders—to be our volunteer representatives by providing thorough, detailed training for them to be able to facilitate a shoebox outreach event and present the Gospel.

Trained National Leadership Team members, ministry partners, and The Greatest Journey teachers are volunteer roles filled exclusively by these national Christians. To learn more about these roles, visit our Volunteer Network page.

How do shoebox gifts impact local economies?

The mission of Operation Christmas Child is to provide local churches who are our ministry partners around the world with shoebox gifts as a way to reach children in their communities. For many children, this is the first gift they will ever receive. More important than the items inside the shoebox, the gifts are an opportunity to share God’s love—and the Good News of Jesus Christ—with children in need.

In each shoebox receiving country, we partner with a National Leadership Team that consists of year-round volunteers from various church denominations. Together, they strategize how to reach children in their country with the Gospel. It is our desire to give one shoebox to a child in his or her lifetime, and this is the model used in our training. Local churches distribute shoebox gifts to children in different communities each year to avoid giving the same children gifts year after year. Because of this strategy, the economic impact on a community is minimal and allows us to reach millions of new children every year with the Good News of Jesus Christ. We disciple thousands of these boys and girls each year, with millions now sharing their faith with their friends, family, and beyond.

According to Henry Manthanamba, Operation Christmas Child prayer coordinator in Malawi, “If shoebox gifts impacted our local economy negatively, the government would never allow them. They see it as a blessing to the children of Malawi.”

How do shoebox gifts impact the local church?

In more than 170 receiving countries, shoebox gifts are used by local Christians as a strategy for evangelism, discipleship, and the multiplication of believers and churches in their communities. More important than the items inside the shoebox, the gifts are an opportunity to share God’s love—and the Good News of Jesus Christ—with children in need. Local Christians who know the culture and language best are given effective resources in their own language and a solid Biblical foundation so that they can communicate the Gospel within their own communities through shoebox outreach events and The Greatest Journey discipleship program.

For example, in Fiji, a pastor hosted an Operation Christmas Child shoebox outreach event in a rural community that had no church. He then invited the children to attend The Greatest Journey follow-up discipleship program. As the students gathered for the discipleship lessons, their parents grew curious and began attending, too. The village elder became a believer and offered his property as a place for the new church to meet. Today 80 people attend regularly, and five additional churches have been started in surrounding villages! This is one example of over 1,000 churches planted annually as a result of Operation Christmas Child in regions where we work.

The evangelism and discipleship resources utilized by Operation Christmas Child were intentionally developed with input from local believers in 16 countries, from six continents, and are specifically focused on children.

In the 11 countries where shoebox gifts are packed, Operation Christmas Child provides an opportunity for participants to be a part of fulfilling the Great Commission. Jesus said “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). In this church-to-church ministry model, churches who pack shoebox gifts partner with local churches around the world as they share God’s love with children in need and provide follow-up discipleship through The Greatest Journey.

How are different cultures and local contexts incorporated into shoebox distribution events?

More than 81,000 pastors and church leaders share the Gospel every year at outreach events where shoebox gifts are delivered. The shoebox outreach events are planned and implemented by volunteers in the local church who know the culture and language best. Through our volunteer National Leadership Team, local believers are trained to present the Gospel in a child friendly way. We work with the volunteer National Leadership Team to develop an annual strategy for evangelism, discipleship, and multiplication of believers and churches in their communities.

Do children have to say or do anything to receive a shoebox gift?

Shoebox gifts are given to children regardless of their gender, ethnicity, or faith. We seek to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way through each shoebox gift. Children do not have to do or say anything to receive the gifts. We work in and through local Christians in each country who understand the context in their area. Simple gifts—packed with love in Jesus’ Name—deliver hope and joy to children all around the world, regardless of their faith or religious background.

How does a shoebox gift impact a child in need?

Operation Christmas Child is not intended as a solution for meeting physical needs, but rather a strategy for the local church to meet spiritual needs of children in their communities. The unexpected gift delights and sparks hope in the life of a child as they hear of Jesus’ love for them. Shoebox gifts are given freely in Jesus’ Name.

Is this project forcing religion on the child who gets a gift?

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 volunteers in each country who understand the local culture and 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 want them to know they are loved. Boys and girls do not have to do or say anything to receive their gifts.

Packing Your Shoebox

Packing and Delivery

How do I pack my shoebox gift?

You can learn all about how to pack a shoebox gift. This includes what kind of box to use, which items can and can’t be included, how to label your gift, and where and when to drop it off near you.

Where can I get a box to fill?

You can use any empty shoebox or shoebox-sized plastic container. Operation Christmas Child also has red and green preprinted boxes that are available to order year-round.

