Friday, July 29, 2011

All For $1.31

I had a fun little sale shopping trip to Office Max this morning to get some school supplies for our Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. I'm convinced that God put us in this little pre-fab ranch style 'starter home' 37 years ago and kept us here so we'd be in the perfect location for bargain hunting for shoeboxes. I'm 2 miles or less from most of the major stores to get great bargains.

Thanks to a tip from Clip With Purpose, (a great blog you should really subscribe to in order to get the best deals for your shoeboxes) I printed some great online coupons for Office Max and you can print them, too by
clicking here.

Office Max Coupons

This morning I went to Office Max and using these coupons I got 6 packs of filler paper, 50 Office Max brand pens, 2 pencil sharpeners and 2 packs of pencil top erasers all for $1.31. I'm not sure if all stores have the penny erasers and sharpeners (limit of 2 per person). At our store in Erie they were on a display in the middle of the aisle by the display of filler paper (which was near the back of the store). These coupons are only good until tomorrow, July 30th, so you need to hurry.

There's something so exciting about getting things cheap--especially when you know how valuable they are to children in other countries who sometimes can't attend school for lack of simple supplies.

Hey, in most places you can't even get a cup of coffee for $1.31 anymore--just sayin'.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Paper Deals Get Better!

Yes, I admit it. I'm obsessed by collecting paper. But I'm not a hoarder (really). It's for our Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. I'm determined to be able to put at least 10 sheets of paper in each of the 15,000 shoeboxes we're praying God will allow us to pack at our community-wide packing party on September 24th at Grace Church.

So I'm very excited that the paper deals at Staples are even better this week. Staples ads vary by region, so if you're outside the Erie, PA area you may have different deals this week. You can go to and put in your zip code to see your regional ad. But here's how things went for me today.

Before heading out to Staples, I made sure I had my Staples Rewards card. You can sign up for this online or in the store. If you're a teacher make sure you let them know because you can get 25 each of the special one-cent deals that are a limit of 2 for everyone else.

I also made sure I had 2 very special coupons. Here's a link to one that allows you to get 20% off on one single item at Staples this week.

Click here for coupon link

Then see if your store ad has a coupon that you can get for $5.00 off a $25.00 purchase. You can also get this online

click here for $5.00 coupon

Also, before going check to see what special deals your store has for one-cent each this week (if any). Here in Erie, PA we have the items pictured above. Packs of 100 index cards, packs of 2 Sharpie highlighters, and packs of 8 pencils. You have to have a minimum $5.00 purchase and there is a limit of 2 each unless you're a teacher and then you get 25 each.

Now here's how it worked for me today. I bought 25 of each of those above items for one cent each and I also bought a case of Staples copy paper (10 reams) for $35.99 plus tax.

THEN I used both the 20% off coupon on the box of paper AND the $5.00 off $25 purchase. This brought my grand total to $26.02.

BUT I'll then get $26.00 back in Staples Rewards for a future purchase. So, essentially, I got 25 packs of index cards, 25 packs of highlighters, 200 pencils, and 10 reams of paper for all of .02. Think of all those kids who will have school supplies to allow them to go to school for the price of a little planning and two pennies. (I'm planning to do this again since there's a limit of 2 of this deal this week)

But what if you don't have the money to invest in a case of paper or don't want to mess around with the Staples Rewards? You can still help for FREE. With no card needed, you can buy a ream of Staples multipurpose copy paper for $5.99 and also get 2 packs of index cards, 2 packs of pencils, and 2 highlighters all for 6 cents. Now you can also use that above coupon for 20% off on the paper. You will spend about $5.15 with the tax included.

NOW, when you get home you take a quick minute to go online and file to get a rebate of $5.49 which will be sent as a check in the mail. They're going to pay you to get these school supplies for Operation Christmas Child. And you can do a limit of 2 rebates so you'll get paid even more if you do it twice.

How about putting in your two cents' worth?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Paper Revisited

I know...I can't seem to get off the subject of paper. A week ago I was hoping for a miracle--to get 300 reams of paper in our storage container by today. I haven't actually looked in the storage container but I don't think there are 300 reams in there yet.

