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How to Help Orphans & Other Needy Folks During the Holidays

Thanks to shoebox collection charities, or “shoebox charities,” you can provide hope and a smile to orphans and other needy folks come the holidays

For anyone in a difficult situation—whether they’re away from home, impoverished, suffering an illness, orphaned, or otherwise in need—every day can be difficult. But during the holiday season, when all are expected to be joyful, daily life can feel even more challenging.

I’m sure that, as a generous knitter, your heart goes out to people whose life circumstances don’t allow for much merrymaking around the late autumn/early winter holidays. Tight budgets, illness, and other difficult situations may preclude holiday celebrations.

Once upon a time, one special Knitting for Charity reader offered a suggestion. She said that she would love to see a collection of “patterns for items to use in shoeboxes for orphanages.” What a fantastic idea!

In order to collect patterns for items in shoeboxes, I needed to do some research into exactly what sorts of patterns would work for shoebox charities. And in order to do that, I needed to find actual shoebox charities!

In this post, you’ll find a collection of free knitting patterns. These came directly out of my research into shoebox charities. Rest assured, all of these patterns will enable you to knit support for many different shoebox charities.

And below, you’ll find many different shoebox charities to support worldwide!

One of the best things about the charities that follow is that they are international. A few are based in the United States. Some are based in the United Kingdom. Several are based in other countries; South Africa provides the base for two!

Shoebox Charities in the U.S.

Operation Shoebox: This American charity supports troops around the world with gifts from home. You can certainly fill a typical shoebox. But there is also a special, separate program that allows knitters and other crafters to make gifts just for troops. Scroll down to “Craft Patterns” to see how you can help in this capacity.

Shoebox Ministry: The Shoebox Ministry is located in the US, in Arizona.  Its mission is simple: collect and distribute personal hygiene kits to the homeless and working poor in shelters in Scottsdale. On this page you’ll find a link to their “recipes” for putting together various types of hygiene kits. Just scroll down to “Make Hygiene Kits.”

Giving in the U.K.

Link to Hope: Link to Hope is a UK charity with two different shoebox appeals: the Family Appeal and the Elderly Appeal. Most shoebox charities directed their services toward children. But Link to Hope offers their work toward either an entire family or toward elderly folks. For information about this year’s Shoebox Appeal, click the link at the top of the page. (The link changes every year.)

Directions for filling and dropping off shoeboxes can be found at the link. Note that knitted items for Family boxes are not to be placed in the box, but handed directly to a Link of Hope volunteer.

(Note that registration for boxes ends during the first week of November, so by the time you read this, it may be too late for this year. However, you can always prepare to send a box for next year!)

Outreach in South Africa

Santa’s Shoebox: This is one of two charities that are based in South Africa. This one also operates out of Nambia. This program is particularly special because of the extensive support network of South African volunteers that makes it happen. Shoebox pledging begins on September 1. But at any time, you can check the link above to get to the details of filling a shoebox.

(Note: registrations usually close during the first week of November. If you’re reading this at a later time, you can always prepare for the following year.)

Ramadaan Shoebox Project: This is the second charity on this list based in South Africa. It operates throughout South Africa’s poorest communities and offers to bring smiles to children’s faces during the month of Ramadaan.

Helping Hands Around the World

Operation Christmas Child: This is probably one of the world’s best-known shoebox charities. Originally a UK charity founded by Dave Cooke, it merged with American charity organization Samaritan’s Purse in 1995. This allowed the organization to operate globally. And in fact, today it operates from the UK, the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

The link will take you to Samaritan’s Purse’s worldwide offices page; click the link for the page in your country, and then look for links about Operation Christmas Child. (For US, simply look under the “What We Do” menu at the top of the page for Operation Christmas Child.)

Help for Orphans International (HFOI): This organization runs several programs that assist orphans throughout Africa, Asia, and South America. In addition to Shoe Box Gifts, you can also participate in their Clothe the Children and Operation Backpack programs.

I know that this list cannot possibly be comprehensive. If you know of a “shoebox charity” not listed here, please comment below. Even if the organization is strictly for your own local community, list it anyway. You never know who might be looking!

Shoebox collections are such a special way to give a smile and a bit of love to someone who really needs one!

Want more free knitting patterns for charity? Click here for your copy of “4 Quick Charity Knitting Wins” and start making a difference today!

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  1. So appreciate this idea and links. And, even tho time is getting short this year, will give me ideas to knit or collect throughout the year for the future.

    1. I’m so glad you found it helpful, Janice! Time is certainly getting short – it feels like Christmas is just around the corner!