How to Organize An Operation Christmas Child Packing Party

This is the fifth year we’ve hosted an Operation Christmas Child Packing Party at The Valley church so we’ve learned a few things each year. I've also done some research via Pinterest and Facebook OCC groups to try to improve our parties each year. From the first year of packing with my kids in my living room to becoming more and more organized, we have grown our passion for this ministry.

I would love to share with you some of thing logistics we've learned.

Collection

We choose to only “officially” collect items the month [5 weeks] before our packing party. Some like to collect all year-long and we are looking into creating a housing space at our building for this but we have several other out reaches we focus on throughout the year.

The week before collection starts, we announce what Operation Christmas Child is, what we will be collecting each week, and when our packing party will be held. We do four main focuses: Hygiene, School Supplies, Accessories, and Toys. The fifth week is a catch-all and that evening is our party.

We also have an OCC info table set up that hopefully answers any questions someone might have as well as provides resources to help get people excited. Of Course, people can bring any items during these weeks, we just try to help narrow the focus. Next to this table we have a collection space designated- the past two years it has been this big blue shipping trunk. Each week we empty it, sorting items into bens.

On the last Sunday of collection, we take inventory and try to spot areas we might be short, comparatively and announce those needs via social media so people can bring them on our catch-all week/Sunday morning of the party.

 

Prep

Several of us {sometimes me and my children} go through all the bins and take everything we can, out of it’s packaging. If we need to, we open packs of crayons, markers, and colored pencils and divide them up into bags. This not only helps items go further but it also makes sure crayons aren’t melting onto other items in the boxes.

While doing this, we sort even further into gender and age groupings [2-4, 5-9, 10-14] if possible. Bagging things ahead of time helps your party flow better and sets you up for quality assurance.

We have always gone with an assembly line format- folding tables in a long line, filled with sorted items. This year, we added very visible signage using small orange cones wrapped in green garland with wording printed on cardstock and taped to paint stir sticks sticking out of them. These were placed at the beginning of each category to help make sure those packing packed items from each section.

I spoke with several others to make sure I was thinking through everything and we decided on a flow and through items we would need to help that layout work.

Layout

We chose to set up in our main room so we thought through making the experience flow in a giant circle. We had stations that everyone worked through to make sure we covered everything.

FOOD

You can’t have a party without food, right!? We set up a small pot-luck along one wall with eating tables right next to them. This is a separate space from packing, even if in the same room, because we don’t want to send crumbs with our boxes of awesomeness.

PHOTO BOOTH

We LOVE sending pictures with our boxes so we hired a friend to run a photo booth for us. This is at the beginning of the layout because we ask that everyone take a picture Before they start packing to give the printers time to print them while they load items.

PACKING

Our long line of tables full of goodies was broken into the same categories as the collections weeks but with a couple added sections with the essentials at the start: boxes, labels [tape and markers for selection and attaching], hygiene, school supplies, accessories, WOW items, and filler toys.

NOTE/PRAYER

We set up separate tables on the opposite wall from the food full of writing utensils, specialized postcards, blank printed info pages, blank Christmas cards, and stickers.

DROP OFF

We designated the wall near these tables for drop-off and had signs hung to help sort boxes by age and gender so we could see which needed more as we went.

Start again

PARTY

FOOD

You can’t have a party without food, right!? We set up a small pot-luck along one wall with eating tables right next to them. We had a group from our local drop-off location come to share with us about the process after we pack boxes. Everyone finished up eating while they shared.

PHOTO BOOTH

We LOVE sending pictures with our boxes so we hired a friend to run a photo booth for us. This is at the beginning of the layout because we ask that everyone take a picture Before they start packing to give the printers time to print them while they load items.

PACKING

Our long line of tables full of goodies was broken into the same categories as the collections weeks but with a couple added sections with the essentials at the start: boxes, labels [tape and markers for selection and attaching], hygiene, school supplies, accessories, WOW items, and filler toys.

NOTE/PRAYER

We set up separate tables on the opposite wall from the food full of writing utensils, specialized postcards, blank printed info pages, blank Christmas cards, and stickers.

