There aren't any Christmas trees or holiday decorations to be found, but hundreds of wrapped packages are stacked in the foyer at First Baptist Church in Millersville, soon to be delivered to needy children around the world.
The packages were collected for Operation Christmas Child, a Christian relief and evangelism effort organized through Samaritan's Purse. The North Carolina-based agency is a ministry run by Franklin Graham, son of evangelist the Rev. Billy Graham.
The Millersville church is acting as a collection point for the region, with boxes arriving from Perryville to Piedmont. More than 500 were dropped off on Monday.
Organizers here hope to collect 2,000 boxes before taking them to Paducah, Ky., Sunday afternoon. Genesis Transportation Co. has donated the use of a trailer to haul the items. The group collected 1,659 boxes last year.
The Charleston Baptist Association also collected boxes for the project. More than 700 shoe boxes had been dropped off at the association offices Monday, and more are expected from churches. The association hopes to collect 1,000 boxes by week's end. Last year's total was 955.
Sarah Hoffmeister, 16, of Millersville collected toys, bars of soap and some clothing to put in her 12 boxes.
"I've been blessed and wanted to help other kids," she said.
She had planned to assemble a box a month but got a little behind, though she did finish all 12. Her sister, Beth, made a box for babies and included outfits and blankets in it. In all, the family donated 18 boxes to the program.
Church member Birdie Casebolt, who assembled the boxes for several years before asking her church to help, said, "It's just amazing how people get into it and their hearts go out for these kids."
The program is simple and reaches around the world. Volunteers fill empty shoe boxes with toys and gifts for children in separate age categories from 2 to 14. Donations of $5 are needed to cover shipping costs. The boxes can include crayons, pens and paper, small toys or dolls, yo-yos or travel-sized games, personal hygiene items like soap and toothpaste and hard candies or gum. The boxes cannot have used items, war-related toys like guns or knives, perishable items, liquids, medicine like vitamins or cough drops or breakable items.
When you hear stories about how happy the children were to get any gift or how little they have, "it just breaks your heart and you want to give them as much as you can," said Sarah's mother, Cindy. "We are so blessed in this country that you want to do all you can to give them a little something."
335-6611, extension 126