Interparish Faith in Action group in Osage County collects for “Christmas in July” Box of Joy project


Several women throughout Osage County have started a group called Osage County Faith in Action, many of whom are faith-filled and want to give back to local parishes, communities in the United States, and even areas on the other side of the world with a “Christmas in July” project. 

Co-led by Nyla Bassett, a member of Holy Family in Freeburg, and Westphalia St. Joseph parishioner Angela Stuecken, who brought the idea to Bassett, the group’s motto is “Feed, Lead, and Protect.” 

Ms. Stuecken said Osage County Faith in Action members did not want to hold this project during the Christmas season because it would take away from other programs such as Osage Caring Projects.

“We are doing just that with our first group project,” Ms. Bassett said of “Box of Joy,” which blesses underprivileged children around the world.

“Angela and I had been in contact with other prayerful projects over the years, and our paths have crossed more than once through continued Catholic education,” she said. “Angela is a wealth of information, and I really lean on her. Common friends and interests kept us connected, so when Angela reached out and said she had something big up her sleeve, I was all in and excited.”

Ms. Bassett gathered several of her prayer group friends from Freeburg and went to see what Ms. Stuecken had planned. 

“Angela invited us into her house and talked about Cross Catholic Outreach and a few of the projects CCO has, including mission trips and why they are so important,” Ms. Bassett explained. “It was decided that night that it would be good for Osage County to have a group to join together — some people from each parish if at all possible — to pray and serve together. ‘Feed, Lead, and Protect,’ that is what God asks of us, and that is what we hope to do together.”

Ms. Stuecken noted that Ms. Bassett and Holy Family parishioners have gone above and beyond. “They agreed to host in the church basement, and it’s very much appreciated,” she said.

By the end of the collection period on July 31, the group had collected 657 boxes, which were loaded and packed at Holy Family. The final boxes were prepared for shipping Aug. 2.

Women from Argyle, Babbtown, Bonnots Mill, Frankenstein, Freeburg, Folk, Koeltztown, Linn, Loose Creek, Meta, Rich Fountain, Westphalia, and St. Thomas took on the challenge of filling boxes. 

“We actually fell short, but that’s okay for our first year,” said Ms. Bassett, noting the goal was to fill 1,000 boxes. “It was truly a joy to fill them.

“I was blown away by the community’s support with this project,” she added. “Individual people would take three or four boxes home and come back and get two or three more.”

Ms. Bassett’s home parish set a goal of 100 boxes and blew that away with 150.

“We knocked it out of the park,” she said. “We had people donate boxes of toothbrushes, and soaps, and school supplies. It was so amazing to watch how it all came together. I have no doubt in my mind that next year, we will hit 1,000 boxes.”

“Some of the other parishes did the same,” Ms. Stuecken added. “They took a set number of boxes and ended up coming back for extra boxes because the response of charity was so overwhelming. The community rallied together and exceeded what they thought they could do.”

In developing countries, Christmas is not always a day marked by feasting and gift-giving. In fact, the hardships of poverty leave many children resigned to deprivation.

In 2014, Cross Catholic Outreach began the Box of Joy ministry as a way to combat this hopelessness and bring smiles to the faces of children around the globe.

According to information on the organization’s website, the organization partners annually with Catholic parishes, schools, groups, and families to support in-country ministry partners and their efforts to help the poor.

“Our mission is to mobilize the global Catholic Church to transform the poor and their communities materially and spiritually for the glory of Jesus Christ,” the mission statement reads. “Your gift empowers us to serve the poorest of the poor by channeling life-changing aid through an international network of dioceses, parishes and Catholic missionaries. This cost-effective approach helps break the cycle of poverty and advance Catholic evangelization.”

A Box of Joy is a donated Christmas shoebox packed with toys, clothing, school supplies, and other essential items by Osage County Faith in Action. 

Each child who receives a Box of Joy also receives a rosary and a booklet in their own language that tells the Story of Jesus.

“A Box of Joy provides hope to children in need,” said Ms. Bassett. “Each gift represents Christ’s love and may be the only Christmas gift they receive.”

She explained the group asked for volunteers to fill a box with the necessities of a child and donate $10 ($9 for shipping and $1 to purchase additional supplies to fill each box to the max) to get the boxes to their destination.

Recommended donated items include both toys and practical items. Cross Catholic Outreach notes on its site that “socks, flip-flops, and hats are just as celebrated and cherished by needy boys and girls as toy cars and dolls.”

Practical items of need include manicure sets (without nail polish), age-appropriate scissors, air pumps with needles for soccer balls, bar soap, wash cloths, toothpaste and toothbrushes, sewing kits, and lip balm.

Since the organization’s inception nearly a decade ago, 512,855 Box of Joy gifts have blessed boys and girls in nine developing countries. In the 2022 Box of Joy season, 118,990 gifts were sent to children in the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Honduras and Malawi. 

During Box of Joy week — Nov. 4-12 — gifts are donated and delivered to local drop-off centers by participating parishes, schools, groups, and families.

From the drop-off centers, the gifts are picked up by the Box of Joy ministry and brought directly to the national screening center in Doral, Florida.

Each shoebox is screened to ensure the gifts are safe and appropriate for the children being blessed.

Gifts are then shipped to developing countries.

Relying on its trusted network of mission partners, Cross Catholic Outreach distributes Box of Joy gifts to children in needy families identified by local priests and nuns serving impoverished communities.

This fall, Osage County Faith in Action’s second community project will benefit Feed the Hungry. The ladies will partner again with Cross Catholic Outreach on a Food Packing Event in which they will pack Vitafood meals scientifically formulated with the right blend of protein, vitamins, and nutrients to improve health that are easy to ship and store.

“These lifesaving meals are then provided to hungry children and families for the impoverished worldwide,” said Ms. Bassett.

Mr. Johnson is editor of the Unterrified Democrat newspaper (, which published a version of this article and gave permission for it to be republished here.