With Thanksgiving right around the corner, Spring Grove families, businesses, schools and churches are putting their gratitude in action and celebrating their blessings by giving back.

Through Operation Christmas Child, locals are joining millions of people across the U.S. to fill empty shoeboxes with toys, school supplies and necessity items for impoverished children around the world.

Drop off shoeboxes at the church during the hours listed. Once dropped off, the shoe boxes are processed, prepared and transported to suffering children in more than 100 countries.

By using special tracking technology, participants can "follow" their shoebox and discover the country in which their gift will be hand-delivered to a child in need. To register a shoebox gift, use the "Follow Your Box" form online at www.SamaritansPurse.org/OCC.

Anyone can participate in Operation Christmas Child. The time to pack a shoebox gift is now For more information on how to participate call Catherine Hagen at (507) 498-3484.

To put together your shoebox follow these instructions:

1) Use an empty shoebox or a small plastic container.

2) Determine whether the gift will be for a boy or a girl, and the child's age category: 2 to 4, 5 to 9 or 10 to 14. Print out the appropriate boy/girl label by downloading the artwork from the website. Mark the correct age category on the label, and tape the label to the top of your box.

3) Fill the box with a variety of gifts that will bring delight to a child. Use the gift ideas provided on the website or these listed below:

TOYS - small cars, balls, dolls, stuffed animals, kazoos, harmonicas, yo-yos, jump ropes, small Etch A Sketch®, toys that light up or make noise (with extra batteries), Slinky®, etc.

SCHOOL SUPPLIES - pens, pencils and sharpener, crayons or markers, stamps and ink pad sets, writing pads or paper, solar calculators or coloring and picture books.

HYGIENE ITEMS - toothbrush, toothpaste, mild bar soap (in a plastic bag), comb or washcloth.

OTHER - Hard candy and lollipops (please double bag all candy), mints, gum, T-shirts, socks, ball caps; sunglasses, hair clips, toy jewelry, watches, or flashlights (with extra batteries).

A PERSONAL NOTE - In a separate envelope, you may enclose a note to the child and a photo of yourself or your family. If you include your name and address, the child may write back.

4) Consider donating $7 or more for each shoebox prepared to help cover shipping and other project costs. You can give online by using our "Follow Your Box Donation" option, or you can write a check to Samaritan's Purse (note "OCC" on memo line) and place it in an envelope on top of the gift items inside your box.

If you or your family are preparing more than one shoebox, please make one combined donation.

5) Place a rubber band around each closed shoe box and drop it off at the Calvary Church during the hours listed above.