Our people must learn to do good by meeting the urgent needs of others; then they will not be unproductive.~ Titus 3:14, NLT

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

New Study finds that volunteering helps your schedule feel less hectic!

I just read this in my latest Better Homes and Gardens and wanted to share the info:
"Hectic schedule making you crazy? Try volunteering. In a surprising University of Pennsylvania study, people who spent precious minutes on a charitable c
ause felt they had more time to themselves at the end of the day than those who performed a nonaltruistic task. The researchers say that squeezing in a good deed makes people feel good and creates a sense of usefulness, which can put other time demands in perspective. Visit www.volunteermatch.org to find out how you can lend a hand in your community."

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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Why I pack boring things in my Operation Christmas Child boxes to go along with the silly items.

Yesterday I bought the very last thing I wanted to put in my Operation Christmas Child boxes! 100 washcloths!!! Now that might not sound very fun, but over the years I have found that it is the mundane items that we take for granted that are the most appreciated. I hear story after story of children being thankful for the toothbrushes and washcloths in the boxes because it means they don't have to share one with the rest of their family. And those  toothbrushes and washcloths usually have to last for more than a year. I can't even imagine having to do that. 

Last year, I began reading about the plastic boxes that I have seen sometimes being filled. I learned that these boxes are very important commodities for most families. It allows them to transport and store water. Something I had never considered. I made a point of looking for decent sized plastic totes with lids that stayed on well for a good price. Luckily they go on sale during the back to school sales. They didn't have 100 in stock at the Menard's that I went to, but as soon as they heard why I wanted the boxes, they gladly ordered me the extra boxes! (I have noticed that the dollar store has recently stocked clear plastic boxes with lids that shut well and stay closed if you are looking for a good deal.) 

Art and school supplies are another set of items that I always include. Mostly because I can get a bunch of these items super cheap during the back to school sales(which start the weekend after July 4th and run through Labor Day). These items, that our kids might use for fun drawings and crafts can actually be a life saver for many children in developing nations. Most of the time children cannot attend school unless they can afford the supplies. Going to school allows them a safe place to go during the day. In some cases it will give them an opportunity to get a meal for the day from the school. And most importantly it allows them to gain an education that can teach them skills needed to succeed in life. 

This year I added a new item that is my favorite of all the items...flip-flops!!! Many children's families cannot afford shoes. I have heard of sooooo many boys and girls praying for a pair of shoes to protect their feet when they walk. I was lucky enough to take full advantage of the Old Navy $1.00 flip-flop sale this summer. I spoke with a manager about the 5 flip-flop per person limit. As soon as they heard that I wanted them to donate, they allowed me to get the 100 I needed. I did pay for them 5 at a time and took the colors no one else wanted and allowed any other customers that came up to check out before we rang up more of mine. I have found that if you are honest and nice, you can get a lot accomplished. 

Now for the silly items. Although I like blessing children with the things they need, I feel like it is very important to let kids be kids. These children need to be silly and have fun and do things for the joy of playing. In years past I have had great success at finding items at the dollar store. I look for items that will get me more for my buck, ie a 2 pack of spinning tops, a 4 pack of play dough, etc. Last year because I had just had my daughter I decided to supplement my dollar store items with filler items form Oriental Trading Co. I was so throughly impressed with the items and the cost, that I decided to buy all of my "silly" items from them this year. I picked out whistles and balls and pinwheels and puzzles and more nonsensical items. I waited until there was a coupon code for $10.00 and FREE shipping on orders over $75.00. I separated my orders so that each order was just over $75.00 and was able to get $10.00 OFF for each order for a grand total savings of $100.00!!!! I then used the money I saved to go buy 100 bars of soap, toothbrushes, combs, pencil sharpeners and sandwich bags(to put the soap and washcloths in) at The Dollar Store and 100 wash clothes from Walmart(they sell an 18 pack for $4.00). If done right you can get all those items super cheap. Look for multipacks. The soap I got was a 3 pack, the combs were a 12 pack and the toothbrushes were a 4 pack all for $1.00 each!

When it comes to filling your boxes make sure what you get will fit. If you are only filling a couple boxes that won't be a huge issue, but if you are filling a large quantity like me you'll want to keep track. What I do is keep one box out, and as I buy items, I add one item each to the box. This lets me see if I'm about to run out of room, or if I need more filler items. 