What items are allowed in my shoebox gift?

See our lists of suggested items for shoebox gifts and also learn which items should not be included.

Where do I get shoebox labels?

Learn more about your shoebox label options on our Labels landing page.

What is the $10 suggested donation per box?

The $10 per shoebox is a suggested donation. This amount is critical to cover project costs involved in collecting, processing, and shipping your shoebox gifts to over 170 countries. It also provides for ministry materials such as The Greatest Gift Gospel Booklet and The Ministry Partner Guide. We encourage those who are unable to include $10 per box to consider asking a group in their church or a family member to sponsor this part of the shoebox gift. Learn more about what the $10 covers.

What is the best way to give the $10 suggested donation per box?

For easiest processing, we recommend you give your $10 suggested donation per shoebox online. To do this, Follow Your Box or visit our Ways to Give page. Or, if you have a copy of the How to Pack a Shoebox brochure—available from our free materials—use the enclosed postage-paid envelope to mail us a check. If none of these options work for you, you can always include your donation in your shoebox gift and it will be collected during processing.

Where should I take my packed shoebox gift?

We open thousands of drop-off locations across the United States during National Collection Week, the third week in November each year, so there should be one near you. You can also physically drop off shoebox gifts year-round at any one of our Ministry Centers. Only our Boone and Charlotte locations are able to accept mailed gifts. For more drop-off information and addresses, visit our drop-off location landing page.

When is the deadline for sending my shoebox gift to you?

Thousands of drop-off locations open across the country during National Collection Week, the third week in November every year. Our next National Collection Week will take place Nov. 18–25, 2024. You can also physically drop off shoebox gifts year-round at any one of our Ministry Centers. Only our Boone and Charlotte locations are able to accept mailed gifts. For more drop-off information and addresses, visit our drop-off location landing page.

Do you redistribute items in the boxes if they are too full?

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. Any items that must be removed because they cannot be shipped are donated to local charities who have a need for these items. We do not empty and repack your gifts, nor do we remove items from a very full shoebox to help fill another. There are buckets of items at each processing station donated specifically for the purpose of filling shoebox gifts in need of something more.

Where do the shoebox gifts go?

Receiving countries vary from year to year. If you make your $10 per shoebox suggested donation online by either activating your shoebox tracking labels or ordering printable Follow Your Box tracking labels to attach to your gifts, you can discover the destination country of your shoebox gifts! A more complete list of receiving countries is available.

Can I select where my shoebox gift is sent?

Each year we collect and distribute millions of shoebox gifts in nearly 170 countries and territories. 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 in advance. We can assure you that whoever receives your box will both need and appreciate your gift.

Can I tape my box shut?

We prefer that you secure your shoebox gifts with rubber bands. This way gifts can be processed more efficiently at our Processing Centers. If wrapping your gift, be sure to wrap the box and lid separately so that it can be easily opened without ruining the wrapping.

Do items need to stay in their original packaging?

No, you’re welcome to remove any item from its original packaging in order to better fit these items into your shoebox gifts.

Gift Suggestions

These frequently addressed items ARE allowed in shoebox gifts:

playing cards
batteries (in original packaging or with both ends taped)
wet wipes or plain alcohol wipes
toy spiders/bugs/snakes
superheroes or other licensed characters
items with company logos
all types of scissors
squirt guns (that don’t look like real guns)
glow sticks
compact mirrors
lip balm (non-medicated)
playdough (store bought)
solid stick deodorant
makeup (non-liquid)
adhesive bandages (non-medicated)
disposable or reusable feminine hygiene products
eating utensils
Bibles or other religious literature or symbols

Want to check on another item? Use our Gift Look-up Tool.

These frequently addressed items ARE NOT allowed in shoebox gifts:

scary items (things that will frighten a child rather than bring joy)
war-related items (such as toy soldiers, military vehicles, or wearable camouflage)
liquid paint sets or liquid glue
rubber balls with liquid filling
liquid lip gloss
matches or fire starters
sand/rocks/shells gathered from nature
all types of food, candy, or gum
medications or vitamins
nail polish
money or play money
baby powder
baking soda
liquids or lotions
breakable items or glass containers
aerosol cans
used clothing or toys

Want to check on another item? Use our Gift Look-up Tool.

These frequently addressed items may or may not be allowed in shoebox gifts.

Camouflage or Military-Related Items: Wearable traditional camouflage is not allowed; pink or bright colored camouflage is OK. Camouflage pencils or other non-wearable items are likely fine to include. The words “Army,” “Navy,” etc. are also acceptable when not part of a wearable camouflage item or a military-related toy. Military games like Battleship® should be avoided.

