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The gift that keeps on giving

Christmas has come and gone, leaving behind its residual glee.
Children were bouncing around and popping from toy to toy with the effervescence of kernels in a microwaveable bag of popcorn.
Parents and grandparents had beaming smiles on their faces that could not be removed, even with pliers.
Happiness abounded Dec. 25. It was just a hap, hap, happy day had by all.
Or was it?
We are ever so grateful we can give the joys of the season and receive the nectar of the holiday. But is everyone along for this gondola ride down the tunnel of love? Sadly, the answer is “no.”
Christmas, unfortunately for some, is 24 hours of gloom mounded over with the knowledge of what the day entails.
Despite the still bleak economic climate, a many of us were able to readjust our fleeting budgets to buy or create a present for our loved ones. However, on the other end, a growing population of our residents had to instead save the family’s money for the necessities of life – food, housing and clothing. Extras like the latest gizmos were not penciled in on the spreadsheet.
People feel the strife of financial woes throughout the year, but a shortage of funds becomes more evident when the giving and receiving of presents is so visible the world over.
Thankfully, individuals like you have the spirit of Christmas. You, as an individual or a group, provided gifts to those in need within the last few weeks. You have made the tough times of others better and you have enabled the families you assisted to gain more control of their own lives – financially, physically and emotionally.
Your holiday helpings may have been through Toys for Tots – which saw a jump in its local drop-off points – or via members of a church, or maybe a basket of goodies left anonymously at a doorstep.
The county’s Crisis Fund – an agency funded by the United Way of Screven County – and the Screven County Community Collaborative doled out more than 100 toys and food boxes to the needy.
Although we would like to think that stepping up and making a difference in someone’s life at Christmas would be enough to rectify weeks, months or even years of struggles, we all in our hearts know better. It eases the pain, not erases it.
The reality is we have citizens in our community who hurt every day. As you read this, you may well be one of those who suffer. You suffer from lost wages or a lost job. You suffer from declining health or declining resources. You suffer from the emptiness in your family’s stomach or the emptiness of possible ways to improve your existence.
We must offer up support for our neighbors today, tomorrow and in the extended future. That care we bestow can be and will be reciprocated. Helping each other is how we build stronger households, neighborhoods, communities and counties.
The crisis fund uplifts those in despair. They assist people who need it. They helped out for Christmas and year round.
That agency is one of 20 that receives support from your United Way – a United Way that offers hope through donations for our Screven County residents. The money raised – whether it is $1, or a pledged $150 as a Pacesetter, or any denomination in between – stays in Screven County.
And the benefit of your gift of kindness is one that helps throughout the year.
Please allow me to provide you with a few examples of how a donation to United Way can help your community.
Each week approximately 350 people in our county receive a hot meal on Saturday thanks to the dedicated groups who organize and operate the Soup Kitchen. In some cases, this meal is the only hot serving that person may get all week and in other cases the deliverer of the food may be the only visitor the receiver may see during the week.
Also, Meals on Wheels through the Senior Citizen Center provides weekly nourishment to residents.
The St. Camillus Mobile Health Clinic offers free medical treatment to the uninsured in multiple locations in the county. The clinic on wheels is operated by fully trained and licensed nurses and physicians who volunteer their time to assist. The Lady of Assumption Catholic Church runs the program.
For an instant blessing on just how much the funds from United Way create joy, attend the annual Special Olympics at the county’s recreation department or take a moment to spend with a child for Reading Is Fundamental. The money provided through your donation goes toward the Council for Exceptional Children’s local Special Olympics. To witness the faces of the children as they complete are cherished moments.
RIF gives an adult an opportunity to sit down and read a book with a child. The youth then can take the book home with them so their parents and siblings can read it together with the child. Mark you calendar as the next RIF will be Jan. 25 at the Screven County Library.
United Way helps you and your neighbors. Please look into your heart and consider what you may be able to do financially to make 2012 brighter. Any donation would be greatly appreciated.
Checks can be made payable to United Way of Screven County, P.O. Box 27, Sylvania GA 30467. You also can telephone the United Way office at 912-564-5770 or visit the United Way’s Facebook site. The United Way executive director is Cathy Kight.
Thank you for making our county of Screven an even better place to live.

Enoch Autry is the publisher-editor of the Sylvania Telephone.