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Christmas is right around the corner. It will be here before we know it, whether weíre ready or not. The shopping centers and the mall are bustling with shoppers. Itís a magical time of the year. Families are preparing for the holidays. Kids are anxious for Santa to arrive. But unfortunately, some families might find themselves with a little less magic this year.

Despite the fact that Charles County has been ranked among the nationís wealthiest counties, there remains far too many in our community who are struggling to make ends meet, those who might find themselves having to balance paying the electric bill against buying presents.

In August, CNN Money magazine named Waldorf to its ďBest Places to LiveĒ list. Waldorf was 20th of 100 small cities in the United States on the list, which ranked the communities on such criteria as median household income, job growth and housing prices. The median household income in Waldorf was listed at $189,000. That figure puts the countyís median household income at 13th in the country.

Despite the wealth in the county, there are still many residents who live below the poverty line. Many more families are hurting this year as demonstrated by the strain put on most of our local social services agencies and food banks. The Charles County Childrenís Aid Society and its Christmas Connection, as well as LifeStyles of Maryland are trying to meet the needs of all of the people who are seeking their assistance. Food banks in the region struggle to keep their shelves stocked. More and more families are finding they need just a little help to get by.

We saw an outpouring of community service during the Thanksgiving holiday as hundreds of families were provided meals. Now comes Christmas and many of these same local groups want to make sure children have presents under the tree on Christmas morning as well as a meal on the table.

Presents arenít everything. The holidays are about being with family and friends. Itís a time to acknowledge those who are dear to us and reflect on their importance in our lives. Itís also a time to look out for the folks in our community who could use a little help.

Charles County is lucky that so many organizations step up to plate to help bring a holiday to so many through their generous works.

Itís not too late to help these organizations. Christmas Connection will begin its toy distribution next week. Dropoff spots are located all across the county. Go to www.childrens-aid-society.org or call 301-645-1561 to find out how to help. Organizers can tell you what they need. LifeStyles can be reached at 301-609-9900 or www.lifestylesofmd.org.

There are many other groups collecting donations around the county. In addition to toys, there are many other options to help enrich the lives of our neediest children and families. Donating clothing, food and other items to charitable organizations always is a great option. Contact the Southern Maryland Food Bank is Hughesville at 301-274-0695 or go to smfb.comc.com to find out where to drop off donations of nonperishable food items.

Charles County is a growing community. The people who are moving in are highly educated and have good jobs. But that doesnít mean that theyíre arenít people who still need help. And at this time of year, they just might be finding it difficult to provide Christmas for their families. There are many ways to help and many worthy organizations who are reaching out to help the needy.

One of the items on your Christmas to-do list should be to make a donation. A little contribution can go a long way.