Tool Kits; Multi-tools (No Blades): Tool kits are not recommended for shoebox gifts. Most standalone tools are OK to include, with the exception of knives, saws, or razor blades. Hammers, nails, screwdrivers, etc. are fine to include. Entire tool kits can create importation challenges, which are avoidable by opting to pack other toys instead of tools.

Fishing and Sewing Kits: Small fishing and sewing kits are fine to include in shoebox gifts. It is acceptable to upcycle clean label-free bottles, such as prescription bottles, to be used as containers for your kits. Small fishing hooks and sewing pins and needles are all fine to include in your kits.

Homemade Maracas, Bean Bags, or Stuffed Toys: Any homemade items with filling MUST have synthetic filling such as plastic beads or pellets. Rice, beans, rocks, aquarium gravel, sand, wood pellets, or any other organic filling are not allowed. A note regarding filling can be included for clarification during processing.

Seashells: Store-bought items such as jewelry, picture frames, or other décor that include shells should be fine to include. Seashells that were collected from nature, even when cleaned and polished, are not allowed in order to comply with customs regulations that prohibit this type of item from entering the country.

Playdough, Slime, and Sand: Commercially packaged playdough, slime, or kinetic sand are fine to include in shoebox gifts. Homemade playdough and slime are not considered appropriate. Packaged synthetic play sand shouldn’t create any problems.

Soap: At this time, there are no specific requirements for packing bar soap, but it’s worth noting that bar soap has become an item of increasing regulatory concern. It’s best to keep soap in original packaging with an expiration date of at least six months after National Collection Week. For the same reason, homemade bar soap is discouraged. That said, at this time, all types of bar soap are acceptable to pack, regardless of what kind or how it is packed. The only reason soap may need to be removed would be in the unlikely event it has grown mold or mildew, rendering it unsafe to send. This is a rare occurrence but can happen when soap and washcloths are placed together in air tight containers or plastic bags and stored at temperatures or in conditions ideal for organic growth.

Chapstick and Deodorant: Solid, non-medicated lip balms and deodorants are fine to include in shoebox gifts. Look for red flags such as drug facts with active ingredients of medication, which is not allowed in shoebox gifts. Liquid lip glosses or gel deodorants should not be packed into shoebox gifts.

Alcohol Wipes and Bandages: Plain alcohol wipes and adhesive bandages are fine to include in shoebox gifts. Avoid any bandages that are pre-medicated with antibiotic ointments. The word “antibacterial” does not necessarily indicate whether or not a bandage can be included. Consider packing fun, colorful bandages that the child might be more excited to see in their shoebox gift.

Bugs, Snakes, etc. Toy bugs and snakes, etc. are all fine to include in shoebox gifts. Avoid including items that might reasonably scare a child when opening the gift such as a frightening mask or grotesque toy. Understand that volunteers who process your gifts may retain a bit of personal discretion when considering what makes the item scary. We encourage you to pray over the decision to pack the item in question.

Any further questions regarding a specific item may be e-mailed to occinfo@samaritan.org

For a list of recommended items, see our Gift Suggestions PDF.

Shoebox Labels

Labels Overview

How do I get a label?

Visit our Labels landing page to see the different ways you can indicate the gender and age intended for your gift. If you make your suggested $10 donation online, you can Follow Your Box and discover the country destination of your shoebox gift.

  1. Adhesive labels are available in sets of 50. The whole set can be activated by scanning or entering the code of just one label. The item still serves as a shoebox label even if it is not activated for tracking with your donation.
  2. If you choose a printable QR-coded label, it will be displayed on the payment confirmation screen and delivered to you via email from Samaritan’s Purse (updates@e.samaritan.org).
  3. Each How to Pack a Shoebox brochure, available to order from our free materials also comes with a shoebox label ready to attach to your gift. You can still discover the country destination of your gift by scanning its QR code and giving your $10 suggested donation online. Or, if you prefer, you can use the label without its tracking feature and mail your donation in the enclosed postage-paid envelope.
  4. You can also print basic labels here. These labels that do not have a QR scanning code can’t be used for tracking. However, we still recommend you give your $10 suggested donation online via our Ways to Give page, or mail a check to our headquarters at PO Box 3000, Boone, NC 28607. You can also learn more about why $10 is critical to the project.
What is Follow Your Box?

Follow Your Box describes the feature available to you when you use a QR-coded shoebox tracking label. By making a donation online to activate a shoebox label or receive a printable label, you can discover the destination country of your gifts.

How do I attach the label for tracking?

