ST. CLOUD - The official start of the holiday season might be a couple of weeks away, but a group of local volunteers has already begun filling over 1,100 shoe boxes with gifts for children all over the world.

The national effort is called "Operation Christmas Child," run by national organization "Samaritan's Purse." Today is the start of the official National Collection Week, which runs through November 21st.

Mary Waite is the St. Cloud area's volunteer coordinator. She says the shoe boxes, filled with things like toys and school supplies, reach children in 100 countries.

Waite says the gift boxes go to many poor countries that don't celebrate Christmas, and typically arrive overseas the following summer.

The project is a year-round effort and has delivered over 86 million shoeboxes around the world since 1993. If you'd like to donate or volunteer, call Mary at 656-9558 or visit their website to learn about collection spots and donation hours.