FRESH OFF of an enjoyable Thanksgiving with family and friends, many of us were able to turn our attention toward Christmas - and shopping - with visions of yet more joy dancing in our heads.
Not so for many of our neighbors across the Palmetto State. While there are those, even if somewhat hampered by the poor economy, who will have an enjoyable Christmas, many of our fellow citizens are fretting over how they'll heat their homes, pay their rent or - worst of all - buy their food. In a state where unemployment is at 12.1 percent, the need is much greater than in years past. If those who are more fortunate don't help, some child won't eat and some family will be homeless or sitting in a cold, dark apartment - at Christmas and beyond.
As we make our lists and check them twice, let's remember those in need. In this season of giving, be intentional in your giving; let's not wait until we've exhausted our finances on the latest tech toy or electronic gizmo. Set aside some money now to help make someone else's Christmas - and life - a little bit better.
Perhaps nothing illustrates how great the need is than the fact that so many struggle to put food on the table: The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that from 2006 to 2008, 13.1 percent of our fellow South Carolinians lived in households that regularly struggled to put enough food on the table. Many can't afford healthy or adequate diets. More than 5 percent of South Carolina households frequently cut back on or skip meals, including meals for children.
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When it comes to helping families have the necessary food, Harvest Hope Food Bank is as good at it as anyone. But the food bank's success depends on just how willing the surrounding community is to give. The organization, which supplies food to more than 300 charitable agencies and organizations throughout central South Carolina, needs all the help it can get. For every $1 donated, it can distribute 10 pounds of food. You can also donate food or volunteer your time. To find out more about Harvest Hope Food Bank, go to www.harvesthope.org or call (803) 252-4432.
During this tough economy, Harvest Hope has seen demand for food escalate and it's working to raise funds to meet the need. Recently, it received a $100,000 donation from the Wachovia Wells Fargo Foundation. It's also received a number of other gifts, such as Callison Tighe & Robinson, LLC's $10,000 donation, which the law firm made in lieu of holding its annual Christmas Party. While every gift won't match either of those, every one matters. No gift is too large or too small.
In addition to Harvest Hope, there are numerous other organizations and efforts well worth donating to.
As you go about your shopping, don't ignore the sound of the Salvation Army's ever-present Red Kettles or the sight of angel trees that beckon shoppers to buy Christmas gifts for children or families. Remember the good works of the Oliver Gospel Mission, Habitat for Humanity and the many other organizations that reach out to help. The United Way of the Midlands has proven to be a good steward of the funds sent its way, distributing them to deserving initiatives and programs; the United Way could use additional donations any time of year. It may be that you'd like to give to the Salvation Army's Woodyard Fund, which helps keep families warm during the winter, or one of the charities listed as "Angels" on Secretary of State Mark Hammond's recently announced list of Scrooges and Angels for 2008. The Animal Protection League of SC Inc. and NAMI of South Carolina are on the list.
Fortunately, our community is teeming with people with giving hearts. Columbia ranks as one of the 10 most charitable cities in the country, according to a Men's Health magazine ranking, which focuses on giving during the holiday season.
Let's live up to that reputation. Give.