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In tough times, gift of giving is greatest gift

Remember the Neil Young song, “Helpless,” from the Deja Vu album?

“Baby, sing with me somehow

“Helpless, helpless, helpless, helpless.”

Those lyrics come to mind when we hear about someone who is about to be evicted, or can’t pay their electric bill, or is living homeless on the street with young children.

Those kind of stories are not all that unusual, not with Manatee County’s unemployment rate hitting 12.9 percent.

As the Good Book says, the poor will always be with us, and with the hard times, there are now more than most of us can previously remember.

Agencies that seek to provide a safety net for those who fall through the cracks have been hard-pressed this year. Fortunately, there are many who have chosen to help and not leave it to relief agencies to do all the hefting.

Folks who have donated food, toys, clothing and cash to help others have given themselves the greatest Christmas present possible.

You see it over and over again in recent weeks: joy on the faces of those who receive, but also on the faces of those who share.

The joy was easy to see Thursday night on the faces of little children in Parrish as they awaited Santa’s arrival and anticipated a gift of a new toy. But it also was on the faces of Parrish Civic Association members who helped with the annual Christmas party for disadvantaged children.

It was the same joy shared by members of The Church Without Limits in Bradenton as they prepared for a garage sale, where everything was free. Last year, the church had 400 who came for the free food and clothing. This year, they expected 800 and got 1,000.

The Manatee Fraternal Order of Police, who you would think would be a crusty bunch, are actually a bunch of softies who dropped $11,300 at Bealls last week in a frenzy of toy shopping for local youngsters. Bealls got into the spirit by giving a deep, deep discount to make the money go even farther.

You could even see that look at a district supervisors meeting in Lakewood Ranch, where among the talk of budgets and potholes was a report from Don O’Leary that members of the safety committee had collected 3,500 pounds of food, $3,350 in cash and 200 turkeys for Meals on Wheels Plus.

There were countless other examples around town, what with Angel Tree, Honoring the Badge, and so many other projects.

Thank you, everyone, who helped in those projects, or who dropped a few coins in a Salvation Army bell ringer’s kettle, who made a quiet contribution to the United Way, who left something in their congregation’s collection plate or who helped a neighbor in an anonymous way.

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