Millions of shoebox gifts will be delivered to needy children around the world this year and Ebenezer Church on Williamson Road outside of Greencastle has a new role in Samaritan Purse’s Operation Christmas Child.

While the words “Ebenezer” and “Christmas” often bring to mind the miserly character in Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” Pastor David Grove said Ebenezer actually means “the helping stone,” according to 1 Samuel 7:12.

“Everyone needs help,” he said. “We’re here to help, to be a face for the gospel in the community.”

The church has been involved in filling shoeboxes for nearly 10 years and first asked about being a collection site in 2011, but no more were needed in the area. The Operation Christmas Child folks advised the congregation to pray about it.

The long-awaited answer to many prayers came in June when the church was asked to be an OCC collection site. Locally, it joins Antrim Brethren in Christ Church, Mercersburg Mennonite Church, Otterbein Church in Waynesboro and New Guilford Brethren in Christ Church.

Across south-central Pennsylvania, the goal is 40,000 shoeboxes, while the nationwide effort is expected to be 9.1 million shoeboxes to reach 12 million children in over 130 countries.

The shoeboxes are filled with simple presents for children — one “wow” toy such as a doll, soccer ball with pump or stuffed animal and smaller gifts including toys, hygiene items and school supplies. Donors are also asked to pray for the recipient and can include a personal note or photo. A $9 donation helps cover shipping costs. Donors can track their gifts online to the far reaches of the earth.

Before the shoeboxes are distributed, the children hear the story “The Greatest Gift,” according to Donna Sites, who is coordinating the Ebenezer Church collection site with Grove and his wife, Amy. They also have the option to take the 12-lesson discipleship program “The Greatest Journey.”

“I’ve seen it first-hand for more than 20 years — these shoebox gifts bring hope to children around the world and show them the love of Jesus Christ,” according to Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan’s Purse. “For many of these boys and girls, it is the first gift they have ever received, and they will never forget it.”

The recipients “know they are loved even though they are not known,” Grove said. “Many of them become Christians through this and their parents become Christians.”

Anyone can pack a shoebox and collection week continues through Monday, Nov. 20. Additional details can be found at samaritanpurse.org/occ.

One shoebox at a time

Members of Ebenezer Church packed 100 shoeboxes in 2008. Last year, they packed 1,776 and this year’s goal is 2,000. Tina George, the church’s OCC coordinator, buys in bulk throughout the year and there monthly packing parties.

“We’ve promoted it more and explained it more,” said Grove.

And the church has seen the returns.

“They pray for us while we pray for them,” Sites said. “It just fills you.”

Young congregation member Shelby Zimmerman has gained pen pals among her shoebox recipients, including 14-year-old Gladson Njenekera from Makanjira, Malawi, Central Africa, whose father is a pastor.

Some of the letters to Shelby are in a frame in the room at the church set up for the shoebox collection, complete with a video and literature about the shoeboxes and what to pack, seasonal decorations, music and refreshments.

A banner proclaims “Saving souls one shoebox at a time.”

“We’re not just a drop-off,” Grove said. “We want people to come in and fellowship.”

A tractor-trailer donated by a church member sits outside and the goal is to fill it.

Collection locations

Ebenezer Church, 3661 Williamson Road, Greencastle, 717-597-3869

Thursday, Nov. 16: 5 to 8 p.m.

Friday, Nov. 17: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 18: 8 to 11 a.m.

Sunday, Nov. 19: 1 to 4 p.m.

Monday, Nov. 20: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Antrim Brethren in Christ Church, 24 Kauffman Road, Chambersburg, 717-375-4658

Friday, Nov. 17: 3 to 7 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 18: 1 to 3 p.m.

Sunday, Nov. 19: 1 to 3 p.m.

Monday, Nov. 20: 9 to 11 a.m.

New Guilford Brethren in Christ Church, 1575 Mont Alto Road, Chambersburg, 717-352-2458

Thursday, Nov. 16: 6 to 8 p.m.

Friday, Nov. 17: 6 to 8 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 18: 10 a.m. to noon

Sunday, Nov. 19: 2 to 4 p.m.

Monday, Nov. 20: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Otterbein Church, 912 S. Potomac St., Waynesboro, 717-762-7147

Thursday, Nov. 16: 5 to 7 p.m.

Friday, Nov. 17: 5 to 7 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 18: 10 a.m. to noon

Sunday, Nov. 19: 1 to 3 p.m.

Monday, Nov. 20: 9 to 11 a.m.

Mercersburg Mennonite Church, 10060 Buchanan Trail West, 717-328-9282

Friday, Nov. 17: 4 to 7 p.m.