Denise Fedorow
Freelance Writer
December 17, 2023 // Local

St. John the Evangelist Parishioners ‘Stuff the Boxes’

Denise Fedorow
Freelance Writer

Parishioners at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Goshen have been participating in the Box of Joy program through Cross Catholic Outreach for five years. A Box of Joy is a shoe box filled with toys, clothing, school supplies, a rosary, and a booklet in their own language that tells “The Story of Jesus.” The boxes are to be sent to children in developing countries such as Haiti, Malawi, and the Dominican Republic, according to their website, This year, organizers at St. John the Evangelist added a twist and held a “Stuff the Box” event on Friday, November 10, with three objectives. They wanted to fill Boxes of Joy, have a fun parish fellowship event, and create a means to bring together English- and Spanish-speaking parishioners of the parish.

Photos provided by Brian Sapp
Members of the Tecpil family, from left, Reyna, Daphne Romero, and Denahii Romero, participate in the bilingual event held on Friday, November 10, at St. John the Evangelist in Goshen to fill Boxes of Joy for children overseas.

Amanda Woodiel organized the event. She said it all began in 2019 when her five kids were aged 2-10. She couldn’t sleep one night and decided to go online to see if her blog was posted to When she got to the website, she saw a posting about Boxes of Joy and decided to investigate. She said she had heard about similar service projects at other churches but said, “I loved that Cross Catholic added a rosary and a book about the life of Jesus to each box.”

She told Today’s Catholic that she went to their website and learned the deadline was that day at midnight and it was already 11:30 p.m. “I had 30 minutes to decide, and my voice of reason (my husband Tom) was asleep next to me,” she said.

At the time, she was leading the mom’s group at the parish and was sure they could fill 10 boxes. “As I was filling out the form, I heard a voice in my soul say 100. I thought ‘100? What if I have to make up the difference? We have no resources for that.’” As she argued with herself internally, Woodiel said she heard 100 again.

So, she took a leap of faith with 15 minutes left to decide and ordered 100 boxes to be delivered to her house the next day. That year, with just a couple of weeks to do so, and purely through word of mouth, they filled 148 boxes. They have continued to do the project each year, but with a lot more notice and advertising.

As for the Stuff the Boxes event, Woodiel said: “From the beginning, I heard people say they really enjoyed the project. After all, it combines the great American pastime of shopping with charitable works. The only lament I heard was that it would be fun to have a party to fill the boxes together. Between COVID, which occurred the following year, and our son having serious health issues in 2022, this was the first opportunity I had to test it out.”

Woodiel said another reason for planning the in-person event was because the parish is always looking for ways to bring the Spanish-speaking and English-speaking communities within the parish together, but because of space constraints at the church, it is sometimes difficult to do. She felt this was an opportunity to get as many people as possible in the same place with a common goal of doing a task that doesn’t need a common language. They even had games for the children who didn’t speak the same languages, such as Uno, jigsaw puzzles, and coloring sheets that could be put in the boxes.

“We set up tables for people to sit together and enjoy refreshments,” Woodiel said. “And we had bilingual ‘human Bingo,’ in which people tried to find someone who matched the categories on their Bingo cards like ‘find someone whose birthday is the same month as yours,’ or ‘find someone who can whistle,’ and whoever got a Bingo then entered his or her card to win a door prize.” She said that particular activity got parishioners talking to each other.

The “Companions of Mary Magdalene,” a small group of young Hispanic women, helped with the event. “They were looking for a service project and were excited about it,” said Woodiel. “They helped make bilingual videos for Facebook and helped hand out empty boxes after Masses.”

“It really benefited all of us,” added Woodiel, because the group is raising money to go to the SEEK conference, a national conference put on by FOCUS, and they were able to sell tamales at the Stuff the Box event to raise funds. “They hit their financial goal, and I believe they brought in more traffic to the event from people who were coming to buy tamales.”

Woodiel said about 100 people came to the come-and-go event with about 30 to 40 in the gym at one time. Instead of filling a box on their own, people could choose a slip of paper that said things like 10 T-shirts or 10 glue sticks, and those items were collected and distributed to the boxes to be filled. Those who wished to fill a box on their own were still welcome to do so. She said they filled 110 boxes that night and 284 total, with the school children filling 84 of them.

Woodiel said she was not sure if having the event brought more participation because some who filled boxes on their own in the past instead chose to purchase items for the event. “It did bring blessings, though.” She added: “I heard from several that they enjoyed the format more than trying to fill a box all by themselves. Someone else pointed out that this method allows more people to participate who couldn’t fill a box on their own due to financial restraints. Finally, it shows people how to fill a box so that filling one on their own in the future wouldn’t be so overwhelming.”

The Knights of Columbus have also been supportive of the project, financing some of the shipping costs. Each box requires $9 shipping, and the Knights help cover that cost for the boxes filled by the schoolchildren at St. John’s school.

Woodiel said the best year they had was in 2021 when they filled 340 boxes. “People had stimulus money, and the general mood was one of relief and helping others. This year, the economy is tighter, the cost of living is increased, and especially in our county, which has a lot of RV manufacturing, the mood is uncertain.”

Woodiel said it is hard to gauge year to year. “What I can say is that throughout the five years we have done it, we have sent well over 1,000 boxes to children!”

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