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Opportunities to help abound

There’s a busy week ahead and many of us will be making lists — writing down items we need to buy for the big holiday meal, thinking of activities to enjoy with our families and perhaps even adding a few Christmas gift ideas so we can take advantage of those Black Friday sales.

As we prepare for Thanksgiving and the holiday season that lies just ahead, we have a few suggestions that you might want to include on those to-do lists. Why not write down opportunities to help? We can all think of a few ways to assist our less-fortunate neighbors or find a little time in our busy schedules to volunteer with one of the many Denton County agencies that need a hand.

Opportunities are all around us. All we have to do is slow down and look.

You’ll probably walk past one those opportunities later this week if you go shopping. Beginning Friday, many retail outlets will have bell-ringers posted out front with the familiar Salvation Army red kettles at hand.

During a kettle campaign kickoff event Friday, officials announced that the Salvation Army would be helping about 700 families this year, and that means that there will be approximately 3,000 children depending on your generosity.

Making a donation is a great way to help, and if you want to do more, you can also sign up to be bell ringer during the campaign, which continues through Dec. 24. Call 940-566-3800 for more information.

Another way to find opportunities to help is to visit the United Way of Denton County website at A list of United Way partner agencies can be found by clicking on the “Community Impact” link, and agency websites detail some current needs.

Gary Henderson, president and chief executive officer of the United Way of Denton County, said one of the greatest needs at the present time is financial support for agencies that provide housing assistance and other resources to help with living expenses. These include HOPE Inc. and Interfaith Ministries of Denton Inc.

“We’re running real low with that type of financial help right now,” Henderson told us.

United Way’s annual fundraising campaign is going well, Henderson said, and is due to wrap up at the end of December. Donors have been generous, he said, but needs in the county continue to grow. As more families look to United Way agencies for help, resources are strained and must be replenished.

That means there are plenty of opportunities to provide support, and we encourage everyone to open their hearts and offer to help as we enter the holiday season. Donations are always welcome, and time can be one of the greatest gifts.

And people should remember that volunteering is a need that goes beyond the holiday season, Henderson said. Volunteers are needed throughout the year in many capacities, and one of the jobs is especially difficult to fill.

“One of the greatest needs I have is for VITA tax preparers,” he said.

The VITA, or Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, ensures that trained and certified tax preparers are available to provide free income tax preparation to those who qualify.

Since its inception in 2007, United Way of Denton County VITA program volunteers have prepared more than 1,300 tax returns, generating more than $1,782,900 in tax refund dollars for Denton County residents, according to the United Way website.

Like we said, there are many ways to help, and we hope you will add one or more of Denton County’s many worthwhile charitable agencies to your holiday gift list. Whether you give money, food, time or fill some other need, your gift will be appreciated and you can be confident that your support will benefit those who need it most.