Be sure to attach your label to the lid of your shoebox gift before you drop it off. We don’t recommend taping directly over the QR scanning code as this may create problems with the scanner’s ability to read the code. Remember it’s best to adhere your label on the lid of your shoebox, preferably toward one end (away from the center) of the box. In the Processing Centers, boxes are taped in the middle, so proper placement eliminates taping over the labels.

Printable Shoebox Tracking Labels

How do I print my labels?

After making your $10 suggested donation online, you should be able to view your label from the confirmation screen. We will also send you an email with a link to your labels later. 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 + P buttons on your keyboard. Print or save the labels to your computer.

If you don’t have access to a printer, you may try asking at a local library or office supply store if they are able to print the labels for you, or email them to a friend or family member who can help you print.

I ordered printable labels but only received one code. Is this correct?

Yes, we will only generate one new code for each individual transaction. The code on your label is associated with your email address, so each time your specific code is scanned, your information will be updated in the shoebox tracking tool. Even though you have multiple gifts, they are all trackable with the same coded label. That said, each new destination country will appear only once per year in the tracking tool, so if all of your gifts are sent to only one or two countries, only those countries will appear. We are not able to let you know exactly which gift was sent to which country. If you’d like to have unique label codes generated for your different gifts in order to track them individually, please email info@samaritan.org or try our new adhesive tracking labels. These come with unique codes for every label but must be activated online in order to be searchable in the tracking tool.

Why haven't I received my email receipt and/or copy of my label to print?

Samaritan’s Purse sends an email receipt with a copy of your shoebox tracking label to the email address entered when making the suggested donation online. Please note that when you donate via PayPal the electronic receipt will be sent to your PayPal email address. Refresh the inbox of the email address you used to complete the online donation and search for an email from updates@e.samaritan.org. Be sure to check your spam folder or junk mail inbox for the email. You may need to add Samaritan’s Purse info@samaritan.org and updates@e.samaritan.org to your safe senders list to ensure you will receive communication from us. If you still can’t locate your email receipt and tracking label, email occinfo@samaritan.org or call 1-800-353-5949 and a representative will help you obtain a new copy of your label.

Why can't I activate my printed shoebox tracking label with the 15-character code?

Label activation is only required for adhesive shoebox labels or those cut out from the back of our brochure. If you make your $10 suggested donation online to receive a printable tracking label, your label with the 15-character code is already activated and associated with your email address. Just print this label and attach the label to your shoebox gift before you leave it at a local drop-off location, and we will scan your gift to let you know where it is sent this year.

Adhesive Shoebox Tracking Labels

How do I get adhesive labels?

Visit our labels landing page to order adhesive labels in sets of 50.

How do I activate my labels?

To activate your label(s), scan the QR code with your smartphone camera or QR scanning app, and follow the pop-up link to the website. Your label will automatically appear in your cart for checkout. You can add more labels to your cart by scanning more QR codes, or by manually entering the nine-digit code on each one.

Can I activate entire packs of 50 labels at once?

Yes! You can make one combined donation for all 50 labels. Simply scan one label and select the option to activate the whole pack. If you need to make the donation for 100 or more labels at once, more than one set of 50 can be entered at a time. Just scan one label from each pack and choose to activate the whole pack to add a new pack of labels to your cart. Even if you only use some of the labels now, all are activated to your email address for tracking and can be used at another time.

I put the label on my box but do not get results in the tracking tool.

There are a couple possibilities here. Either your label was damaged or activation was not completed. Be sure you are entering the same email address used to complete the online activation donation or the correct alphanumeric code from your label. If you donated via PayPal, you will need to enter your PayPal email address for tracking. Email occinfo@samaritan.org for further assistance.

Can we donate and activate labels after our packing event?

Yes, you can complete your packing event and then activate your labels at a later time. If you are activating more than 50 labels, we recommend donating through the bulk activation option prior to sticking the labels on the shoebox gifts so that you don’t lose track of which labels belong to which pack. However, if you’re not able to make your donation prior to sticking the labels on the shoebox gift, be sure to keep one label stub or code from each pack in order to activate in bulk when you’re ready to make your donation.

How do I confirm if a label is activated?

Once your label has been activated you will receive a confirmation email that should list which codes you have activated. Please note that when you donate via PayPal the electronic receipt will be sent to your PayPal email address. Refresh the inbox of the email address you used to complete the online donation and search for an email from updates@e.samaritan.org. Be sure to check your spam folder or junk mail inbox for the email. You may need to add Samaritan’s Purse info@samaritan.org and updates@e.samaritan.org to your safe senders list to ensure you will receive communication from us. If you still can’t locate your email receipt and tracking label, email occinfo@samaritan.org or call 1-800-353-5949 and a representative will be happy to send a new receipt.

