Americans donated more than $250 billion this year to help relief agencies deal with the seemingly endless string of natural disasters, including hurricanes Katrina and Wilma.
People tend to be much more giving in times of crisis, but crises come in many forms. They can be dramatic and widespread like tsunamis and hurricanes, or they can be quiet, personal and largely unseen such as children who face a dismal, empty Christmas due to the sudden, unexpected loss of the family's principal breadwinner.
These are the kind of tragedies that The Augusta Chronicle's Empty Stocking Fund is designed to relieve. The people benefiting from your donations do not live in a foreign country or distant state. They are from your own community. They might even be your friends or neighbors. And they need your help.
This year marks the fund's 75th anniversary. It was started in the Depression era by publisher William S. Morris Jr., father of the newspaper's current publisher. Augusta area residents dug deep into their pockets back in 1930 to come up with $869.29 to help the needy. They've been digging deep this time of year ever since. Last year, more than $107,600 was raised - a record.
It's important to understand The Chronicle handles all administrative costs, so virtually every cent of every donation goes to bring a brighter Christmas to the area's less fortunate families. You can read some of their heart-wrenching stories in this newspaper every day until Christmas.
Donations are welcome from every source - individuals, businesses, organizations - and can be left off at The Chronicle's News Building at 725 Broad Street or its Aiken or Columbia County bureaus, or sent to The Empty Stocking Fund, Box 1928, Augusta, GA 30903-1928.
Why not kick off the Yuletide season by taking your family to the fund's benefit concert this afternoon at the First Baptist Church of Augusta, 3500 Walton Way? The show is free, though donations are accepted. Doors open at 2:30; the music starts about a half hour later.
Don't miss it. It'll put you in a real Santa Claus mood.