SKOWHEGAN — Five years ago, Elyse Wilson of Christ the King Parish in Skowhegan read about a program that helped provide shoe boxes full of gifts to mission children in South America who had never received Christmas presents before.

“I was very inspired by the stories, and I thought it would be a great way for kids in our area to get involved with missions,” she said. “Children are naturally generous, and they love to give gifts, especially at Christmas time.”

Weeks later, “Box of Joy” in Maine was born.

To participate, individuals and families fill a shoe box or boxes with gifts and mark the box for a boy or a girl and the approximate age. Then, they simply drop off the box at Notre Dame de Lourdes Church (273 Water Street in Skowhegan), St. Peter Church (27 Owens Street in Bingham), or St. Sebastian Church (161 Main Street in Madison) on Nov. 6-11. Interested parties can also make an appointment to drop off boxes by contacting Wilson at 301-956-4086.

A list of recommended gifts as well as a list of what cannot be sent appear on the website of Cross Catholic Outreach (www.crosscatholic.org/boxofjoy). In general, toys, hygiene items, and school supplies are acceptable. Items should be new or like new, and should not include liquids, food, or anything related to violence.

A check for $9 made out to Cross Catholic Outreach should be included in the box to help cover shipping expenses.

“Our parish is very supportive and Cross Catholic Outreach is also very supportive and encouraging. They provide all the supplies needed and send a truck to pick up the boxes,” said Wilson. “This is a fun and rewarding way for individuals, families, and even faith formation classes to share the love of Christ and the true meaning of Christmas.”

For more information about the program at Christ the King or if you are interested in starting a “Box of Joy” program at your parish, call 301-956-4086 or email Elyse Wilson at elysethemom@gmail.com.