Can I use an adhesive label without activating it?

Yes, you can still use an adhesive label even if it has not been activated. You do not need to mark through the QR code or alter the label in any way. However, please note that in order to discover the destination of your gift, the label must be activated.

What do I do if my label is showing activated, but I have not donated?

That label or pack may have been activated by someone else in your church or group. We encourage you to reach out to your Project Leader to inquire, or donate to receive a printable tracking label specific to your email address.

Can I activate my labels using a check?

Yes, there is an e-check option in the checkout. You can pay e-check for single and bulk activations. If you have additional questions or details regarding label activation, contact occinfo@samaritan.org.

How do I find out which labels I have activated?

Labels can only be activated once. If you attempt to activate a label that has already been activated, you will receive a notification informing you that this action has already been performed. If you receive this message and did not previously activate the label, please check with your project leader to find out if your church has already activated labels on your behalf. You’re also welcome to donate to receive a printable tracking label specific to your email address.

Tracking Your Shoebox Gift

How do I track my gift?

Start by visiting our shoebox tracking tool. Enter either the email address used to place the online transaction or the alphanumeric code as it appears on your label for tracking results. This should be a nine-character code for adhesive labels or a 15-character code for printable labels. Any printable shoebox tracking label is automatically connected to the email address you use to complete the transaction.
Adhesive labels or those cut out of a brochure can be connected to your email address by activating them online. Please note that when PayPal is used to complete the transaction, your labels will be connected to your PayPal email address. The QR scanning code on your shoebox label enables us to scan shoeboxes during processing and record their shipping status and destination country in our tracking tool. Shoebox tracking information will only display in the tracking tool after your shoebox gifts have been processed. Before they are processed you may receive an error code or only be able to view past years’ results. Please allow time for us to process your gifts. Processing typically occurs from late-November through mid-December.

How soon can I track my gift?

You will be able to view the status of your shoebox gifts at two stages:

  1. after they have been processed and are awaiting overseas shipment, and
  2. after they have been shipped to a destination country

Most shoeboxes are processed in the weeks following National Collection Week, late- November through mid-December each year. After your gift has been processed, it will be noted in the shoebox tracking tool that your shoeboxes are awaiting shipment. The tracking tool will also note when the shoeboxes have been shipped to destination countries. This could happen in quick succession or a shipment could be delayed because of customs procedures. If you have any questions about the status of your shoebox gifts, email occinfo@samaritan.org.

Will I receive an email letting me know where my box was sent?

No, Samaritan’s Purse will send you two emails regarding tracking. The first will be your donation receipt. If you made a donation for printable labels, this receipt will have copy of your label linked for printing. If you activated QR-coded shoebox labels online, your receipt should note those codes. We recommend retaining a copy of your receipt for tracking in the look-up tool later. Later, once most gifts have been processed, Samaritan’s Purse will send you an email letting you know that your tracking results are ready to view in the tracking tool. Enter either your code as it appears on your label or the email address you used to make the donation.

If you sent multiple gifts, you can simply enter your email address to view a complete list of countries where your gifts were sent. Adhesive tracking codes work individually. You will need to enter every code to learn where each gift was sent.

I made a $10 donation by check. Can I still track my box?

The only way to be able to track your gift is by using an active QR-coded shoebox tracking label. If you need to cover several gifts but can’t make a large donation online, we recommend that you donate online (electronic check, credit card, and PayPal accepted) for just one printable label. Print and attach this label to all of your shoebox gifts. The remaining $10 per shoebox suggested donation can be mailed to our headquarters at PO Box 3000, Boone, NC 28607. At this time adhesive labels are only searchable in the tracking tool if they have been activated online.

The shoebox tracking tool only listed one country destination, but I packed multiple shoeboxes. Where did the rest of my boxes go?

When you use printable tracking labels OR an email address to look up your shoebox tracking results, you will see a complete list of unique countries where your shoeboxes were shipped. The code on your labels is associated with your email address for tracking, so each time your code is scanned your information is updated; however, each unique destination country will only appear once per year in the tracking tool. If you are only seeing one country but sent multiple gifts, this just means that your gifts were likely processed together and all shipped to the same country. The only way to be sure where each individual gift was sent is by using unique tracking codes on each gift. This can be done with our new adhesive tracking labels or by making a request to info@samaritan.org to have unique codes generated for you to print for each of your shoebox gifts.

Why are my shoeboxes not showing up in the tracking tool?

