It’s rough out there for many Santa Monicans these days. The city by the sea is not immune to the grim economic conditions and high unemployment crippling California. This Great Recession has forced families to cut back on their spending, and small business owners to lay-off workers or close entirely. This has negatively impacted giving during the season known for spreading good cheer.

Recently, the Daily Press featured a story on the Santa Monica branch of the Salvation Army, which is having a difficult time this holiday season collecting food and toys for roughly 400 needy families. At the time of our story, the Salvation Army had stockpiled only enough food to provide holiday meals for about a quarter of its families. Only a handful of companies had picked up “angel tags,” which list a child’s name, age and interests and are intended to guide donors as they shop. More than 1,000 tags remained.

The Salvation Army isn’t alone. Other local charities are in need of your generosity. We know it’s tough, but we want to encourage those who can to donate. If money is tight, try volunteering your time or clear out your closet and pass on clothes you no longer wear.

There are plenty of places that could use your help. Youth Volunteers with the American Red Cross of Santa Monica will be collecting toys and gifts again this year as part of the annual “Spark of Love Toy Drive.” Santa Monica firefighters will help distribute the gifts to deserving children in Santa Monica. Donations can be dropped off at the Santa Monica Red Cross chapter at 1450 11th St. (at Broadway) or at any fire station in town.

If food is your preference, help the Big Blue Bus’ food drive by donating canned goods. Drop off locations include City Hall or any of the local library branches. The Santa Monica Pier Restoration Corp. is also hosting a food drive to benefit Upward Bound House. Bring some goods and get a free ride on the historic carousel.

And for those who love to drink beer, there’s the Santa Monica Pub Crawl this Saturday. Bring three non-perishable food items for the Westside Food Bank and receive a wristband that give you access to food and drink specials, as well as an after-party.

Those are just some of the opportunities available to folks looking to lend a helping hand. We hope people remember the true meaning of the holidays, that it is better to give than to receive.

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