It’s evident we have entered the holiday season. Merchants are gearing up for Thanksgiving and Christmas, schools are planning concerts and special events are scheduled at the Bismarck Event Center and Belle Mehus Auditorium.

And programs that provide an opportunity to share with the less fortunate are getting underway.

Christmas Playpen launched its annual drive on Nov. 3 with toys and donations being collected until Nov. 24. Used toys are being collected outside the south Dan’s Supermarket, 835 S. Washington St. The toys and bicycles are taken to the North Dakota State Penitentiary, the Missouri River Correctional Center and the Dakota Women’s Correctional and Rehabilitation Center where they are repaired by the inmates. The toys will be distributed by the Salvation Army. More than 500 children benefited from the program last year. The drive is sponsored by the Salvation Army, Dan’s Supermarkets, Go Mini’s, TransTrash, Epic Sports, North Dakota Corrections and Rehabilitation and Bismarck Tribune.

The Salvation Army has launched its bell-ringing campaign with the distinctive red kettles. Volunteers will be ringing bells and seeking donations to be dropped into the kettles until Christmas. It’s an old program started in 1891 in San Francisco when Salvation Army Capt. Joseph McFee was seeking a way to raise funds for the hungry. He placed a pot near Market Street with a sign that read “Keep the Pot Boiling” and a tradition was born. It’s a tradition that can be difficult to maintain because it relies on volunteers to ring the bells and the kindness of community members to donate.

There’s another longtime drive that originated in Bismarck. The Open Your Heart campaign was started in December 1930 by what’s now Lloyd Spetz Post No. 1 of the American Legion. They collect donations and food, pack it and deliver to members of the community in Bismarck and Burleigh County. This year’s drive begins Dec. 2, with sorting and packing of the food at 8 a.m. Dec. 22 at the Bismarck Event Center. Volunteers deliver the food baskets on Dec. 23.

Throughout the holiday season there are numerous other efforts to collect toys, clothing, food and other items for those in need. There are gift trees and donation boxes in many places Most people aren’t able to donate to all the worthy causes and they have to decide who to help. It can be a difficult decision, but in the end it’s rewarding. Hopefully, most people budget their giving along with their gift shopping.

In “A Christmas Carol,” Scrooge discovers the joy of giving after being visited by three ghosts during the night. We don’t need ghosts to remind us of the importance of giving during the holiday season and throughout the year. There are still too many people, for one reason or another, who can’t afford much at Christmas. We encourage everyone to give what they can so others can have a happy holiday.

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