November 30, 2022 // Diocese

Christmas Shoebox Project Spreads Joy of Giving This Advent Season

As Catholics around the world plan to spend the season of Advent preparing for the coming of Christ, one group of children is already working to bring the love of Jesus to those in need in the Fort Wayne community.

Northeastern Indiana Catholic Home Educators (NICHE) held its 4th annual Christmas Shoebox Project on Nov. 18 at St. Vincent de Paul’s Kuzmich Life Center in Fort Wayne. Roughly 100 kids from the local Catholic homeschooling community gathered together to pack shoeboxes with both essential items and Christmas gifts for other children. These shoeboxes are then delivered to Catholic Charities for distribution to families in need this Christmas season. NICHE Lead Coordinator Laura Kaufman, who organizes the Christmas Shoebox Project each year, said it has always been a popular and well-received event among NICHE families.

Photos by Eric Peat
Kids stand in line to assemble their shoeboxes for families in need this Christmas.

“I think the shoebox project is so special because it gives kids of all ages a chance to give a gift to someone they have never met, but who is a kid just like them,” said Kaufman. “The shoeboxes enable us to help with the material needs of kids in our community, but more importantly, it enables us to reflect the love of Christ for them. What an awesome opportunity we have been so blessed to have been given!”

To help make the event a success, a total of 25 families pitched in to donate items for the shoeboxes. All of the boxes included essentials such as hats, gloves, socks, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and facial tissues. They also included toys and games that corresponded with each of the six age and gender categories – toddler girl and boy, kid girl and boy, and teenage girl and boy. The toddler girl boxes featured necklaces, dolls, and toy unicorns, while the toddler boy boxes featured cars, dinosaurs, and balls. Next, the kid girl boxes held bracelet kits, nail polish, and hair accessories, while the kid boy boxes held building blocks, wooden engineering kits, and games. Finally, the teenage girl boxes included gel pens, lotions, and cosmetic bags, while the teenage boy boxes included decks of cards, wallets, and multitools. In all, these items make up only a few of the many that each of these boxes contained.

Tables are set up ahead of time for the NICHE Christmas Shoebox Project at the St. Vincent Kuzmich Life Center.

As the kids came through the line to assemble their boxes, they got to choose which age and gender category they wanted to put together. They would then walk around the room, taking one of each type of item from every table labeled for their category. Volunteers checked each box to ensure that assembly had been completed properly. By the end of the project, each child had the opportunity to repeat the process and assemble two or three shoeboxes.

In addition to stuffing their shoeboxes with the collected items, participants would also color Christmas cards to add to their boxes with a small note to their future recipients. According to Kaufman, one of the goals of the project is to help the recipients know that someone cares about them and is praying for them.

Father Dan Scheidt offers a blessing over the shoeboxes after they are all assembled.

“I always try really hard to make this as personal as possible for the kids,” said Kaufman. “We decorate the lids and include cards with messages signed, ‘Your Friend.’ I ask the kids who make the boxes to pray for their new friends this Advent. I know we will never know who receives our boxes, but I love to picture just one child receiving just one box and to think of the smile it will bring them as they go through their new treasures.”

After all the packing was finished and the group’s goal of assembling 160 shoeboxes had been met, everyone celebrated with a pizza party. Father Dan Scheidt, Pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Parish, also stopped by to offer a prayer, bless the shoeboxes, and visit with the families. The Hudecek family had four children participate in the project, and they all experienced the joy of giving that marks this Advent season.

“It feels nice that we’re helping other people, and it’s fun to pack the boxes with our friends,” said Julia, age 9. “It’s important because some people don’t get presents at Christmas.”

“I like to help God’s children,” agreed Claire, also age 9. “I think God would want us to do the shoeboxes.”

Father Dan Scheidt visits with NICHE families after completing the Christmas Shoebox Project.

Those interested in learning more information about NICHE and its upcoming events in the Catholic homeschooling community can visit the organization’s website at

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