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In These Hard Times Give the Gift of Charity

I love thanksgiving--- in all its too many people in your house, over eating glory. Getting stuffed full of my juicy, golden brown turkey and Aunt Suzy's killer four-layer Death by Chocolate Cake is a pleasure I look forward to every year. To be honest, I love the whole holiday season, even with the crass commercialism of Christmas. It's the time of the year when most of us take stock and count our blessings. . .making you think about the word Thanksgiving literally to give thanks.

I do give thanks for having a warm home, great family, a lovable mutt and plenty of food to eat. Like many people these days, I'm juggling my finances to make ends meet. But I give thanks that I don't have to constantly choose between paying my utility bills, filling a prescription or buying enough food feed my family.

Unfortunately, many central Ohioans have to make these choices everyday. And it's not just the poor and unemployed that are dealing with hunger. Working poor and middle class families are struggling to put food on the table for their families. Need proof? Food banks all over Ohio say they are getting more requests for assistance from working people. The jump in demand is outpacing supplies---forcing many pantries to reduce the size of the food packages given out to all seeking help.

The higher demand is being fueled by troubling economic times and the rising costs of living we're all experiencing. At the same time, food producers are finding they have less to donate to food banks. And government food programs are experiencing major cutbacks.

Operators of food banks nationwide are worried that it could be a long hard winter for families who depend on their services. And with harsh winter weather approaching, making the choice between paying the rent, food and being warm a real challenge for a growing number of working class Americans.

Recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's annual hunger survey said that more than 35 million people in the United States were hungry in 2006.

The Mid-Ohio Food Bank, headquartered on Columbus' Westside, participated in this study. Our food bank reports that they served about 193,000 people annually---and they confirmed that most of our neighbors who turn to food pantries weekly are juggling housing costs that absorb half their income, escalating heating bills and gas prices, and unplanned medical expenses or car repairs.

In this land of plenty, it's hard to fathom people going hungry. So what can you do? This is season of giving so instead of opening your wallet for every snazzy gift and high tech gadget you see, how about doing something in the gift receiver's name to help a person in need?

The act of donating to our local food bank, or whatever charity you choose, could be the most special gift that you'll buy. And service organizations are making giving as easy as buying a pair of shoes on-line.

Show your family that there is much more to the holidays than the latest tech toy. Give a spectacular gift to someone in our human family .and really give thanks.