The Council of Catholic Women groups in the Eastern and Northwestern deaneries of the Diocese of St. Cloud have filled 679 “Box of Joy” Christmas gifts for children in Central America.
Boxes were collected during the first weeks of November and shipped to Florida. The effort is an initiative of Cross Catholic Outreach, a Boca Raton-based global relief and development ministry.
A Box of Joy is the size of a shoe box, packed with toys, clothing, school supplies and hygiene items. Each filled box is marked with the gender and age category of the recipient.
Sheri Streasick, as secretary of the Diocesan Council of Catholic Women, suggested the project as a mission activity for the Northwestern Deanery. They ordered 400 boxes to be divided among the deanery’s 36 parishes.
“Every time at a meeting when I presented information about donating a Box of Joy for a Christmas gift for children, people got excited and asked for more boxes. The same thing happened when our deanery president made announcements,” Streasick said.
“So we ordered another 200 boxes.”
Nita Hayes, president of the Eastern Deanery CCW and secretary for her parish’s Christian Mothers, has participated in Box of Joy for several years, first with the Little Falls Deanery where she previously served as vice president.
“We’re having families get involved, so they can teach the gift of giving to a mission project, where poverty is so great,” Hayes said. “Families here have watched videos of missionaries distributing the boxes and children opening their gifts. One boy was thrilled to receive his own new toothbrush so he wouldn’t have to share. It may be the only Christmas gift these children receive.”
Box of Joy is a national effort, Hayes said. In addition to the videos of children receiving gifts, Cross Catholic Outreach’s website (crosscatholic.org) offers a wealth of information: gift suggestions and how to pack items, online leader training, completing the paperwork and tracking volunteer hours.