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The time to light candles is here again

It is better to light one candle than curse the darkness.

— An old Chinese proverb, adopted by the Christopher Society as its motto

As we approach the winter solstice, the longest night of the year, it is comforting to think of the warm glow of candlelight — and the difference even a single flame can make.

That is the sentiment behind the Mail Tribune's annual Light One Candle series of stories, each describing the needs of one person or family in the Rogue Valley. The people profiled in the stories are real, and so are their needs.

But these individual cases are only examples. We could not possibly describe every situation, every person, every family in need of help at the darkest time of the year.

Readers always respond with tremendous generosity to these stories, as we are confident they will again this year, even though many are feeling the effects of the economic recession that threatens the entire country. When we publish a story about a family with children who need warm clothing, many more coats and hats are given than any one family could use.

And that's the point. Those extra gifts can then be distributed to other children and families — those who weren't profiled in the newspaper but whose needs are just as real.

As the recession deepens, not only are more of our neighbors in need of help, but the agencies trying to meet those needs are hurting, too. Donations are down, government grants fewer and farther between.

This year, a new opportunity to help has appeared. Hank's Bank is a fund established in memory of Hank Collins, Jackson County's longtime director of Health and Human Services, who died of cancer in February.

The brainchild of Dee Anne Everson, director of United Way of Jackson County, Hank's Bank collects tax-deductible donations and distributes small amounts of emergency cash to people with an immediate crisis. The idea is to prevent a single calamity from cascading into a big problem such as homelessness. It is a fitting tribute to Collins, who spent his career meeting as many needs as he could.

To contribute to Light One Candle, visit www.mailtribune.com/holidaygiving. To contribute to Hank's Bank, contact United Way of Jackson County, 773-5339, or visit www.mailtribune.com/hanksbank.

The saying about lighting one candle was perhaps most famously used by Adlai Stevenson in a tribute to Eleanor Roosevelt, published in The New York Times on Nov. 8, 1962, the day after she died:

"What other single human being has touched and transformed the existence of so many? She walked in the slums and ghettos of the world, not on a tour of inspection, but as one who could not feel contentment when others were hungry "¦ I have lost more than a beloved friend. I have lost an inspiration. She would rather light a candle than curse the darkness, and her glow has warmed the world."