If you looked up your shoebox gifts using an email address instead of your label number, make sure that the email address is the same one you used when making your online donation. If you paid via PayPal this will be the email address connected to your PayPal account.

At this time nine-digit shoebox label codes are only searchable if they have been activated online. Non-activated labels will not yield results in the tracking tool. If your label gets ripped or separated from the shoebox while it’s being transported, it may prevent us from informing you where your gift was delivered. If you continue to have difficulty tracking your gifts, please email occinfo@samaritan.org.

Why did the shoebox tracking tool indicate that my shoebox gift was sent to a hard-to-reach country and not a specific country?

For the safety of our ministry partners and local believers living in hard-to-reach areas, we cannot disclose the names of these countries. Some countries are hard-to-reach because they are experiencing a form of conflict that complicates the delivery of shipments. Others are considered hard-to-reach because of particularly high levels of scrutiny in customs creating special importation challenges for the ministry. In these cases, precautions must be taken both to ensure the safety of our volunteers and ministry partners and to secure our ability to continue to import gifts to these countries. We encourage you to learn more about how Operation Christmas Child is making a difference in hard-to-reach areas.

Why does it show that my shoebox has been scanned but not that it has been shipped?

The shoebox tracking label is scanned during processing which occurs from late-November to mid-December. Most shoeboxes are shipped immediately after processing, but some shipments may be delayed by customs procedures. The destination country of your gift will display in the shoebox tracking tool as soon as its shipment has been confirmed. Shoebox outreach events typically occur from late December through mid-year as National Leadership Teams and local believers coordinate shoebox distributions in the communities they have identified.

Build a Shoebox Online

What is Build a Shoebox Online?

Build a Shoebox Online is a convenient way to pack your Operation Christmas Child shoebox gift right from home. Choose from our selections of toys and other fun items to include in your gift. Then, personalize it by adding your own letter and photo. For a suggested donation of $25 per gift, we’ll pack everything for you and send it on its way with the message of God’s love for a boy or girl in need around the world.

Can I choose which country my shoebox gift will go to?

No. As with all shoebox gifts, there is no way for us to designate the specific country to which your gift will be sent. However, because all items available for you to choose are part of a preapproved list of items that can pass with relative ease through international customs, shoebox gifts built online are designated for hard-to-reach countries. Learn more about how your shoebox gift built online is taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

Can you guarantee the items I choose for my box?

Shoebox gifts built online will be packed with the items you have selected or a comparable item. Occasionally we have to switch out similar items based on demand and availability.

Is there a deadline for Build a Shoebox Online?

You can build a shoebox online year-round, but keep in mind that shoeboxes built after December 31 will not count in the current year’s shoebox total.

What items are included in “essentials”?

The essential items cover personal care items and school supplies. They vary slightly depending on the age and gender for which you are packing. These items include chalk (age 2-4), crayons, colored pencils, notebook, pencils, pencil sharpener, pens (age 5-9 and 10-14), a comb or brush, and a toothbrush.

Is the $10 donation per shoebox gift covered in the $25 Build a Shoebox Online donation?

Yes, the $10 donation per shoebox gift is already included in the price of building a shoebox online.

Can I track my shoebox through Build a Shoebox Online?

Yes, by building a shoebox gift online, you will be automatically enrolled in our shoebox tracking tool through the email address you use to make your Build a Shoebox Online donation; however, shoebox gifts built online are generally sent to hard-to-reach areas. Once your gift has been assembled and shipped, your tracking information will appear in the tracking tool. Learn more about how shoebox gifts built online are taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

If I use Build a Shoebox Online this year, can I designate my box for my specific church so that it will be counted in my church's shoebox numbers?

Shoebox gifts donated from our Build a Shoebox Online page can’t be assigned to a specific church or group; however, you can encourage your church or group project leader to create a Build a Shoebox Online Goal Page where they are able to set a specific goal and deadline for shoebox gifts built online. A shoebox tracker on the page keeps track of the donations made toward meeting this goal. We encourage you to connect with the project leader of your group to find out if there is a Build a Shoebox Online Goal Page already set up where you can donate toward your church or group goal. You must build your gift through the group’s Goal Page in order for it to count toward the goal.

Build a Shoebox Online Goal Pages

Do you have any tips for creating and promoting a Goal Page?

Ideas and resources for creating and promoting your Goal Page are available in our Goal Page Tips PDF.

Will my Goal Page be published instantly?

No, after you create your Goal Page, you’ll receive an email with an invitation to confirm the page as well as the email address associated with your page. This will generate an email to Operation Christmas Child, who will approve or reject the page within 24 hours.

