Twenty-two parishes in diocese, PDCCW are taking part in the Box of Joy program

Helping Nympha White of Grand Ridge pack Boxes of Joy into shipping containers are Laurel Stein of St. Mark Parish in Peoria and her daughters (from left) Anna, Clare, Elizabeth and Maggie. This is the second year the Peoria Diocesan Council of Catholic Women collected boxes at the Spalding Pastoral Center in Peoria to ship to Cross Catholic Outreach. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

Bringing joy to children who might not have any presents to open at Christmas has caught on in a big way across the Diocese of Peoria.

This year 22 parishes participated in the Box of Joy program sponsored by Cross Catholic Outreach, making it possible for 1,070 children who live in poverty to celebrate Christmas. The organization is hoping to collect 85,000 of these boxes to distribute to boys and girls in Haiti, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and El Salvador.

The seventh-graders at St. Joseph School in Pekin stand around a Christmas tree made of the 80 Boxes of Joy the school was able to donate as part of this year’s program. They brought in enough items to pack three boxes for girls and three boxes for boys. (Provided photo)

St. Joseph in Brimfield has participated in Box of Joy since 2016 and has served as a drop-off site since 2017. Tina Windish, coordinator, said nine parishes brought 754 boxes filled with small toys and personal hygiene items, as well as things like pens, pencils and crayons to the parish hall by Nov. 9. That was 100 more than last year.

The Brimfield parish and its sister parish, St. James in Williamsfield, provided 119 of them. Also supplying Boxes of Joy were: St. Jude, Peoria, 317; St. Anthony, Bartonville, 121; St. Joseph, Pekin, 80; St. John, Bradford, 23; St. Augustine, St. Augustine, 45; and St. John the Baptist, Rapids City, and St. Mary, Hampton, 50.


The Peoria Diocesan Council of Catholic Women took up the cause last year and continued this year under the direction of Nympha White of Grand Ridge, International Concerns chair. The Spalding Pastoral Center in Peoria served as a drop-off site for 13 parishes, although White often picked up the boxes or met parish representatives halfway to receive their gifts.

Those parishes included St. Michael the Archangel, Streator, 40; St. Mary, Wenona, 42; St. Patrick, Seneca, 12; St. Columba, Ottawa, 20; St. Joseph, Peru, 21; St. Louis, Princeton, 30; St. Anthony, Atkinson, 48; Sacred Heart, Granville, and St. Patrick, Hennepin, 53; St. Mary, Westville, 25; and St. Paul, Macomb, 10. White packed 18 herself and said she received 15 Boxes of Joy from individuals from St. Patrick, Minonk, and St. Mary, El Paso.

“Thanks be to God the boxes are now on the way to Florida,” said White, who was assisted in sorting boxes according to age group and gender by Laurel Stein of St. Mark Parish in Peoria and her daughters Ann, Clare, Elizabeth, and Maggie.

“This is something they can do,” Laurel Stein said of her children, who are homeschooled, on a recent Wednesday afternoon. “All ages can do this. It just takes elbow grease. It’s fun. It starts our Christmas season.”


Members of St. Anthony Parish in Bartonville adopted the Box of Joy program last year as a service project for their 50th anniversary. Lynne Kelch, coordinator, said it got such a good response they decided to keep doing it.

“It showed people they were affecting the life of children,” she said. “What we take for granted these children may know nothing about.”

Since some of members of the parish weren’t able shop for things to fill a Box of Joy, they were invited to make a donation and let Kelch and her committee do the shopping. This added 18 boxes to St. Anthony’s total.

At St. Joseph in Pekin, each student in eighth grade packed a Box of Joy as a confirmation project, according to Joan Moore, the religion teacher for sixth, seventh and eighth grades and a seventh grade homeroom teacher. She said the seventh-graders signed up to bring things in and were able to pack three boxes for girls and three boxes for boys.

“They always enjoy participating,” Moore told The Catholic Post. “They’re cheerful, joyful givers.”

The idea that they can make a difference in the world, even if it’s just one person at a time, is part of the culture at St. Joseph, she added.

“Americans get caught up in their own lives. They don’t stop to think about how children are celebrating Christmas in Third World countries,” said Father John Verrier, pastor of the Brimfield and Williamsfield faith communities. “I didn’t.”

Everybody who packs a box or two knows every child will open a Christmas gift for the first time in their lives,” Father Verrier said, noting that he likes to include Divine Mercy holy cards in the boxes he packs.

“This won’t dwindle away,” he said of his parishioners. “It has become part of our Christmas to share some of our joy and happiness with those who don’t have as much.”

Visit to learn more about Box of Joy.

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