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Be Charitable All Year

No one likes to put a damper on the cheerful holiday season, but I canít help but wondering if the economy can possibly get any worse. People are losing jobs, losing income, losing retirement funds Ė losing, losing, and losing. And, yet, the holiday season seems to keep jingling along. Despite the tragic economic conditions in the world, toys are still getting donated, food is being collected and distributed to the poor, and people are dropping money in the little red kettles.

Of course, people might be donating less than usual, but charity is still top of mind. And isnít it because giving feels good this time of year? No child should wake up on Christmas morning without ripping open a toy or a game, right? Well, right. But Christmas morning will come and go pretty quickly. And, in a day or two after the wrapping paperís been cleaned up, there are some people in this country who will not know where their next meal is coming from.

And, then what?

I recommend that people who are charitable should look into spreading their charity out a bit throughout the year. Itís great to give at Christmastime, but so many donors are giving only at the holidays and not at all the rest of the year. It feels wonderful to donate food for someoneís Thanksgiving feast, but that represents only one meal annually.

Why not take a look at your charity budget and think about some other times of the year when your dollars could really by helpful?

People who are hungry are hungry all year long. Perhaps your family, school, or scout troop could work with a local food bank to find out what time of year donations are lowest. Then, host a food drive to fill up the shelves. Or, you could just make a habit out of purchasing a few extra food items every time you go shopping. Then, once you fill a bag or box, you can drop it off to the food bank any time of year.

Kids who are living in homeless shelters, or come from low-income families, could sure use those winter coats and boots at the holiday time. But, they still need clothes Ė even when itís warm outside. Donít overlook gently used clothing from yours or your friendsí closets. In the spring, when everyone does their spring cleaning, try to arrange a used clothing drive and drop off your collections to a local shelter.

Being dressed for school is one thing, but how about being prepared? Every year, I am shocked at how much it costs for me to fulfill the school supply lists for my children. How on Earth can a low-income family purchase these items? A school supply drive is a great summer activity for your family. Ask the local office supply store to put collection bins in the store so customers can purchase and donate a few items when they are there purchasing their own supplies.

Christmas sure is the biggest gift-giving season, but there are other times throughout the year when gifts are nice, like birthdays. Check with your countyís Department of Social Services to see if you can sponsor a needy childís birthday party. Once a child is old enough to know when their birthday is, it makes the day super special when they can open up at least one gift.

If you can spare a few dollars to help the needy and hungry at all, then you are making the world a better place. But, since the needy are needy every day, and the hungry are hungry every day, itís at least worth a try to be charitable throughout the year and not just at the holidays.

Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanza, Happy New Year. May the best of this year be the worst of next!

PS Ė If you buy a new artificial Christmas tree at the post-season sales, donít throw out your old one! Keep it out of landfills, and get it into the hands of someone who could really use one. Try your local shelter, or check out Freecycle.

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