If someone packs a shoebox through Build a Shoebox Online and not through my Goal Page, is there a way to include their donation in my Goal Page count?

No, the system is only able to count transactions that were placed through the designated Goal Page.

Can I edit my Goal Page once it's published?

Yes, changes can be made to a published Goal Page. Adjustments made that only change the deadline of your goal or the number of shoeboxes to meet your goal will be automatically approved. All other changes made to your page (images or writing) will be sent to Operation Christmas Child for approval. Please allow up to 24 hours for edits to be approved.

How long does my church or group have to complete our goal?

You will decide the time frame needed to reach your goal. Goal Pages can be created with deadlines up to 365 days out. After the established end date, users can no longer contribute shoeboxes gifts to your current Goal Page. Please note that any shoebox gifts built after December 31 will not be counted in the current year’s shoebox total.

Once my Goal Page campaign ends, can people still pack toward our goal?

No, once your campaign ends, your page will expire. You can still direct individuals to pack through Build a Shoebox Online, but your Goal Page will no longer be active, and gifts built online can no longer be counted toward meeting your goal.

How can I find a Goal Page?

You can search for Goal Pages using our website here.

Give for Others to Build

What is Give for Others to Build?

You donate a certain number of shoebox gifts and then others can have the experience of building a shoebox online without cost to them. Simply answer a few questions and let us know how many shoeboxes you want to provide. After you submit your payment information, you’ll receive two emails: first a receipt or confirmation email, and second an email with a shareable link to forward to others. That link unlocks the chance for your fellow church members, family, or friends to build a shoebox gift online free of charge, thereby sending Good News and great joy to boys and girls in need around the world!

What happens if my boxes haven't been redeemed by 12/31?

If Give For Others to Build shoeboxes aren’t redeemed by 12/31, all unredeemed shoeboxes will be fulfilled by Operation Christmas Child. This is necessary to get shoebox gifts into the hands of children promptly.

How many boxes can each person build using the link provided?

Those who you invite to build a gift using your unique link will only be able to redeem one free shoebox gift per visit.

How do I see when my boxes are built? How do I check the status of my donation?

Simply visit the link you were given, which will show the status of how many boxes have been built.

Can I Give for Others to Build through my Goal Page?

At this time, Give for Others to Build and Build a Shoebox Online Goal Pages are handled separately. If you would like for your Give for Others to Build donation to count toward your group’s goal, please let your Project Leader know so that he or she can take this into account when totaling your church’s online donations this year.

Evangelism & Discipleship

The Greatest Gift and The Greatest Journey

What is The Greatest Gift?

The Greatest Gift Gospel booklet, available in more than 100 languages, is given out alongside your shoebox gifts. With the Apostle John as narrator, the booklet shares 11 Scripture stories in a child-friendly manner and invites children to follow Christ.

What 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 Jesus and encourages them to grow as faithful followers. The program also connects children to local churches who can, through discipling relationships, teach and nurture children in faith.

How can I participate?

It takes $6 to provide a child the opportunity to participate in The Greatest Journey and receive discipleship materials, including a graduation certificate and New Testament written in the child’s language. The Greatest Journey is an investment not only in children, but also in the teachers and the local churches that will learn, grow, and continue to serve Christ with the momentum gained through the program. You can support The Greatest Journey, making disciples around the world through a monthly donation or one-time giving.

The Greatest Journey in the U.S.

Can I offer The Greatest Journey to my group in the U.S.?

Yes! The Greatest Journey is also available to bring to children in your church. Discover this exciting opportunity to teach children about what happens after their shoebox gifts are delivered, as they dive deeper into what it means to follow Christ and share the Good News with others. Learn more.

What age should participate?

Although the material can be used for any age, we have found that 6-12 years old is the ideal age for The Greatest Journey.



GREATEST JOURNEY is a free, fun, and exciting app for kids to explore the Bible and learn how to follow Jesus! Aboard a time-traveling spaceship where players become captain, GREATEST JOURNEY gives kids a bird’s-eye view of the Old and New Testaments, introducing them to major events in the Bible and focusing on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. GREATEST JOURNEY is based on the international discipleship course created by Samaritan’s Purse for children who receive Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.

What are the recommended ages for the app?

This app is targeted to 5- to 9-year-olds.

Where can I download the GREATEST JOURNEY app?

It’s currently available for free with no in-app purchases on the Apple App Store and Google Play.

Is the app available on Amazon?

We are currently exploring additional App Stores, such as Amazon—but right now the GREATEST JOURNEY app is only available through the Apple App Store and Google Play.

Is the app available in my country?

GREATEST JOURNEY is available for download in over 140 countries, currently in English only. Check the Apple App Store and Google Play for the latest download.