Follow Up

We have invited any family that would like to join us, to deliver the boxes to our local drop off location and we've also complete 2 different tracking labels so we can learn where our boxes went, pray for them. Most boxes have addresses in them in hopes of building relationships with ministries dispensing and or individuals receiving boxes.

I hope this was helpful. I'd love to hear about your passion of OCC, how you pack, and maybe even how you follow-up to enjoy this passion all year-long.

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Labor Day Unit Study and Gifts for Community Workers

I am a big fan of unit studies. It helps me organize the overwhelming world of educational options. Plus, the kids like everything relating.

We have always started Rothacher Academy the first week in September but surprisingly this is our first year to do a Labor Day unit study, along with a fun "service project". We LOVE a good excuse to give gifts and make others feel appreciated!

Check out my Pinterest board, The Ones about Homeschooling to find some links to lots of Labor Day fun. Keep in mind, we will NOT be doing all that is pined, because...reality. These "community helpers" were free printables from another bingo game but when cut up, they fit nicely into the guess who board. Now we can ask questions like, "do you drive as part of your job?" "do you wear a hat as part of your job?" as well as "are you a girl?"

Monday's are when we go to pickup our groceries. We chose to give RedBox codes and bags of popcorn to the sweet workers who serve us weekly by shopping for and bring out our groceries to us. This could be a fun Labor Day gift for lots of people who serve us.

And here are some FREE Printables for if you'd like to join us in honoring those laborers who are likely still working on the Labor Day holiday, ie checkers, gas station clerks, servers at restaurants, etc.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do you do on your long Labor Day weekend!?

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Scavenger Hunt or Errand Day


Today's "scavenger hunt" was loooong but ended up being a success!

The valley is hosting a City Wide Water Day in the park this Saturday. We already have a slew of small water guns but where hoping for some more water-fun options.

The kids and I headed out at nap time on our mystery adventure. They were supposed to keep their eyes closed until we got to our first destination; aka mission Ellie take a nap.

We eased south, about 40 minutes from our house to hit multiple stores in he way home. We arrived at the first store and went straight to the restrooms like any other trip to the store with lots of kids.

While hey we're in the stalls using the bathroom I slipped pictures clues I'd ripped in 1/2 under each door. I got one smirk, one confused grunt, and two excited squeals.

We finished up, washed hands, and their next clue was found in a section of the store we NEVER visit. I sent them on two aisle where I could see them easily and then got caught scattering the other 1/2s of the clues. Oh well.

They all rushed to put their pieces together and confirm what we were shopping for- water guns/toys! This plan is also my way of making their participation in this errand running more voluntary and hopefully fun.

After finding out what we were hunting for, we quickly talked about how we were going to RuSh in and out of stores, discover where clearance and toy sections are located, scan the sections for appropriately priced water toys, and then purchase those that fit our needs. And GO!

We found a pool water shooter at the first store. When we were checking out, the sweet checker gave each child a sucker in their favorite color. Crazy sweet. We found a backpack of water balls and a frisbee at the second. Before heading to the next town, we broke out our snacks and water bottles. The third stop, we found nothing. The fourth stop, we found 20 larger water guns and two packs of water balls. The fifth place we stopped we found nothing. The searched and searched, talked to some employees and still found nothing at our sixth stop. We met some friends to add to the adventure at our seventh and eighth places where we found nothing. Our ninth, and closest to home stop, we found a gazillion water shooters and snatched up a few.

Our last couples stops, we'd used up a lot of our good but made it through and ended up home just in time to make a picnic dinner!

How do you run errands with your kids? Do you have to spice it up occasionally?

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Life Eclipsed

Every time. Every time I think I've figured out our new normal and carved out a space for writing something changes it.

This past week? Our sweet "antman", foster friend has returned to our home. While he fits well in our family, we are still relearning his routine, naps, eating needs, etc. He's learned to go back to sleep at night after eating but is still waking a couple of times a night and I am the one whose brain doesn't seem to shut back off after getting up with him. Then my family had a birthday party for me, we headed out to watch the eclipse, did our big errand day, and did annual physicals for foster home rectification.

