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Without a doubt, it is the most wonderful time of the year. The lights, decorations and holiday cheer have encompassed our spirits in every aspect of our lives. However, as the snow begins to fall and we trim our trees with ornaments, we often lose touch with the true meaning of Christmas. This magical celebration can sometimes lead teens to become forgetful of the needs of people around them. Teens often get too wrapped up in receiving rather than giving. So this holiday season, channel your true character to give back to organizations that genuinely matter to you.

Instead of being consumed with what you want under the tree, this December think about a cause that you are passionate about. Whether it is an environmental, social or global concern, make it your mission to find an organization that supports a cause that you believe in. Then comes the part that is a true test of character for teens -- take the monetary holiday gifts you receive and give a portion of your money to the organization of your choice. For many teens this seems to be an impossible and unrealistic proposition: giving the money you could run off to the mall with to an organization. However, many teens, like myself, who have completed the cycle of giving know that the gratification is instant.

Some teens might feel that they are just one person. A $25 check won't make a difference, right? Wrong. Donations, no matter how small, are always welcomed and appreciated, and you will certainly make an impact.

There are many organizations in need of donations:

* Food For the Poor: www.foodforthepoor.org. Passionate about ending hunger and starvation? Food for the Poor is the organization for you. With more than 96 percent of all donations going immediately to programs that help the poor, you give with the security that your money will go right to the cause. Donations as small as $36 will feed a child for one year.

* St. Jude Children's Research Hospital: www.stjude.org. Interested in supporting terminally sick children? Then you will be happy in knowing that St. Jude's turns no cancer patient away. This noble commitment, however, is often very expensive and donating can help their generosity continue.

* Red Cross: www.redcross.org/donatetoday. Red Cross gives you the freedom to choose where you want your money to go. Whether it is where the need is greatest, disaster relief, your local Red Cross chapter or helping soldiers and their families.

After you receive your gifts, be as selfless as possible and give to organizations that make a difference in society. The holidays are a time for giving, so challenge yourself to give to a cause that truly matters.

Shaylyn Livingston is a senior at Hamburg High School.