WELLS — On Friday, Nov. 20, 302 shoeboxes, safely packed away in larger boxes, were loaded onto a truck at St. Mary Church in Wells and shipped to Florida.

Inside the boxes were gifts for children that represented hope and the promise of making Christmas a little bit brighter for the recipients.

“The shoeboxes full of gifts will be sent to children in need in poor areas of Central America and the Caribbean,” said Carolyn Houston, director of faith formation at Holy Spirit Parish (St. Martha Church, Kennebunk; St. Mary Church, Wells; All Saints Church, Ogunquit). “Many thanks to all of the volunteers who helped make this drive possible. Many hands do make light work!”

Boxes of Joy is an initiative of the parish that helps to provide gifts to children who have never received Christmas presents before. Individuals and families in the parish and wider community filled a shoebox or shoeboxes with gifts and marked the box for a boy or a girl and the approximate age. Then, they simply dropped off the boxes at a parish church.

The success of the program in recent years inspired others nearby to join in the kindness.

“One of younger parishioners, Colby White, helped us get 71 boxes filled from Cheverus High School in Portland,” said Houston. “The Parish of the Ascension of the Lord in Kittery also filled 70 boxes.”

“By packing Boxes of Joy with toys and other gifts, participants bless children suffering from extreme poverty by sharing the joy of Christmas and planting seeds of hope,” said Lisa White, one of the organizers of the project at Holy Spirit Parish.

Thanks to Cross Catholic Outreach, all the boxes will be delivered to children in need living in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and Guatemala to spread joy and mercy at Christmas time. If you would still like to make a donation to help the initiative, visit www.crosscatholic.org/donate.