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Day of abundance, season of sharing

On this national day of gratitude, we are reminded of how thankful we are to live in Southern Oregon. The natural beauty; the thriving cultural scene of art, music and theater; and the local food and wine offerings are highlights. As always when enjoying the abundance of a holiday devoted to feasting, it's important to remember those in our midst who struggle to keep even the basics on the family table.

We also are thankful for the many organizations and individuals in the valley who make it easy to help those in need. From the network of food pantries stocked by ACCESS Inc. to the Ashland, Medford and other Food Projects that mobilize volunteers to collect food from their neighborhoods, Southern Oregonians look out for each other.

This is the season when giving is emphasized, and organizations such as ACCESS depend on that spirit to get them through the rest of the year. Because, as anyone in the helping business will tell you, the need is not confined to the holidays.

This week kicks off ACCESS' 31st annual Food for Hope grocery bag drive. The agency hopes to collect 30,000 pounds of food and $40,000 in cash — big goals, but achievable if we all do our part to reach it.

Here's how you can join the region's legion of helpers.

Give food: Specially marked grocery bags were inserted in Monday's Mail Tribune, but any bag will do. Place nonperishable food items in the bag and deliver it to any fire station or Umpqua Bank branch in the county, or to Sherm's Thunderbird or Food 4 Less, or to Ascension Lutheran, Westminster Presbyterian, First Christian, St. Peter's Lutheran or Medford Congregational churches.

Give cash instead: For every dollar donated, ACCESS can purchase enough food for five meals. Donate online at www.accesshelps.org, or mail donations to ACCESS Food Share, P.O. Box 4666, Medford, OR 97501.

The annual drive, which continues through Dec. 31, generates 20 percent of the agency's annual food donations. Join in the sharing; you'll make a difference and you'll be glad you did.

Happy Thanksgiving!