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With only a few shopping days left, give to those less fortunate

By Dian Vujovich

This holiday season probably comes with more stresses and strains than any have carried with them in decades. No matter what your take on the Great Recession— whether it has ended or not— there is the undeniable reality that our nation is, has and will continue to face difficult financial times. While not everyone may not experience that first-hand, many live daily with the challenges of not having enough.

The high unemployment rate, the number of under-employed and the rising cost of living are enough to take a lot of ho-ho-ho’s out of the season.

According to a just released report by the Working Families Project, 30 percent of working families last year earned less than double the poverty rate. Or, $43,512 for a family of four. When the 2010 figures come out, I’ll expect them to be higher.

That means about 45 million people were a part of low-income working families last year reflecting an increase of 1.7 million between 2008 and 2009. I expect these figures to also increase.

Those receiving food stamps have increased by 16 percent this year over last. About one out of every seven Americans is now receiving them, or, 14 percent of the population.

Suffice it to say, we all know families and individuals who are suffering financially. Even in Palm Beach and the surrounding West Palm area. One of them might be your neighbor, an employee, a friend, friend of a friend, family member or shirttail relative. Not making ends meet has become a monthly mantra for thousands of people these days.

While many put on a stoic face for the outside world to see, inside financial difficulties take its toll. Look for signs of that in their half-baked smiles, the lack of twinkle in their eyes or genuine enthusiasm for this season promoted as the “Hap-hap-happiest time of the year.”

So if financial security is something you are fortunate enough to have plenty of, why not expand your giving horizon this holiday season. In addition to your charitable giving, go the extra mile and surprise someone—or as many someone’s as you can afford—with an unexpected gift of cash or check from Santa. Odds are you’ll be glad you did.

As Sir Norman MacEwen said,” We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

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