With holiday supplies already covering the store shelves, Decorah individuals, families, churches and groups are working to make Christmas a reality for needy kids around the world by filling shoeboxes with toys, school supplies, hygiene items and notes of encouragement.

Operation Christmas Child, the world's largest Christmas project of its kind, is ramping up as Decorah residents prepare to collect 900 gift-filled shoeboxes during National Collection Week this week.

Stone Ridge Community Church will be collecting gift-filled shoeboxes to send to children overseas. Then using whatever means necessary-trucks, trains, boats, bikes and even elephants-the shoebox gifts will be delivered to children worldwide. For many children, the shoebox gift will be the first gift they have ever received.

Drop-off hours are Tues-Fri, Nov. 19-22: 5 - 8 p.m. ; Sat, Nov. 23: 9 a.m. - noon; Sun, Nov. 24: noon - 3 p.m. and Mon, Nov. 25: 9 a.m. - 11 a.m. For more information, call 1-800-567-8580.

Though the shoebox gifts will often travel thousands of miles, Operation Christmas Child offers a way for participants to follow their box, by using the donation form found at samaritanspurse.org. Donors will receive an email telling the country where their shoeboxes are delivered.

Operation Christmas Child has collected and delivered more than 100 million shoebox gifts to suffering children in more than 100 countries since 1993. Celebrating its 20th anniversary, Operation Christmas Child hopes to collect another 9.8 million gift-filled shoeboxes in 2013. Operation Christmas Child is a project of Samaritan's Purse, an international Christian relief and evangelism organization headed by Franklin Graham.

For more information on how to participate in Operation Christmas Child, call (612) 359-7025 or visit samaritanspurse.org. Shoebox gifts are collected all year at the Samaritan's Purse headquarters in Boone, N.C. Participants can also build a box through an online tool offering a personalized and convenient way to send a gift to a child in one of the hardest-to-reach countries.