Cross Catholic Outreach’s Box of Joy ministry is gearing up to put Christmas smiles on the faces of more than 70,000 children, all of whom live in dire poverty in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. In its fifth year, Box of Joy is adding another country to the list of nations where children will receive boxes of little Christmas gifts packed by families, churches and individuals who take the opportunity to help children experience the joy of Christmas in places where gifts are rare or nonexistent due to poverty.
“While gift-giving is not the meaning of Christmas, it does help us remember the reason for Christmas—the birth of Jesus—and how our Lord received gifts from strangers,” said Jim Cavnar, president of Cross Catholic Outreach. “Serving Jesus through helping these children experience the joy of opening up presents is a beautiful way to show the love of Christ, and to see that love reflected in their happy faces.”
Last year, through the efforts of 476 participating Catholic parishes, schools and groups across 48 states utilizing 126 drop-off centers, Cross Catholic Outreach collected and delivered gift-filled Boxes of Joy to 46,360 children in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Guatemala. El Salvador will be added this year, and the ministry’s goal is to reach at least 70,000 kids.
Catholic parishes, schools and groups nationwide organize Boxes of Joy by packing the boxes with small gifts like toys, 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. Boxes are then dropped off during Box of Joy Week, Nov. 3 to 11.
“Some kids live in homes without electricity or running water,” says Most Rev. Thomas J. Rodi, Archbishop of Mobile. “Some kids live in homes with dirt floors. Some kids live in the most impoverished areas and never receive a Christmas present. Fortunately, we have an opportunity to make Christmas brighter for these kids through the Box of Joy ministry. Together, this Christmas let’s tell kids in the most impoverished of situations that they are loved by sending them a Box of Joy.”
Cross Catholic Outreach piloted the Box of Joy ministry in 2014 with just two dioceses participating. Every year, the number of churches and groups has grown significantly, and this year is expected to continue growing as churches and families see Box of Joy as a tangible way to show love and compassion to children in dire need.
The 2018 Box of Joy campaign kicked off in September and groups deliver gifts to their local drop-off centers during Box of Joy Week, Nov. 3-11. Any group that misses Box of Joy Week can ship their gifts to the National Screening Center in Miami. To learn more on how to engage students, parishioners or group members in reaching needy children through Box of Joy, please visit the website.