I am steadily trying to finish projects around our house before starting our homeschool year the first week in September. We had an unexpected remodel after some water damage to our flooring, so that started a crazy cycle of tearing things apart, taking things down, cleaning, rearranging, redecorating, cleaning, purging, yard selling, cleaning, and on and on. Technically we still haven't even finished the remodel {waiting to install the cabinets that are laying in our garage} but at least most of our house isn't in shambles anymore.

One of my projects has been to get our house back into working order. After having our entire living space in the house torn apart, and bedrooms and bathrooms covered in dust, this sounds like an easy task but has never-endd. If you've been around this blog or we're friends IRL, you know I LOVE pictures, so this means that I had to take down our entire collage wall in order to paint and then make decisions, which I'm super slow about, on how to rehang everything...oh, and I'm short and we have some tall ceilings, so this requires my hubs help and or a ladder.

Another project has been to plan our homeschool work/goals for the year. I have most of our stuff lined out in my planner for the year, including coop field trips and unit studies. BUT I don't have all the materials printed and sorted into folders yet. Hopefully I can get ahead somehow because I tend to get berried under life and then run out of time to prep leading us to miss the awesomeness I was hoping to do. I am pumped that we got to do a few of the fun things I had planned for the 2017 solar eclipse this past Monday. We were able to go as an entire family to a local water park where the library was handing out FREE solar glasses and we got to make memories watching something monumental. AND my kids thought this "school work" was fun!

And a final project is to actually tag our clothing consignment event items Before starting school even though the actual sale isn't until after we start. This way we can actually sell things this season; we've missed the last 3 season's sales which make a big difference in the amount of stuff we can buy. Good thing the kids are starting to wear clothes for longer stretches of time!

My spirits are being refreshed with uncharacteristically cooler weather this past week and in the coming weeks. This makes errand running, outdoor play, and working on projects that much nicer. Sadly, for central Arkansas "cooler weather" just means high 80s but I'll take it and try not to focus on the predicted nasty winter following shortly after this nice breeze.

So, what does this time of year look like for you? Do you drowned in life some days? How do you get ahead?

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Homeschoolers and Public School “Specials”

Two years ago we decided to try to enroll in "specials" at our local public school.

Recent laws were passed stated that homeschoolers have the right to attend extracurricular classes a their local public schools. To my understanding, the school still gets to make the final decision to allow this or not but Vilonia schools have been super sweet about this.

I let my oldest, Maggie choose two "specials" when she was going into the second grade. She chose art and music. The school found a home room class to pair her with so she went to those classes with them on their assigned days. The office staff were so friendly and welcoming. The first week I walked her past the office to check in and then to the art or music class to make sure she knew where she was going. After that, she just checked in at the office and walked herself to class. The home room would walk back to their classroom after each special out the front of the school. This allowed Maggie to line up at the end of the line and come straight out to us where we were waiting in the car.

She did this for two years at the elementary school, taking music and library the next year. This year, my middle child, Izzie is going into the second grade so she was allowed to attend specials {our rule, not the school's}. Maggie moved up to the intermediate school. The new school does it a little differently, having her walk to the home room class and then walk in line with them to the special that day. Both girls chose music and P.E. this year.

We learned of another homeschooler who takes a math class at the intermediate school and then stays for that class' specials every day of the week. I don't know much about this but am encouraged at the chance to use this resource if needed. We also know several families that have been allowed in choir, band, and sports!

We love this opportunity because it offers social interaction with kids their own age, a class where they're learning fun things that I likely wouldn't spend as much time on, and gives them a taste of public school just for fun. An added bonus is that it gives us a contact at schools to better love and serve our community through. God is good; just when I begin to worry about my kids "socialization", He shows me my children's strengths, social sides, and that we actually ARE "in" our community through the fact that our kids already knew a minimum of four kids in their classes.

Do you homeschool? Have you ever considered this FREE option for extracurriculars?

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