Project Joybells: A Magical Gift to Families at Christmas

He who gives a child a treat makes joybells ring on Heaven’s street…”

This quote from poet William Blake was part of the inspiration for the annual Christmas Joybells Program, now in its 28th year of operation. Dorothy Walsh Buckley was the person who started Joybells – the founding elf if you will. She was a lifelong educator and volunteer extraordinaire dedicated to social service. Her vision, inspiration, and generosity ensured that needy children in Alameda and Contra Costa County experience the magic of receiving a gift from Santa Claus on Christmas morning. Through her dream, tens of thousands of toys and gifts were opened on Christmas morning.  Children smile, laugh, giggle, and of course scream loudly that yes, there is a Santa and he didn’t forget them.

National Charity League volunteers join our Season of Gratitude by packing gifts for Joybells.

National Charity League volunteers join our Season of Gratitude by packing gifts for Joybells.

Many elves make for light work. The chief elves are Mary Moyce and the Oakland-Piedmont chapter of the National Charity League, an organization of mothers and daughters in the 7th through 12th grades. They provide the leadership and guidance to make this happen. They and others help purchase and wrap thousands of toys every year. That includes checking the list twice to ensure that the children get some of what they asked for, naughty or nice.

That list comes from Catholic Charities of the East Bay, who works with staff from our immigration, mental health, refugee resettlement, housing, family literacy, and other programs to provide the name, age, and sex of children and their Christmas wishes.

Most of the toys are purchased from money raised all year. Some of the toys, however, are donated by families. There was one family who just, “enjoyed the process of picking out and buying toys and then imagining the children finding them on Christmas morning.” That family said, “We are not a wealthy family and we do this because we want to see the truly needy children have a bright spot at Christmas.”

Volunteers preparing the gifts

Preparing the gifts

On average, the Joybells Program provides toys to some 250 families. The most served was 521 families in 2005.

Dorothy Buckley said that a needy child is God’s child deserving our love and respect. She also asked of us to open our hands wide and give some of what you have been given.

Anyone wishing to make a donation to the Joybells Program can simply write a check to Catholic Charities of the East Bay and write Project Joybells on the memo line of the check. Checks can be sent to our main office at 433 Jefferson St., Oakland, CA 94607.

I wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.


PS – I invite you to our new Transforming Lives Tour to learn more about Catholic Charities and our programs. The tours are on the second and third Thursday of every month and begin Thursday, January 8, 2015 at our main office located on 433 Jefferson Street, Oakland. Please contact Debra Gunn at 510-768-3142 or