Christmas giving tested in today’s trying times

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Christmas is my most treasured holiday – a time of spiritual renewal and bonding more closely with family, a time to celebrate with friends and a time to indulge in a bit of Auld Lang Syne.

Of course there is the shopping, partly warm and fuzzy, partly a good, old-fashioned tooth pulling. It’s a pain and it is more expensive every year. Plus, for the retailers it is all about getting the jump on the competition, so Christmas decorations go up before Halloween now.

Black Friday, the retail kickoff after Thanksgiving is now Black Thursday Afternoon. The economics of it are simple. Half of all retail sales are made during Christmastime, and 10 percent of all holiday sales are made on the weekend after Thanksgiving. People only have so much to spend and if you don’t catch a lot of them then, you as Mr. Retailer don’t catch them at all.

Throw the lingering effects of the worst recession in our lifetime, and you see why retailers are nervous.

But this column is not about retailers. It is about trying to be as giving as we would like to be in the season of giving when we may not have a lot of give left.

If you are like me, weathering the recession has meant changes in lifestyle. Yes, gone are the summers in Monaco and winters in Biarritz. I jest of course. The closest I’ve been to Monaco is watching an old Grace Kelly movie.

Christmas is also the time of appeals from all of the nonprofits out there plugging away doing what the do. I get angry sometimes after the third or fourth email asking for a holiday donation. How many ways can I be stretched?

Then I look again at who these folks are. Most are homegrown right here in North Fulton. They are people like The Drake House, who give homeless mothers and their children shelter, counseling, mentoring and most of all a return to stability and safety.

Here is another appeal from enAble, (it used to be RRA, but people thought that was a food company). EnAble was started by parents of developmental children who worried what would become of their kids when they got too old or passed on.

EnAble is a foundation that provides group homes and supervision for these young people as they grow older and provides them jobs, quality of life and self-respect.

HomeStretch is another North Fulton nonprofit organization that provides families in crisis with a place to transition back into the workforce. The 90-day bootstrap program is all about getting back to work, saving money for a new place, parenting classes, household finance mentoring from volunteers and all the while providing an apartment or townhome owned by HomeStretch.

The Chattahoochee Nature Center and the Autrey Mill Nature Preserve and Heritage Center add immeasurably to the quality of life to families and students in North Fulton. The Georgia Ensemble Theatre in Roswell is a cultural treasure.

As a former board chairman of Senior Services North Fulton, I know the good work they do for improving the lives of senior citizens in all social strata. As SSNF Executive Director Carrie Bellware points out, SSNF is the safety net for seniors. Without proactive attention and care, many seniors right here in North Fulton would go hungry, have no transportation for medical appointments or live bleakly in social isolation.

Then there is North Fulton Community Charities helping families try to stay together. With its Food Pantry, Clothes Closet and other programs, Barbara Duffy and her hardy staff and stout volunteers are doing yeoman’s work among those families most in need.

Sometimes it is keeping the lights and heat on for a family, or staving off eviction from an apartment. Sometimes it is getting a family out of their car and into a hotel. In these times, financial crisis hits randomly in all neighborhoods, whether white collar or blue.

Yes, many of us have had to cut back in our Christmas shopping, perhaps severely. But the true message of Christmas is not about an Xbox 360 or Kindle Fire. It is about what each one of us can do at least once a year to give a blessing, a mitzvah.

We can’t all do a lot, be we can all do a little. And if we all do give just a little for any of those organizations listed above, or any of the many I have omitted, we will have done a lot.

Christmas, family, holiday