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CHRISTMAS TRULY IS THE SEASON WHEN UTAHNS HELP THOSE IN NEED

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'Tis the season.

And if you don't believe it, ask any of the hundreds of nonprofit charities that rely on the open-heartedness that occurs between Thanksgiving and Christmas for their survival.As merchants make the bulk of their profits this time of year, so too do charities.

December is, without question, the month when thoughts turn to others in need. That's a good thing, because it is also the month when people who make do with very little realize how little they may have.

Television, radio and newspaper advertisements blare out a steady stream of have-to-have items. It would be easy, in the mad rush to find the perfect gifts for everyone, to forget the basic gifts some families so desperately need: food, shelter, clothing, friendship.

Somehow, Utahns always seem to remember and come through.

By the time Santa Claus makes his night ride, hundreds of individuals, families and other groups will have adopted even greater numbers of children in families too poor to provide holiday extras.

There are a lot of them. Last week, with signups at less than the midway point for Christmas assistance through Sub for Santa, Angel Tree and Toys for Tots, more than 2,000 households had already qualified.

Now people are beginning to volunteer their help.

One of the most touching offers of assistance has come from the Men's Grief Support Group. Founded by Doug Beck-stead, men who have lost their children to death and personal disaster are collecting clothes and new toys to give to other men's children. Last year they provided Christmas for more than 40 families (160-plus children). They hold charity drives and auctions around the valley to accomplish the task.

More food will be donated, more cash will go to charities, more services will be provided. In December, people will even smile at strangers in the malls and on the streets.

It may sound like a cliche, but it really is a magical time.

It is quite likely that most of the thousands of needy children will benefit from the outpouring. I'm glad. This is the season for children, and their needs and wishes are terribly important.

But there are adults I hope won't be forgotten along the way.

Lonely senior citizens who have outlived beloved companions need an extra human touch this time of year. Besides being the season of giving, winter is also peak time for depression. The added emphasis on family serves as a painful reminder to those who don't have family anymore. Joyous seasons past make loneliness more poignant.

Outgrowing the need for toys doesn't mean you outgrow the need for caring. People tend to think of homeless children at Christmas. Homeless adults who have so little also yearn for the love that is supposed to abound during the holidays. They need coats, hats, mittens, jobs, hope, boots, food and the simple knowledge that someone cares about them.

That knowledge is lifeblood to people at the Utah State Hospital and the Developmental Center, as well. Many of the patients have no families nearby.

It's so easy to forget that the man with frightening mental illnesses or the woman with mental retardation are, in many ways, children. Young hearts and minds get trapped in aging bodies and we all forget that they dream, too, of Santa's generosity.

I know a 63-year-old man who is, mentally, forever about 7. No child's excitement ever exceeded his during that long, long wait for Santa Claus.

So yes, 'tis the season - for renewal, giving, getting and rediscovering the things that link us together and form us into communities and make us brothers.