The number of folks we saw enjoying the downtown Christmas Open House Friday night suggests that many of us are ready for the annual ritual of finding the perfect gifts for those on our shopping list.

There is one group that might not be on your list, but we encourage you to correct that omission.

This is the season for giving. A time of the year when many area charitable groups depend on donations from community members to help others. Many have felt the pinch of a troubled economy, and needs are greater than ever.

Last week, the Salvation Army kicked off its annual Red Kettle campaign, and many other groups are planning special events to help those with financial needs.

Those who help others say that it's tougher than ever to raise funds. We've got to dig a little deeper and give a little more.

In the past we've asked shoppers to forego buying one gift and, instead, donate the saved money to a favorite charity. Again, we urge people to do that.

Most children can do with one less gift, and the gesture could put a gift in the hands of a child who otherwise might not receive anything.

There are other ways to give. Offer a food basket to a family that might not have enough to eat because mom and dad have lost their jobs. Help a senior citizen on a fixed income who might not be able to pay the utility bill.

There are hundreds of people in the area who could use a helping hand and a friendly smile this time of year.

If you don't see a Salvation Army kettle the next time you're out shopping, stop by the Salvation Army on East Main Street and drop off a donation. You will be welcomed.

Support the agencies that support our neighbors. The need never goes away, but it is especially important this time of year to care for each other.