While it’s no secret Christmas has been commercialized to a large degree, the baby Jesus and spirit of giving are still essential for Catholic parishes and families across the country. Every year since Cross Catholic Outreach began Box of Joy, more and more groups and churches have signed up to give children in impoverished nations a small piece of the joy of Christmas.
“Box of Joy is more than giving a child small gifts in a shoebox who would otherwise receive nothing during Christmas,” said Jim Cavnar, president of Cross Catholic Outreach. “Box of Joy is an opportunity to consciously take time out of the busy holiday season to focus on serving others and sharing the joy of Jesus’ birth.”
Last year, through the efforts of 620 participating Catholic parishes, schools and groups across 47 states utilizing 149 drop-off centers, Cross Catholic Outreach collected and delivered gift-filled Boxes of Joy to 58,030 children in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala. The ministry’s goal is to increase the number of children served to 85,000 by 2020 — which will require a rise in group and parish participation and the number of drop-off centers for boxes. By sending Boxes of Joy — each box includes a rosary and “The Story of Jesus,” in the recipient’s native language — groups can demonstrate Christ’s compassion to poor children in developing countries. Group registration is available now.
Abby Johnson, the founder and director of And Then There Were None and author of Unplanned, which was made into a feature film and released in theaters this past March, will serve as a Box of Joy ambassador.
“My family has participated in Box of Joy for several years, and my kids love shopping for and filling those shoeboxes with little gifts for children who live without all of the conveniences that we enjoy as Americans,” said Johnson. “I’m thrilled to be able to share our family’s experience with Box of Joy, and I encourage parishes and school groups to join the ministry and purposefully set aside time to counter the secular Christmas culture.”
Catholic parishes, schools and groups nationwide organize Boxes of Joy by packing the boxes with small gifts like toys and school supplies, and adding essentials like soap, toothpaste and toothbrushes, as well as a few treats like hard candy and coloring books. Participants include $9 in each box to cover shipment from the local drop-off center to the child.
The 2019 Box of Joy campaign kicks off in September and groups deliver gifts to their local drop-off centers during Box of Joy Collection Week, Nov. 2-10. Any group that misses Box of Joy Week can ship their gifts to the National Screening Center in Miami. Here is the full 2019 schedule.