For the 10 of you who are sitting at home recovering from tryptophan overdose while reading this, rather than waiting outside a big-box store ready to take advantage of bargain prices, don’t worry. There will still be opportunities to purchase presents before Christmas Day. We have it on good authority that retail stores throughout the area will lengthen their hours and increase their inventory, right up until and after the big day, in anticipation of your participation.

Of course, you may have chosen to do the bulk of your spending online. With past retail giants like Toys “R” Us and Sears out of the picture, and social media advertising pushing for more online purchases, its convenience is even more appealing. Some online stores have goods so varied that they still give the impression of “that personal touch.”

Allow us briefly to remind you that purchases made in local businesses, especially in the City of Arts and Innovation, offer that personal touch along with convenience, economy and the good feeling that comes from knowing that you’re keeping your dollars close to home, supporting a local economy that puts bread on local tables. And you don’t have to be at their doors at 5 a.m.

A strong economy makes gift-giving easier — as well as giving to those less fortunate. In what we think of as the season of giving, it’s good to know that North Carolinians donated more than $43.6 million to charitable causes in 2018-19, according to a recent report from the N.C. Secretary of State’s office. That’s actually a $1.8 million decline from the previous year; even so, most charities and nonprofits receiving those donations used them more effectively than the year before, according to the report, with more going to their good works as opposed to fundraising or administrative overhead costs.

No doubt, in the face of some diminished donations from corporations, charities have learned to tighten their belts and stretch their dollars further.

Despite their best efforts, though, there are still many needs to fill. Some 1.5 million people in North Carolina suffer from hunger and food insecurity — a third of them children, according to Feeding America. Food banks in North Carolina, like the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest NC, distribute about 444,000 meals every day.

“North Carolina has the dubious distinction of being the tenth hungriest state in the nation,” writes Clayton Henkel of NC Policy Watch. “Underemployment, stagnant wages, soaring housing costs often mean that low-income families are turning to the regional food banks and local pantries to get enough food to make it to the end of the month.”

And despite efforts from many government authorities, nearly 10,000 people in North Carolina are still homeless.

The needs are urgent not just for the hungry and homeless, but for people — and animals, many of which could be adopted by loving families this season — suffering all kinds of maladies.

We can all give back. Pick up an extra can of food at the grocery store. Keep an eye out for the donation boxes.

North Carolinians have proved over the years to be a generous people, moved by the suffering of others and willing to help. The human heart responds to what it finds dear. It’s an impulse to be encouraged. This season, our neighbors still need our help, and we know that the response to those needs will be strong.

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