For those who celebrate Christmas, today is the day to unwrap gifts.
But each seasonal holiday is also a time to reflect upon gifts given all year long: The gifts of time, money and volunteering to help others in their hour of need.
Especially now, in these difficult economic times, individuals and organizations extending helping hands to those in need is more important than ever, and it is heartwarming to recognize that Mainers are doing more to help their neighbors.
The proof of that statement may well be this column, which focuses on fundraisers and other related community events and activities.
You might be interested to know I keep track of all requests for information to be included in my column and, every year, your requests set a new record.
Readers have been so busy helping others, this year, in October you surpassed the 2008 record of requests and, by the time 2009 comes to a close, the count will be hundreds ahead of last year.
People helping people.
There is no greater gift.
Last April, Rape Response Services conducted a Denim Drive to help raise awareness about sexual assault that received “such overwhelming support and so many generous donations” that the drive was ended early, Angel Matson reported at the time.
The denim was to be recycled by area quilters to make quilts for Penquis Journey House in Dexter, which provides temporary housing for young women 16-21 who have children or are pregnant.
RRS thanks members of the community who contributed to this effort and Merrill Bank for its support during the drive.
Suze Howe wrote earlier this year that the May Eastern Maine AIDS Network Walk raised more than $7,400 for local AIDS service organizations, and that amount was an increase of more than 75 percent from the previous year.
With the local funds being matched by the National AIDS Fund, that meant $14,800 went to organizations to help those served by EMAN.
Also in May, with the assistance of WomenHeart coordinator Alice Page, WomenHeart, the National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease, donated $2,000 worth of books related to heart health to five hospitals.
The donation was part of a grant from the Quilter’s Guild, according to a release, and the recipient institutions were St. Joseph Hospital and Eastern Maine Medical Center, both in Bangor; Penobscot Valley Hospital in Lincoln; Houlton Regional Hospital and Aroostook Medical Center in Presque Isle.
Throughout the year, Literacy Volunteers of Bangor receives support from the community, which is essential for that volunteer organization to continue its 40 years of tutoring adults in the area.
Executive director Mary Marin Lyon reports Sam’s Club in Bangor donated $1,000 to LV-Bangor which will help provide tutoring for adults who want to learn to read, improve their reading or study English as a second language.
People who attended the Pen Bay Healthcare Shall We Dance! Gala last spring raised $37,000 for charitable medical care, according to a release.
Since the release also stated “the need for charitable care at Pen Bay Healthcare has doubled this year and is expected to remain high for the duration of the economic downturn,” those who supported that fundraiser know their money will assist their neighbors in the Rockland area.
The Maine Community College System reported that students donated more than $101,000 in food and funds through its Graduation: Can Due program last spring to help Maine’s needy.
More than 45 Maine food relief agencies directly benefited from this project during which MCCS students, throughout the state, raised money and donated food, in their respective college communities, to help their neighbors.
Local organizations such as Zonta Club of Bangor raise money throughout the year and Debbie Paton was pleased that so many people attended its June plant sale, since all proceeds benefit Zonta charities and scholarships.
People who attended the Bangor Area Breakfast Rotary Club’s annual All That Jazz school band concert should be pleased to know that their attendance made it possible for the club to donate $5,000 to the Pine Tree Chapter of the American Red Cross during the chapter’s annual dinner in June.
Proceeds helped replenish the Chapter’s Local Disaster Relief Fund, which provides emergency shelter, food, clothing, medical replacement and emotional support after house fires and other disasters.
Joni Averill, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402; firstname.lastname@example.org; 990-8288.