The end of the Thanksgiving holiday signals the start of the mad rush toward Christmas, although this year’s rush might be a bit quieter thanks to restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. No more big crowds of shoppers surging through store doors to grab deals on gifts — unless the shoppers are wearing their masks.

One thing that the pandemic won’t change is the number of people in need during the holidays. In fact, the COVID-19 restrictions likely increased the number of local residents who face a somewhat bleak holiday. And those restrictions don’t look like they will end anytime soon.

The good news is that those of us lucky enough to still be working can help.

Contributions to local food banks, contributions of even a few dollars, can help fill a holiday table for a family who might not have any other source for food other than a food bank. Several local organizations and churches sponsor regular distribution of food. Any of them would welcome donations.

Project Success and Toys for Tots continue their annual holiday efforts to be sure area children will find presents on Christmas day. The response to the efforts of both groups is inspiring each year as individuals and businesses step up to help local children enjoy a merry Christmas.

But extra help always is welcome. Sign-ups for both programs are closed, but both would still welcome donations. Project Success, an organization that sponsors after-school programs in Vermilion County, can be reached at (217) 446-3200. The local Toys for Tots chapter, a national program sponsored by the Marine Corps, can be reached at (765) 791-8149.

The Salvation Army’s annual Red Kettle campaign is under way, with the familiar kettles and bellringers located at several area stores. Shoppers now have the ability to make donations via their cell phones as well as in the traditional way. Donations also can be made through The Salvation Army’s website.

Love INC — Love In the Name of Christ — also accepts donations to help area residents. Area churches band together to provide help with basic needs in a number of areas for local people. Monetary donations help Love INC ease the burden for people who find themselves in tough situations. The organization can be reached at (217) 442-5683.

One of the more visible efforts to help people in need during the holidays can be seen on the fence at Education Personnel Credit Union, 101 W. Main St., across from David S. Palmer Arena.

Sponsored by the Danville Area Chapter of Credit Union, donations of new and gently used hats, gloves and coats — placed in plastic bags to protect them from winter weather — hang on the fence at the credit union. People can select what they need to stay warm this winter, and donations are welcome. Donations can be placed on the fence, which will continue to operate through the cold months ahead.

It can be easy to become so wrapped in our own holiday preparations that we forget our neighbors might struggle to enjoy this time of the year. Making a few donations, no matter what size, spreads a bit of Christmas cheer and brightens the season for everyone.

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