But we can still do this. I think 8 cases were purchased this week (that's 80 reams) plus a few more reams on top of that.

Staples is having even better deals this week on paper. If you buy a ream for $5.99 you can then complete the rebate form online (very easy) and get a check for $5.49 back making it only 50 cents (plus the tax). There is a limit of 2 per household on this deal. Also, with a $5.00 purchase from Sun. - Weds. you can get a pack of 8 pencils for 1 cent (limit 2) and a pack of index cards for 1 cent (limit 2). So you can make 2 separate trips to get your $5.99 ream of paper and get the 1 cent deals with each one.

The deal I talked about on cases last week is still in effect this week BUT this week there is also a coupon in the ad for $5.00 off a $25.00 purchase. So I'm planning to use that coupon to get the case of paper for $30.99 and then get the $26 in Staples Rewards (you do have to use a Staples Rewards card for this deal). Again, there's a limit of 2 cases with the rewards back on each.

So we only need about 110 people to each buy 2 reams of paper OR 22 people to each buy a case of paper OR 11 people to each buy two cases.

You get the idea...

Saturday, July 16, 2011

15 People Is All It Will Take

I have a new challenge for this week. I just saw the Staples Ad for Erie that starts tomorrow, July 17,2011 and it has a great rebate deal on cases of copy paper. Click here to see the link for it. (this link takes you to the weekly ad and make sure you get the one for July 17th-23rd and then go to page 8-9)

I've been praying about how to get some inexpensive paper to put into our Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes for the community-wide packing party we're hosting at Grace Church in Erie on September 24th. We had McCarty Printing promise us 200 memo pads but that leaves 14,800 boxes without paper. The 70-sheet spiral notebooks we used to put into every box up until last year are now 20 cents each at WalMart and it would cost $3000 to put one of those in every box, even if we could get WalMart to order them, which is not a sure thing.

Then I saw this deal for copy paper in the Staples ad and I did some quick calculations. If I could get just 15 people to each take advantage of the deal and buy 2 cases of paper (20 reams) each, then we'd have 300 reams--enough to put at least 10 sheets of paper in each box we pack.

Each person who agrees to do this will have to get a Staples Reward Card (only takes a few minutes to sign up in the store) and be able and willing to invest $72.00 plus tax to buy the two cases. After filing for the rebate online (quick and easy to do) they will later have $52.00 returned in Staples Reward Points that they can use later to buy printer cartridges or anything else they need at Staples.

This means each person's final investment is $20.00 for 20 reams of paper they can donate for our Operation Christmas Child packing party.

This sounds easy enough to me until I realize I don't have 15 friends in Erie I can talk into doing this for me and children around the world. I go to this big church but don't know 15 people I'd be able to ask to do this.

It's time for me to pray and see if this can happen. Wouldn't it be just amazing if God had 300 reams of copy paper in our storage container by July 24th.

15 people and a miracle--that's all it will take.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Blessed By A Bountiful Bevy of Beanies

Last week a woman called to say she wanted to donate "9 tubs" of "brand new Beanie Babies & Beanie Buddies (larger versions)" for our Operation Christmas Child packing party. Today I finally made arrangements to pick them up and went to her home to get them.

Sweet Mary had wrapped each of them in tissue paper and kept them lovingly stored in plastic tubs. I know she expected them to make her millions one day but I tried to tell her that her investment will reap rich rewards as they bring joy to children who may have never received a gift in their life.

We unwrapped each of them and counted them into bags--all except for the two she bought in Las Vegas and just had to keep. The grand total for those of you who've been making guesses on Facebook is ...... (drum roll)......


That's 416 more boxes we can pack at our Operation Christmas Child packing party on September 24th. That's 416 more children who will have a toy to hug and a chance to hear the message that God loves them. That's 416 answers to prayers.

Not a bad investment.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Crayon Update

By buying 160 tubes of toothpaste for our Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes with coupons last week I got enough gas points for us to fill our vehicles 4 times and the points have to be used by July 23rd. Now I know why.

