The holiday season is the most joyful time of the year, but for some the joy is tempered by the reality of the day-to-day struggle to get by.
The holidays were a little brighter for tens of thousands of our less-fortunate neighbors, thanks to the generosity of Western New Yorkers. However, the need remains and it's never too late – even on Christmas Day – to give to those who have little, and there is no shortage of organizations gratefully accepting donations.
This year marked the 31st drive of The News Neediest Fund, which collects gifts of cash and new, unwrapped gifts to assist needy families in Western New York. The United Way of Buffalo & Erie County administers the program. Last year the fund assisted more than 12,000 families and 14,000 children by distributing more than $700,000 in toys and food.
Donations to the fund are still being accepted. Contributions can be made using PayPal or a credit card at buffalonews.com/newsneediest, or by sending a check to The News Neediest Fund c/o The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 2667, Buffalo, NY 14240-9873.
Other organizations that serve the less fortunate would welcome your donations. A few of the bigger groups include:
*The United Way of Buffalo & Erie County, which has seen positive results of late during its fund drives. Last year's drive topped $13.6 million, exceeding its goal for the first time in nine years. It was also the second consecutive year that pledges topped the previous year, a remarkable achievement in a poor community with declining population. The 2012 campaign goal is an ambitious $13.7 million, but with your help it can be reached.
Organizers have been working hard to retain generous donors and encourage others to join in supporting the United Way's efforts to improve education, income and health and wellness. The work the United Way undertakes involves the efforts of various nonprofits, collaborations and partnerships.
*Catholic Charities of Buffalo, one of the region's largest human services agencies, provides its services without regard to religious affiliation. More than half the agency's 140,000 clients in Western New York are not Catholic, based on 2011 data. Catholic Charities has a major drive in the spring but donations are always gratefully received.
*The Salvation Army, which recently said it is "praying for change" to improve lagging holiday donations.
*Buffalo City Mission which is another agency that serves clients without regard to religious affiliation, race, gender or ethnicity.
These nonprofits and many others, including the Food Bank of Western New York, churches and other religious organizations and the Red Cross, deserve our continued support of their efforts to help our neighbors in need.
Christmas is the traditional season for giving, but the need won't go away tomorrow or next week. The effects of the Great Recession remain with us, and giving must be a year-round effort.Those who are neediest belong at the top of everyone's gift list.