SKOWHEGAN — Six 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. 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.

Then, 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) through Nov. 13. Interested parties can also make an appointment to drop off boxes by contacting Wilson at 301-956-4086 or elysethemom@gmail.com. The same program is also being conducted at the Parishes of the Western Maine Lakes and Foothills. Boxes can be picked up and dropped off at St. Catherine of Sienna Church (32 Parish Street in Norway), Our Lady of Ransom Church (117 Elm Street in Mechanic Falls), St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church (857 Main Street in Fryeburg), or St. Joseph Church (225 South High Street in Bridgton).

“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,” said Wilson.