I need more help in learning how to play the game. Is there a game manual?

Yes. This game manual will walk you through how to build a character and play all of the mini-games.

Is the App available in other languages?

Currently, the App is available in English, but a Spanish version will be available later this year.

For any additional questions, concerns, or feedback please email us directly.

Serving with Operation Christmas Child

Volunteer Opportunities

How can I serve with Operation Christmas Child in my area?

We have teams of dedicated volunteers who work year-round to promote and pray for Operation Christmas Child. If you’re interested in volunteering year-round, we encourage you to learn more about the different roles or fill out an application on our year-round volunteer landing page.

Starting in the fall, we also offer an exciting short-term volunteer opportunity to work in one of our Processing Centers.

If you’re interested in becoming Project Leader—leading a church or group effort in packing shoebox gifts—we’ve designed 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. You can even join our online community of Project Leaders to share your questions, tips, ideas, and encouragement with thousands of others leading their own shoebox-packing groups across the nation.

Processing Center Volunteering

What is a Processing Center?

Before the millions of shoebox gifts collected each year can bring hope and joy to children around the world, each one has to be carefully inspected and made ready for international shipment by volunteers like you. Tens of thousands of volunteers serve annually at shoebox processing centers across the United States.

Where are the Processing Centers?

Currently, there are six permanent Processing Center warehouses located in Aurora (IL), Boone (NC), Charlotte, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Denver, and Orange County (CA). Other Processing Centers will open in Atlanta and Baltimore/Washington; however, the exact address will vary year-to-year, depending on warehouse availability. You can use our Processing Center volunteer page to view exact addresses for permanent warehouses and for seasonal locations once the addresses have been secured.

How can I register to volunteer?

You can sign up to volunteer at a Processing Center through occvolunteersignup.com. Create or log in to your account, and you will be ready to register once registration opens in your area.

When can I register to volunteer?

Volunteer registration won’t open until the fall. Exact dates are posted on our volunteering page sometime late summer.

What are the dates and times for volunteering?

Processing Center volunteering opens the Tuesday after National Collection Week Nov. 18–25, 2024 and runs Monday-Saturday from 9am-10pm except Thanksgiving Day. Volunteers typically sign up for at least a four-hour time slot.

What can I expect when I come to volunteer?

Every volunteer in the Processing Center plays an important role in the ministry of Operation Christmas Child, ensuring the integrity and successful delivery of the gifts. Volunteers in the Processing Center form teams and perform all the tasks necessary to process the shoeboxes at one location. Teams are responsible for inspecting the gifts, sorting inappropriate items, working with filler items, separating boxes by age and gender, and boxing shoeboxes in designated cartons. Due to the fast-paced environment of the warehouse and changing needs, you may be asked to do different tasks during your shift. We appreciate your flexibility.

Can I update my reservation?

You can manage your reservation at occvolunteersignup.com. 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 occvolunteersignup.com.

Are there employment opportunities?

Yes, visit seasonal employment opportunities to find out more.

What age can volunteer?

All volunteers must be at least 13 years of age, regardless of a student’s grade level. Due to the warehouse environment, we cannot make exceptions to this age requirement. At least one chaperone for every four youth is required (youth volunteers include any volunteers between the ages of 13-17). The primary responsibility of a chaperone is to ensure the safety and appropriate behavior of your youth. For the safety of all volunteers in the warehouse, Processing Center staff reserve the right to ask any group not acting in accordance with safety procedures and outlined policies to leave the building at any time.

What should I wear to the Processing Center?

Our Processing Centers are set up in warehouses, so please make proper provisions to be comfortably and appropriately dressed for this environment. It is best to be prepared with closed-toe shoes, appropriate for standing for long periods, and warm, layered, casual clothes as the temperature inside can vary. Breaks are available as needed.

Can I bring food for my group?

You are welcome to take breaks as needed during your time with us. A break area in the Processing Center has vending machines and space to store your meals and snacks. Ice is not provided; however, you may bring your own coolers. All food and drinks must remain inside the break area. Please be advised that tobacco products are prohibited on the property.

What if the day I'd like to serve is full?

First, join the waiting list for your preferred time, then search for other available options. We typically have the most open time slots on weekdays and in the evenings. After that, check back throughout the season—time slots open regularly as registered group sizes decrease.

Fast Pass

What 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:

  1. Every member in a group must complete their online waiver before arriving at a Processing Center.
  2. 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.
Where do I find the waiver forms?

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.

How do I use my FAST PASS?

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.

Have questions or suggestions? Email occinfo@samaritan.org

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