The last thing that each box needs is $7.00. You can either place a check in an envelope in your box, or you can pay online and print out a unique barcode to affix to your box. Whether you write a check or pay online, you can pay for multiple boxes at one time. Just put the check in one box and tell the person collecting the boxes that the check covers x amount of boxes. If online you can print the barcode label for as many boxes as you need. I like to pay online because the barcode will allow you to get info about where your box(es) went. I like to use this to teach the children about the countries and people around the world. Each box will need a label affixed to the outside top. If you pay online, the barcode will have the label with it. If paying with check you can get a label from your collection center download them from the Operation Christmas Child website or order them from Operation Christmas Child(for FREE to be mailed). These labels tell people giving the boxes out if the box is for a boy or girl and the age group. I like to make my boxes gender neutral and then label half for boys and half for girls. I also personally pick the middle age group simply because my children are that age and it's easy for me to pick items I think they will like. I do know that the older age group gets the least amount of boxes, so if you want to pick a group that doesn't get as many boxes you may want to consider packing for the older children. Once your box is filled, find a collection center to drop it off to, or give it to someone that can take it for you.  You can find a collection center here: http://www.samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child/drop-off-locations/

If you want to spread the word and get others involved, consider hosting a packing party at your house. Make it fun and festive. Have people bring boxes and items to fill boxes, or supply the items yourself and have everyone help fill them. I like to make desserts and play Christmas music and even put up a Christmas Tree to get everyone in the Holiday spirit! Just make sure you have everything ready on time. 

National Collection Week for 2013 is November 18th-25th!

For more tips on what to and not to pack in your shoe box, CLICK HERE.
To order promotional materials and labels (if not paying online), CLICK HERE.
To order empty boxes CLICK HERE.
To pay the $7.00 shipping and processing cost for each box, CLICK HERE.
To download and print labels, CLICK HERE (found at the bottom of page)

If you have any questions or tips please be sure to leave a comment. I'd also love to hear what you pack, how many boxes, etc. You can even post pictures of you boxes and items on our facebook page if you like! http://www.facebook.com/ChangingtheWorldPebblebyPebble
I have a table set up with empty boxes, info and an invite to my packing party.

My filled example box

All my items that I have been stock piling,  just waiting to be put into boxes.

Here are the items that will be in each of my boxes this year. 

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Saturday, October 13, 2012

An Alternative to Elf on the Shelf, The Christmas Angel. Teaching the true meaning of Christmas.

A friend of mine just shared this, and I wanted to share it too: "The whole "Elf on the Shelf" thing has always bothered me. I tell my kids God is watching them. Someone mentioned that there is now a Christmas Angel that comes with gold dust & a book." If anyone wants to look into it here's the link:http://www.yourchristmasangel.com/products-page/

From the Christmas Angel website:
"What an amazing opportunity we have as parents to instill values and principles into our children. The Christmas season is about a precious story to celebrate a gift that none of us deserve, but have an opportunity to receive. The birth of Jesus is the greatest example of love. So how can we show the same love to others? Simply by putting others before ourselves. We should help our children focus on giving rather than receiving, for that is the true spirit of Christmas."

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

You don't have to adopt or foster a child to provide a safe, loving home for children! Learn More.

A few months ago I posted about Safe Families for Children. I was happy to learn that Bethany Christian Services has partnered with them in an effort to help families and children that need a temporary, save loving home and good mentors.

Here is some info I just received in an email from Bethany Christian Services.  

Safe Families for Children

Safe Families for Children™You don't have to adopt or foster a child to provide a safe, loving home for children! Safe Families for Children™ is a ministry that prevents child abuse and offers families in crisis the temporary support they need. Host families volunteer to care for children while their parents make positive changes to improve their family life. Learn how you can become a host family at www.bethany.org/safefamilies, or call your local Bethany office.

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Monday, October 8, 2012

What is Columbus Day and why do we celebrate Columbus Day?

My friend and historical writer, Amy Waters Yarsinske, wrote this about Columbus Day, and I thought it was really eloquent. 

"Remembering that today is Columbus Day, here's a bit of the history of why we set aside this day. But there is this important note: Columbus wasn't the first European to reach the Americas. But he made the most of it, for better or worse. As an aside, some western states observe Columbus Day as Native American Day - not as widely known - but a little research and it is easy to find. Some might observe that Europeans and such planted flags in the great colonization of the rest of the world - just do a bit of reading about human migration - including that of Native Americans and other people now considered to precede that colonization. We all came from somewhere other than where we started - the great historian, now deceased, John Keegan, spent a career telling this story and it would behoove any of us today to read his work before calling the European colonization a bad thing. As the continents split apart millions of years ago and land bridges made migrations possible, we as all humanity found the best place here and there to survive. Let's not try to rewrite what is and appreciate where we are today. Happy Columbus Day - really a remembrance of human achievement and endurance more than anything else."

You can learn more about Colubus Day HERE: http://abcnews.go.com/US/columbus-day-2012-hero-villain/story?id=17406546#.UHL94VGb3oM

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