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Central Illinoisans in general, McLean County residents in particular, demonstrated once again through their generosity why this in a wonderful area in which to live.

The sense of community is strong. When people are in need, help is generally not far away.

The Christmas season is a central focus of many charity campaigns. Some drives are specifically tailored to the holiday, providing families with gifts, including food baskets. Other organizations collect money that is used throughout the year, but count on the extra generosity people feel around the holidays. Some, such as The Pantagraph's Good Fellow Fund, have a Christmas-related component as well as providing year-round assistance.

The many tragic events that have occurred throughout the past 12 months, including the Asian tsunami, Pakistan earthquake and several devastating hurricanes in our own country, have placed great demands on those providing disaster relief - and those who provide donations to them.

Agencies who deal with needs closer to home feared what was being called "donor fatigue," despite continuing local needs. Indeed, some of the Christmas collections started out slowly.

But like a sleigh pulled by eight tiny - but swift - reindeer, donors dashed away to the rescue.

No one needed visits from three ghosts to get them to honor Christmas in their hearts. All they needed was to learn help was needed. It's as if, like the reformed Grinch, people's hearts grew three sizes as they answered the call.

"The people came through." "The community really supported us." "McLean County went over and above supporting so many different charities." Those were a few of the comments from people involved in charity drives.

Money and toys weren't the only donations. The Red Cross slightly exceeded its goal during its holiday blood drive.

A few campaigns are still short of their goals or of the amounts collected last year. They include the Salvation Army's direct-mail campaign, the Children's Foundation's mail appeal and The Good Fellow Fund. But there is still time to give.

Continuing to help our neighbors is a good way to begin a new year. If that's not sufficient motivation, it's also a good way to get a tax deduction.

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