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Year ends; need doesn't

With New Year's Day behind us, the holiday season is over for another year. But the needs of many in our community — needs that get much attention during the Christmas season — are still with us.

Food banks constantly remind donors that the need for emergency food exists all year long. Extra generous donations at holiday time help fill shelves and keep food banks operating the rest of the year, but continuing donations are also needed.

The same is true for the other social service agencies that serve the poor, the elderly and the disabled.

This year, especially, generosity from people in the community who can afford it is more important than ever. The collapse of the credit markets, together with declining stock values, means foundations, trusts and other charitable entities that rely on investments have less to award in grants to social service agencies.

At the same time, the demand for those agencies' services is soaring as more Oregonians become unemployed.

Two local agencies struggling to cope with the downturn were in the news in recent days.

The Children's Advocacy Center, which serves child victims of physical and sexual abuse, recently received a three-year grant from the Meyer Memorial Trust, allowing the center to continue to pay a part-time physician trained in examining possible victims. But before the trust awarded the grant, its board wanted to see strong support from the local community.

That support came in the form of large contributions from both Medford hospitals and two local charitable foundations. But small contributions from individuals can help as well — especially when those contributions are combined by an agency such as United Way and awarded in grants to local agencies.

Another agency in the news is the Jackson County Center for NonProfit Legal Services, which provides important legal representation to low-income people who can't afford to hire a lawyer. A primary source of support for the center is a statewide fund that collects interest payments on money lawyers hold in trust for their clients and distributes the money to legal aid offices around Oregon. With the economic collapse, interest paid by banks has plummeted, resulting in less income for the fund.

These are just two examples of local agencies that provide a safety net for struggling individuals and families in the Rogue Valley. There are many more, all facing similar challenges.

If you are among those fortunate enough to have a steady income and can afford to help, consider a regular monthly contribution to one of these agencies. The amount need not be large; many small contributions add up quickly.