This week I'm going to be doing a lot of driving to WalMart stores, I think. I'm trying to amass as many 24-packs of Crayola crayons as possible by having WalMart match the Toys R Us sale price of 4/$1.00. Today I drove from my house to Elm St. WalMart then to Harborcreek and then out to Edinboro and back to Peach St. I'm not sure how many miles that was, but it made good use of that gas since I was saving 38% on the crayons. I ended up today's run with 1090 boxes for a total of 1833 so far. I'm praying for at least 3000 this week out of the total 5000 boxes I need.

Unfortunately, these aren't in easily stackable cartons so I'm not sure how I'm going to store them in the container. I wish I had an unlimited supply of copy paper boxes for that. I need to figure out something tomorrow.

We had a conference call today for those who are having packing parties to put together large numbers of Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. I felt like I didn't have much to contribute because every year seems to bring new challenges and we need to do things in a different way. The past year's experience has some impact, of course, but still so much is new.

One of the big challenges is trying to figure out how to get more money for donating toward shipping these boxes. A suggestion was made of having each volunteer who comes to help pack boxes donate at least $7.00. It sounds great, but I wonder if it would keep the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts from coming.

Something else to pray about.

Monday, July 11, 2011

God's Favor in a 24-Pack

It's time for the back-to-school sales--my favorite time of year for Operation Christmas Child. I was disheartened to see that WalMart's regular back-to-school price for a 24-pack of Crayola crayons this year is 40 cents--up from 25 cents last year. I've heard stories of how important these school supplies are to children in other countries who need them to be able to attend school. I've heard that buying a box of crayons in Uganda, for example, can cost a week's wages for a family.

Because we're planning to pack so many boxes, I'm trying to find better prices on crayons but I still prefer Crayola. They're just so far superior to the cheaper waxy varieties.

I was very excited when I saw that Toys R Us has Crayola 24-packs on sale this week for 4/$1.00. I've never dealt with Toys R Us for quantity buying, so I decided to go to WalMart and ask them if they'd order me a few thousand and match the Toys R Us price. I put out a prayer alert to my team and on Facebook and I set out.

At the WalMart on West 23rd Street I explained my request at the service desk and was directed to Monica, the dept. manager for stationery. She then had to inquire of Tony, the manager, to see if ordering was a possibility. Tony had to check by e-mail to see if a large order could be made.

Meanwhile, I sat on a bench and prayed fervently, believing that God can 'open doors no one can shut'. Finally Tony came out with the verdict--they couldn't order the large quantity I wanted. But he said he was willing to sell me what they had in stock at the store.

So I sat and waited again while Monica rounded up all she could find and I ended up with 431 boxes. Monica told me to call back on Thursday when she has another shipment coming in and she'll try to get more for me. Both Tony and Monica were very helpful and I sensed God's favor.

Next I'm going to try some other WalMart stores in our area and see if God will provide more from that avenue. There's always the chance that another store will offer a good sale price that WalMart will match for me in future weeks, as well. I love seeing how God provides it all--in His way and in His time.

The needs and prayers of children around the world are being answered by God's favor--one 24-pack at a time.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Aha Moment

I'm shameless when it comes to looking for media opportunities for Operation Christmas Child. On last night's 11 o'clock news I heard that the Mutual of Omaha "Aha Moments" van was in town to videotape Erieites' meaningful moments.

I thought of our Operation Christmas Child packing party last year and about how I saw in true clarity the boundless power of community and prayer combined. So I went to the Mutual of Omaha website and fired off a request for a time to go to the van today and record my moment. I requested a 5:15 pm appointment. I'd committed to drive a friend and her daughter to their appointments at the Cleveland Clinic today but thought I'd be home by early afternoon.

As the day moved along with delay after delay I got a small taste of what it must be like to live with a chronic illness that requires a myriad of medical tests and appointments. We didn't leave Cleveland until nearly 3:30 but my gps still put us on track to get home to Erie by about 4:45--plenty of time to make my 'aha' recording time.

When we were about 20 minutes outside Erie the traffic on I-90 came to a halt and we sat or crawled along. I felt like I was taking a course called Patience 101 as I watched the minutes slip by. By the time I made it to an exit I realized I was going to miss my 'aha' appointment. But I just kept praying and thanking God for His sovereignty.

