It’s not too late to give gifts, bring smiles to children’s faces with Box of Joy

The pandemic was tough for the Box of Joy campaign, with 61,422 boxes received by Cross Catholic Outreach in 2020. Donations bounced back in 2021 when 106,276 boxes filled with small toys were received.

While Christmas brings to mind mornings filled with wonder and excitement as children open their gifts, that isn’t the case for many children around the world. Cross Catholic Outreach is working to change that and now is the time to take action with Box of Joy.

Those who participate in the program — now in its eighth year — are invited to fill a container the size of a shoebox with small toys, dolls and plush animals, coloring books and crayons, games and even toothbrushes and toothpaste and then take their Box of Joy to a local drop-off site. From there they are transported to Florida to be processed and sent to children in developing counties.

In central Illinois there are two drop-off centers: St. Joseph in Brimfield, which has been involved since 2016 and is overseen by Tina Windish, project leader, and the Spalding Pastoral Center in Peoria, where Nympha White of Grand Ridge prepares the packages for shipping. Between the two, more than 1,200 children received a box filled with fun in 2021.

Cross Catholic Outreach reported that a total of 106,276 Boxes of Joy were received in 2021. They were distributed to children in Guatemala, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Grenada and Honduras.

CAN’T SHOP? CHECKS WELCOME

Box of Joy Week started on Saturday, Nov. 5, and boxes will be accepted through next Sunday, Nov. 13. It’s not too late to get involved, according to Windish.

Checks may be sent to St. Joseph Church, P.O. Box 199, Brimfield, IL 61517.

The drop-off center in Brimfield is located at St. Joseph’s Harrison Hall, 320 E. Illinois St. Windish will be there to receive boxes on Saturday, Nov. 12, and Sunday, Nov. 13, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Those who would like to bring something before then are asked to make an appointment by calling her at (309) 742-3081.

Checks of any amount are gratefully received and will be used to buy gifts to fill additional Boxes of Joy by Windish and her volunteers.

“We’ll be shopping that last week,” she said. “I don’t usually go shopping until collection week so I know how much to get.”

For every $100 she receives, Windish is able to fill about three boxes. That also includes the $9 that must be sent with every Box of Joy to help with shipping costs from the distribution center in Florida to its final destination.

“We were very happy with last year,” Windish told The Catholic Post. “We collected 769 boxes.”

Checks may be sent to St. Joseph Church, P.O. Box 199, Brimfield, IL 61517.

Parishes and schools that brought Boxes of Joy to the Brimfield drop-off center last year included The High School of Saint Thomas More, Champaign; St. Joseph School, Pekin; St. Augustine Parish, St. Augustine; St. Bernard Parish, Bushnell; St. John the Baptist Parish, Rapids City; St. Jude Parish and School, Peoria; St. Mary of the Woods Parish, Princeville; and St. Anthony Parish, Bartonville, as well as St. James Parish, Brimfield, and St. James Parish, Williamsfield.

FIRST GIFT FOR SOME

“For a lot of them, this is all they get. Some of them could be 10 years old and have never gotten a Christmas present in their lives. It’s just the joy you see in the kids’ faces..” — Tina Windish

Boxes of Joy may also be dropped off at the Spalding Pastoral Center, 419 N.E. Madison Ave., in Peoria on weekdays, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., during the collection week. The exception is Nov. 11, when the pastoral center will be closed for Veterans Day.

White, who has led the effort on behalf of the Peoria Diocesan Council of Catholic Women for five years, has received or picked up boxes from St. Patrick Parish, Seneca; St. Michael the Archangel Parish, Streator; St. Mary Parish, El Paso; St. Patrick Parish, Minonk, St. Ann Parish, Toluca; St. Mary Parish, Wenona, St. John the Baptist Parish, Lostant; and St. Joseph Parish in Peru.

Barbara Harzman, a member of the PDCCW board from Macomb, received Boxes of Joy from the parishes of the Macomb Vicariate.

This continues to be an important undertaking for Windish for a simple reason: “The joy that these kids receive.”

“For a lot of them, this is all they get. Some of them could be 10 years old and have never gotten a Christmas present in their lives,” she said. “It’s just the joy you see in the kids’ faces. . . . It’s a way of helping outside of our borders a little bit.”

For more information about Box of Joy and a list of gift ideas, visit crosscatholic.org/box-of-joy.

SPALDING PASTORAL CENTER | 419 NE MADISON AVENUE | PEORIA, IL 61603 | PHONE (309) 671-1550 | FAX (309) 671-1595
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