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It's that time of year -- all year long

The season of giving is upon us, and there will be many voices prompting you to share with the less fortunate. The requests are sincere and the needs are real, and the season — the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day that encompasses Hanukkah and Christmas — puts everyone in a giving mood, so agencies that serve the poor and low-income residents of our communities rely on that holiday spirit to fill their shelves with food and their bank accounts with cash.

Perhaps because of the images of abundance bombarding us daily, poverty and hunger can seem more pronounced at this time of year, but the reality is, the needs are there all year long. The holiday season is just the time when we are more conscious of them.

There are many needs, but perhaps the greatest of them is food, without which life itself is impossible. The ACCESS Food for Hope holiday food drive kicked off Wednesday and will continue through the end of December.

Through its network of 24 food pantries, the community service agency provides emergency food boxes to families in need in Jackson County. Many families, individuals and seniors rely on the food pantries to stretch their limited resources through the month. Others may visit only a few times a year. But the assistance is vital.

The Food for Hope drive helps stock shelves for the holidays and well beyond. Since the annual drive began in 1984, ACCESS has collected more than 4 million pounds of food, averaging nearly 124,000 pounds a year.

You can help by filling the grocery bag inserted in Wednesday’s paper — or any bag or box you have handy — with nonperishable food items and dropping it off at the Mail Tribune front office, 111 N. Fir St., any fire station in the county, any Umpqua Bank branch, Sherm’s Thunderbird, and some local churches. The complete list is on the front page of Wednesday’s Mail Tribune or at www.mailtribune.com.

Even more useful to ACCESS than food is money. Because of discounts it receives through the Oregon Food Bank, the agency can buy five pounds of food for every dollar. In addition, operating costs can be paid for only with money: electricity to keep the lights on and power refrigeration equipment, fuel and maintenance for trucks. Those costs continue throughout the year as well.

So drop off some food items, or contribute financially, by mail or online. You’ll be glad you did.

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