When I pulled into my driveway at 5:45 pm I wondered if I should just forget the whole 'aha' deal but I decided to throw on my Operation Christmas Child volunteer shirt, grab a sample shoebox, and head for the van. No harm in trying. Maybe they could fit me in.

As I drove I reminded myself that we have a God who can 'open doors no one can shut'. If He wanted me to say a word for Operation Christmas Child then it would happen.

When I got to the Mutual of Omaha van parked at the Erie Public Dock I was greeted warmly by a young man named Ben. I apologized for missing my appointment but he assured me they'd fit me in. The two twenty-somethingish women who completed the production team were both well acquainted with Operation Christmas Child and love the project. Jessica, who actually did the interview with me, has even volunteered at the OCC Processing Center in Atlanta.

I had a great time going on camera and telling them about last September's Operation Christmas Child packing party and how it helped me clearly see how God used the community to answer prayer and provide gift-filled shoeboxes for 12,670 children who needed to know His love. I got to show my sample shoebox and tell what these items can mean to a child, and I even got to take my clipboard home as a keepsake.

I don't know if any of this will be on the Mutual of Omaha website or make it into a commercial. Even if that doesn't happen, today's lessons in patience and perseverance were worth it.

And that's another 'aha moment'.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Operation Christmas Child Connecting--"I Do"

I spent the day today at one of the most enjoyable weddings I've been to in quite some time. Becky Marsh, our Operation Christmas Child Relay Center Coordinator in Corry, PA, married Jon Foster in a sweet and sacred ceremony in the guest-packed Faith Evangelical Church (our OCC relay center).

The thing is, a year ago I had never met Becky or Jon. At this time last year our team was praying for 3 new relay centers for our Operation Christmas Child area in Northwestern PA and we wanted one of them to be in Corry, PA. One night in August I was working on sending out a back-to-school press release to the Corry Journal and was trying to figure out who I could find in Corry to quote in the release. I stopped to pray and asked God to help me find someone in Corry who participated in the project.

Just then my computer beeped to signal an incoming e-mail and I checked to find that Heather Rogers, my OCC Church Relations Coordinator, had forwarded a message from Becky Marsh who was inquiring about having me come to speak about Operation Christmas Child at their mission conference at Faith Evangelical Church in Corry. I called Becky, and not only was she willing to be quoted for the press release, but when I asked if she thought her church might be willing to become an OCC relay center she said, "I do."

Within a month Becky had not only said, "I do" and signed on as the Relay Center Coordinator for Faith Evangelical Church but she'd also organized a group from her church to volunteer at our community-wide packing party on September 25th. She'd also arranged for me to speak at their mission conference on the evening after the packing party.

I met Becky for the first time at the packing party and had such a fabulous time sharing at her church that night and meeting her boyfriend, Jon. Standing around a fire behind the church that evening while still riding the high of all God did that day is something I won't soon forget.

Becky and I talked on the phone a few times over the next months and on the Friday of OCC's National Collection Week I went to visit Becky and Jon at their relay center. Sadly, by that time Jon's dad had been diagnosed with advanced cancer and was traveling to Erie for treatments. I and the whole rest of our OCC team continued to pray for him. Becky kept me updated on his condition with e-mails, but all too quickly Jon's Dad died. By God's grace he had given his life to the Lord before his death.

I was excited to see Becky and Jon's engagement announced on Facebook a few months later and sent them a card of congratulations from me and our OCC team. I was honored to be invited to their wedding and enjoyed having lunch with Becky a few weeks before the wedding date. I love her heart for missions and for the Lord and her desire to please Him in all she does.

So today, by God's grace, I watched Becky and Jon each say "I do" and pledge themselves to one another before God. I loved everything about their day and was especially enamored with the pint-sized ring bearer who held the pillow over his face as he walked down the aisle in his black Crocs with his black-belted pants hanging precariously low on his hips. Oh, and the food at the reception? If we're feasting in heaven, I bet it'll be just like that--homemade yeast rolls, homemade mashed potatoes and gravy, homemade broccoli salad and cookies and...well, homemade EVERYTHING.

And because Becky had said "I do" to God's call to serve with Operation Christmas Child I was blessed to be connected to her and share this amazing day.

What adventures can come in our lives from saying that short and meaningful promise, "I do."