Thanks to you, we make it all happen this holiday
Thursday, December 19, 2013 by Monsignor Michael M. Boland

We couldn’t do it without you!  Catholic Charities could not bring the joy of Christmas to thousands of people throughout Cook and Lake counties without unbelievably generous and kind-hearted people like you who graciously volunteer time and donate loads of toys, pieces of warm clothing, and other gifts to our clients every year. 

With your help, hundreds of homeless and low-income families and individuals with nowhere else to go will receive a warm meal on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.  We rely on many volunteers who sacrifice time with their own families to help serve hungry people who come to our St. Vincent’s Center for a delicious and festive meal on these special holidays.   Thanks to you, no one is turned away.Through the generosity of parishes, corporations, high schools, families, and individual donors, Catholic Charities is able to operate the “Christmas Gift Program”  in Lake County, and the “Celebration of Giving Program” in Cook County that provide not only toys to children and families in our care, but much, much more.   In many cases, the donations we receive from these holiday drives are used to prepare our clients for the cold winter months ahead.  Often the first items on our clients’ wish lists are a warm coat, hat, and gloves.  We are so grateful for every piece of warm clothing and outerwear that we receive because they are desperately needed and deeply appreciated.  Surprisingly, even children will ask for these things before any toy.  Warm pajamas are another necessity that typically overrides any other gift or toy request.     

But oh the toys! Our donors would certainly never let our precious children go without toys on Christmas!  For the last several years, the tens of thousands of toys that are collected have been enough for Catholic Charities to give each child in our care a toy to cuddle with, a toy to play with, and a toy to learn from.  These toys can be as simple as a teddy bear, a small ball, and a puzzle or book.  No matter what the children receive, the smiles on their faces melt your heart.  Many of these children have never received anything new, let alone something as exciting as a new toy or book.

And if a new toy or book is exciting, imagine the grins when a child receives a shiny new bicycle or red wagon!  For the last 14 years, it has been a great tradition for the Chicago Fire Fighters Union Local 2 and Paramedics and their families to collect and load 7,000 new toys, including hundreds of new bicycles and red wagons, onto antique fire trucks for an exciting and colorful Toy Shower Parade to Catholic Charities.  Thanks to their generosity, thousands of children will have a very merry Christmas indeed.

The volume of toys and gifts Catholic Charities receives during the Christmas season is truly amazing.  We are profoundly grateful to our incredible legion of volunteers who work tirelessly every day, and to the wonderful folks at the Merchandise Mart and Sears Holding Corporation who generously donate space, so that the toys and gifts can be efficiently collected, sorted and distributed in time for a joyous Christmas morning. 

It really is thanks to you, Catholic Charities’ Board of Advisors and Junior Board, and many local businesses, parishes, and school groups, that the children, families, and seniors served by Catholic Charities receive the blessings of Christmas.  Together, we make it all happen.  This is what Christmas is truly about—coming together in the name of Jesus Christ to care for our neighbors in need.    Thank you and God bless you!

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