As this year’s holidays fast approach, it’s important to remember that there are some within our community that are in dire need of aid. Whether they are in need of extra food to keep their family’s mouths fed, or if they are in need of a comforting and friendly face to let them know that they are loved.

The holidays are often an exciting time filled with turkey, stuffing, twinkling lights, retail frenzies, and giving and receiving of gifts. However, for some, the holidays are a stabbing reminder of what they don’t have, or what they can’t provide.

I’m fortunate, that I have a good job, a roof over my head, a loving family, and caring friends. You may be fortunate also, and I’m not meaning to be “Debbie Downer” here. I’m also not trying to make you feel guilty for having the things that you have. I’m simply reminding you of those less fortunate in our community. A healthy community will thrive because of those with more who help lift those with less.

I’m not talking socialism here - that I am definitely not supportive of. But, there are ways that we can all contribute to the betterment of the entire community through either money donations, giving your time, or both.

An article I read recently outlined “10 Affordable Ways to Spread Generosity This Holiday Season”. Included were the following: Volunteer your time, Assemble “Necessity Bags” for the less fortunate/homeless, Declutter for good- donating unused items, Donating blood, Writing encouraging letters, Knit/crochet/sew necessities, Donate unused craft items and household items, Shop sales for items to donate, Be the difference in your neighborhood by picking up trash or handing out cookies, and

Making food for the sick or the elderly. In Bent County, we also have organizations that strive to spread generosity and to be resources for those in need. Helping Hands, in Las Animas; and Five Loaves Food Pantry, in McClave are two examples of these organizations. Both are run by caring people, and both provide food and other services to people in their most dire of times. There are also churches throughout our communities that strive to offer loving support. Other examples of local organizations that are avenues for generosity include Veterans Affairs, Fort Lyon, and Lions Club. The common thread among all of these organizations are that they are run by volunteers, and they are funded by donations and community contributions.

There are also non-local ways of being involved; and some even have the potential to impact the local organizations mentioned above. One such example is Colorado Gives Day. Colorado Gives Day is an annual statewide movement to celebrate and increase philanthropy in Colorado through online giving, and donations are accepted through ColoradoGives.org. There is a $1.5 Million Incentive Fund made possible by Community First Foundation, FirstBank and other community members; and this fund boosts the value of every donation. Donations can be made to a non-profit of your choice through their website.

Another example is AmazonSmile. Most of us have shopped, or shop regularly on Amazon.com. What’s cool about AmazonSmile is that it’s the exact same as Amazon, except it enables a portion of what you would commonly buy to be donated to a charity of your choice . . . what’s even more beautiful about this is that you don’t pay anything additional. Amazon takes a portion of what they receive from you and they donate it to these charities. So essentially, you’re paying the exact same as what you would normally, but the charity is receiving funds that it normally wouldn’t. Great, right?! What’s also great is that Helping Hands in Las Animas is a part of AmazonSmile, so you could be helping them out every time you shop online.

These organizations are perfect opportunities for you to become involved in the process of lifting up the less-fortunate. Your contributions can be your time or your money- or anything in-between. There’s really no excuse for anyone to lack an answer this holiday season to the age-old question of, “How are you giving back?”

Also commonly overlooked are entrepreneurs and small, locally owned businesses which are the economic fabric of our communities. What many of us forget is that these businesses are owned and run by our friends and neighbors. Often-times, these people are also the same people that I spoke about at the beginning of this column. These people are often not millionaires (I know there are exceptions to this), and the majority of these individuals are also the ones that are not only running local businesses and helping to sustain the local economy that we all depend on; but they are also the ones that are involved in the other organizations that have been mentioned today.

These people most likely make up the “Same Ten People” (STPs) of a community, and without local support (especially) during the holidays, their community contributions (through their businesses) would not be possible. I’m highlighting small businesses because, in my opinion, it is just as imperative that we all do our part in supporting local businesses this holiday season to help them help our communities.

No matter what your plans are this holiday season, and no matter how much or how little you’re able to contribute- just remember that your willingness to do what you can, when you can, where you can- will speak volumes to those that your generosity is impacting.

“Do all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can, In all the places you can, At all the times you can, To all the people you can, As long as ever you can.” – John Wesley