"We have been a drop-off site for the Southern End and portions of Chester County since 2009," organizer Dan Henry said.
Congregations from other local churches, including Wesley Church, Wrightsdale Baptist Church, and Little Britain Presbyterian Church, brought their filled shoeboxes to Middle Octorara.
The church also accepts shoeboxes from individuals, he said.
"We had a little over 2,200 boxes last year. It's been about the same for the last couple of years. Some that used to come here now go to a collection site in Willow Street," he said. Since it began serving as a drop-off site, the church has collected more than 16,000 boxes.
Middle Octorara's congregation also donates boxes, packing between 80 and 100 a year.
Boxes should be designated for boys or girls. They should also be marked for ages two to four, five to nine, or 10 to 14.
There are some changes for this year's boxes.
"You cannot put candy, gum, or toothpaste in this year," Henry said. "Last year, they recommended you not include these items; this year, you cannot put them in. Donors cannot include war-related items."
The boxes can contain school supplies, toys, and hygiene items.
"Just make sure they fit in a shoebox-size container," Henry said. "But the most important thing is to include a prayer. Donors can also write a note to the child who will receive the box." The national ministry also asks for a $9 donation to cover shipping costs.
Donors can use cardboard boxes or plastic containers. The plastic containers are better because the children who receive them can then reuse the boxes, he said.
The program is a ministry of the Rev. Franklin Graham's Samaritan's Purse International Relief organization.
Since it started in 1993, the program has collected more than 157 million shoebox gifts for children in more than 160 countries and territories. This year, the charity has set a goal of 12 million boxes.
The church, at 1199 Valley Rd. (Rt. 372), will be open for donations from 8 to 10 a.m. on Monday, November 12, Thursday, November 15, and Monday, November 19. It will also be open from 3 to 6 p.m. on Tuesday, November 13, Wednesday, November 14, and Friday, November 16, as well as from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, November 17, and from 2 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, November 18.
Middle Octorara takes the boxes to a regional collection site in Lancaster. “Last year, we rented a truck and took the first shipment up at the end of the day on Sunday. Then we took the rest up on Monday afternoon,” Henry said.
The boxes will then be delivered to a processing center in Baltimore where they are packed for shipment overseas.