Help others enjoy the holidays

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By Vince Luecke

The upcoming holidays are a time when most of us go out of our way to give to others, whether it’s to children, parents, nieces and nephews or close friends.

A lot of us mark Christmas by giving to those who are less fortunate, especially children.

Thanksgiving and Christmas have long been times when we’ve reached out to others. I’m sure that will never change, no matter how commercialized the holidays become, but generosity will be  more of a challenge this year because of the ongoing economic crisis.

Lots of people are feeling financially pinched and even if their and their families’ budgets are fiscally sound, most remain on edge and that means being cautious with money.

Not being able to spend as much on Christmas, even for their own loved ones, will leave some people feeling blue and while some folks still sock away money in Christmas club accounts during the year, far more of us simply fund the holidays with our checking accounts. Too many, however, simply hand over credit cards and end up paying for Christmas for months or even years.

Most financial pros hope one outcome of our money crisis is that Americans will learn to live more frugally, save more and reduce their personal debt. Sadly, the recession has caught some people unprepared. Some Perry Countians have lost their jobs and even their homes over the past year and a lot of us are worried about our economic futures.

So, how should we approach this season of giving in these lean times? How about smaller gifts that will be appreciated and remembered for months and even years to come without putting us further in hock.

Consider giving some on your list a dozen or two homemade cookies. Throw in a recipe or two and a pretty metal gift tin and you’ve got a gift that will be remembered long after the holidays have passed.

I have friends who give me a small bag of gourmet coffee each Christmas and I’m reminded of the gift for months since I use the gourmet beans only on Sunday mornings, when I can enjoy coffee instead of racing out of the door with my insulated cup.

In a time when food prices remain high, consider giving a gift certificate from a local supermarket, or for those friends and relatives who can’t afford to eat out often, present them with a certificate from a local restaurant.

They’ll remember the experience for a long time.

Some gifts don’t carry a price tag at all. Can you give someone your time or talents? I know someone who delivers a load or two of firewood at no cost to a neighbor who uses the wood to help heat her home, cutting down on the number of times she has to fill her propane tank each winter.

Can you offer to help weatherize someone’s home or car before winter’s worst arrives?

Who wouldn’t welcome homemade items such as wreaths, jams, a bottle of wine or a homemade ornament? It’s not the cost of the gift but the thought underneath the pretty paper and bow.

For those able to give monetary gifts this year to charitable causes, there are plenty of deserving options. Consider participating in one of the programs that provide clothes and toys to children. United Way of Perry County’s Holiday Helpers program helps dozens of families annually and Catholic Charities helps provide coats to those in need. Local Salvation Army bell-ringers will be visible in coming weeks and donations will help those in need. Several businesses sponsor Angel Trees that allow the public to buy gifts for children and teens who otherwise might not have much Dec. 25.

The News is accepting nonperishable food items that will be distributed to local food pantries. If you’re planning on making a visit to the office or simply going to be downtown, we invite you to drop off items in a box located inside our front door.

Giving will always be an important part of the holiday. Take time now to create a holiday budget. Don’t dole out more than you can afford.

The holidays should be about our religious faith, recalling the year coming to an end and enjoying the love of family and friends in a time of the year that draws us indoors for warmth. But remember the most-lasting warmth is from human kindness.