RAND, W.Va. -- Homemade chicken and dumplings paired with green beans from the summer's gardens were sustenance for volunteers at Rand First Church of the Nazarene, as they began collecting Christmas presents for children in need.
"People basically live at the church for the week," said Pastor Gordon Killion.
For the past 18 years, the congregation has participated in Operation Christmas Child -- a program of evangelical relief organization Samaritan's Purse that seeks to provide children all over the world with simple Christmas gifts.
The organization sends kids colorfully wrapped shoeboxes filled with hard candies, small toys, school supplies and personal hygiene items, such as combs and soap.
Killion recounted the story of a girl who received a bar of soap as part of her package.
"She wouldn't use it, because she knew it would be gone," Killion said. "The little girl smelled it every day, and said it made her feel pretty."
Volunteers said they were touched by such anecdotes.
"It's amazing what something little can do for someone," said John Stephensen, who has volunteered for Operation Christmas Child for six years.
Margaret Hayes and Paula Williams spoke of their devotion to the project as the two packed large cardboard boxes with gifts. The church already received several long folding tables full of them by Monday afternoon.
"It means everything to me," Hayes said. "I just can't even imagine not having soap or a washrag. We take that for granted."
Williams is a Sunday school teacher at the church and said Operation Christmas Child hits close to home.
"Our children are so blessed and these kids have nothing," Williams said.