Visitation Catholic Church in Elmhurst has ensured Christmas will be merrier for hundreds of children in the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Haiti and Guatemala.
On Nov. 28,the parish shipped 1,805 shoebox-sized boxes containing an array of small gifts — toys, clothing, art supplies and more — all lovingly selected for a child who may not receive anything else this Christmas.
It was the first time Visitation has participated in the project called “Boxes of Joy,” an annual program facilitated by Cross Catholic Outreach in Florida.
Visitation launched the project in August, passing out flat boxes to parishioners, who then assembled and packed the boxes with age-appropriate items. Participants could choose if they wanted their box to be for a boy or girl, age 2-4, 5-9 or 10-14. Starting in October, Visitation began collecting the packed boxes — approximately 800 from its own parish plus 1,000 more from other parishes in the Joliet Catholic diocese.
Carlotta Lawton, a parishioner, learned about Boxes of Joy earlier this year while attending a convention for the National Council of Catholic Women (CCW). Lawton is a former president of the Visitation CCW.
(See story below this one to read more of CCW’s assistance with the Boxes of Joy project.)
“She was very passionate not only about having Visitation participate in Boxes of Joy, but she wanted us to serve as a regional drop-off center for other area schools, churches, groups and families,” said Kim MacGregor, 2017-18 Visitation CCW president. “I loved the idea because it fit perfectly with our CCW theme this year — ‘Grace of Encounter’ — which is about coming to know God by actively serving others.”
Making the project a reality took a team of dedicated volunteers that included Lawton and her husband, Robert, along with parishioners Paula Ciccarone and Bridget Winkiel, who oversees service and outreach for Visitation’s CCW.
“We had adults and middle schoolers alike rolling up their sleeves and dedicating their time during many weekday evenings and weekends. It was truly a team effort,” MacGregor said.
After several weeks of collections, the Boxes of Joy were all packed into larger shipping boxes, and Deacon Michael O’Ryan, who was also on the organizing committee, blessed them. On hand was Cathy Salata, president of the Joliet Diocesan CCW, who had brought several carloads of filled Boxes of Joy to Visitation after collecting them from throughout the diocese.
Best of all was the moment when all the boxes were loaded onto a truck bound for Florida. “We were elated,” MacGregor said. “It was wonderful to see our parish community embrace this effort to help others. People had fun and got really creative about what they could fit in a box the size of a shoebox. We just wish we could see the kids’ smiles when they receive our gifts.”
The Joliet Diocesan Council of Catholic Women Donates 1,822 Boxes of Joy to Cross Catholic Outreach
Thanks to the generosity of people and parishes throughout the diocese, the Joliet Diocesan Council of Catholic Women (JDCCW) donated 1, 822 Boxes of Joy to Cross Catholic Outreach.
Due to severe poverty, many children in developing countries do not receive anything for Christmas. Through the Box of Joy project, these children can experience God’s love through the cherished Christmas tradition of gift giving. Such acts of love can change lives. In addition, this gift helps support Catholic Missions worldwide and the and the Church to strengthen the ministry of our Catholic priest and nuns working to provide a spark of hope in the hearts of suffering children around the world.
The National Council of Catholic Women has been in partnership with Catholic Relief Services since 1946, when council women worked with CRS to support the refugees from World War II. Today, the organization also partners with Cross Catholic Outreach, with many programs including Boxes of Joy, and the Women Helping Women Campaign for Human Dignity.