Celebrating 65 Years of Giving
Saturday, December 01, 2012 by Monsignor Michael M. Boland

They shop with great thoughtfulness and even delight, but they will not see the look of wonder on a 4-year-old’s face when he plays with his shiny new fire truck, the smile on the face of a little girl as she hugs her new doll, or a teenager’s eyes light up at his new computer game or her beautiful sweater! They will not see a mother in a family shelter wipe away tears as she watches her children try on new winter coats – or an unemployed father’s joy as he helps his child try out her new bike.

In 1947, Catholic Charities’ Adoptive Parents Guild initiated their annual “Toy Shower” for children in need. Over the years, the annual toy collection has expanded with the agency, today providing gifts for thousands of children across our 157 programs whose families – or the children themselves – are receiving Catholic Charities services.

For the last 65 years, generous people of all ages, faiths, and ethnic backgrounds have given out of sheer love to Catholic Charities so that children and families suffering poverty or crisis will have a joyful Christmas – and know that someone cares about them. These “givers” take time out from their own busy schedules and reach into their own limited resources to make a poor child or family happy. And they expect nothing in return.

This year from December 1 through December 19, hundreds of unseen heroes will donate thousands of new Christmas gifts for children and families in need.

This is the true “Spirit of Christmas” and the true “Celebration of Giving!” Today, each of the approximately 10,000 children from the neediest families receiving Catholic Charities’ services receives three gifts: something to cuddle, to read and to play with. And our “Sponsor-a-Family” program in Cook County provides 500 of the poorest families in our care with new clothing, household items, books or school supplies.

Last Christmas, through the generosity of our donors, Catholic Charities Lake County Services provided gifts for children whose families were in need, and each child received between one and three gifts each. At this time, many children in need of Christmas gifts are currently matched with donors, but we welcome other generous givers who wish to participate.

Of course, the spirit of giving is alive all year long at Catholic Charities. But during the “Celebration of Giving,” we are blessed with great “Giving” events from an enormous number of generous and enthusiastic donors and volunteers from corporations, small businesses, grade and high schools, scout troops and parishes across the Archdiocese who collect, sort, pick up and distribute gifts for our children and clients. The Catholic Charities Junior Board of young adults hosts a huge party for the children and parents who are clients of our Early Childhood programs.

Everyone loves a parade! – especially at Christmastime. For the last 13 years, The Chicago Fire Fighters Union Local 2 and Paramedics and their families have shared the joy of Christmas with families who might not be able to afford Christmas gifts for their children. Each winter, they collect, load and deliver 7,000 gifts, including new bicycles and red wagons, onto antique fire trucks and into family cars for an exciting and colorful “Toy Shower Parade” to Catholic Charities.

The day may be cold, but the Chicago firefighters’ and paramedics’ spirit of Christmas love, joy and selfless generosity warms every heart at Catholic Charities as we see the joy of the hundreds of children and families they help.

Since 1917, Catholic Charities has been caring for children and families in need. Today, we protect and nurture the poor and vulnerable children and youth benefiting from our early childhood and after-school programs; or participating in our programs for pregnant and parenting teens, and our maternity and adoption services.

Christ came into this world as a poor child with nowhere to lay his head. I am profoundly grateful to all those who share their joy and generosity with God’s beloved children, parents, elders and families who are poor in the eyes of the world.

Throughout the year in Cook and Lake counties, Catholic Charities feeds elderly or disabled seniors, and those living alone, who are so often forgotten – with home-delivered meals. At Christmas, our thousands of donors and volunteers also happily share gifts of food, clothing and toys with the children of low-income families; as well as thoughtful gifts with the elderly who are living alone. No matter how much or how little they can share, they do so with generous hearts in the true spirit of loving and giving.

My prayer for our readers this Advent and during the Christmas Season is that – in your families, neighborhoods and workplaces – through your outpouring of loving prayers and thoughtful gifts of the necessities of life to God’s beloved poor – you will make the Advent and Christmas Seasons a truly blessed “Celebration of Giving!”

May God, the giver of all good gifts, bless you and your families this Christmas and always!

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