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 | Carlos Briceño | Photo Credit:

Council of Catholic Women Sponsors Box of Joy Ministry for Poor Children to Receive Christmas Gifts

The Joliet Diocese Council of Catholic Women (JDCCW) is participating again in the Box of Joy ministry sponsored by Cross Catholic Outreach (CCO). The ministry sends Christmas gifts to children in developing countries. For many poor children, a Box of Joy – filled with toys, clothing, school supplies, a rosary and the Story of Jesus – was the first Christmas gift they ever received.

Council of Catholic Women groups throughout the Joliet diocese help to put together the boxes and collect monetary donations to help pay for the shipping of the boxes, as well. Cross Catholic Outreach, a non-profit organization based in Boca Raton, FL, estimates the cost to ship is $9 per box. According to its website (, CCO mobilizes “the global Catholic Church to transform the poor and their communities materially and spiritually for the glory of Jesus Christ.”

In 2017, the first year the ministry was adopted by the JDCCW, 1,822 children were blessed by the boxes of joy mailed to CCO from the diocese.

The timeline for the project works like this: The planning and organization by parishes, schools and groups occurs from August through September. A kickoff event happens during sometime in September or October. Materials are handed out to participants by Oct. 30. These include passing out flat boxes to parishioners, who then assemble and pack the boxes with age-appropriate items. Participants can choose a box for either a boy or a girl, ages 2-4, 5-9 or 10-14.

The boxes are sent to poor children in the Caribbean, Africa, Asia and Latin America during Christmas time.

What the CCO team hopes people pack into the boxes as gifts are the basic necessities for boys and girls in the following age ranges – 2-4, 5-9 and 10-14 –  said Tessie O’Dea, the organization’s Relationship Development Manager.

So, boxes can include the following items: toothbrushes, toothpaste, bars of soap, school supplies, pencils, notebooks, highlighters, erasers, toys, dolls, pencil sharpeners, socks, underwear, t-shirts, or flip flops. Liquid items and chocolate are not accepted. Rosaries and coloring books about Jesus, written in English, Spanish or Creole, are also included in each box by the CCO staff and volunteers at the screening center. Before they are shipped, blessings and prayers are offered for all involved.

This year’s boxes and donations will be collected by Nov. 10, 2020, said Joan Dillon, a CCW member who is leading this year’s Box of Joy campaign.

Because of the pandemic, this year’s campaign has been altered because of social distancing and lack of gatherings in person. As a result, Dillon said CCW expects to gather only 800 boxes.

One obstacle has been a lack of storage. The boxes need to be stored somewhere before being sent to a drop-off center, and not many locations have been willing to store the boxes, Dillon said, who added that the majority of the boxes will probably be stored in her garage.

But there have been positives. “The enthusiasm of the women is tremendous,” she said. “Who doesn’t want to make a little child happy?”

To contact Dillon to donate or to get more information about the Box of Joy ministry, contact her at 815-729-1968.