This year, Halloween is Wednesday, Oct. 31.

It used to be one of my favorite holidays, if not the all-time favorite.

I spent weeks figuring out a costume, but I usually ended up throwing on a baggy old pair of pants and one of my dad’s shirt that he didn’t need any more, while carrying a stick with a bag filled with newspaper hanging off of it. I’d put some dirt on my face and head out in search of candy as a ‘hobo’ just off the railroad car. Sadly today, that image is not something I would be happy with.

As we begin the holiday season, the air is filled with the sights and sounds of autumn. The leaves are starting to change, the air is cooling off and, if we are lucky, the rainy season will bring relief to the hard-hit areas affected by the fires. Most of us count our blessings as we look forward to the next few months filled with family, friends, laughter and great food, but for some who do not need the costume, the holidays are filled with sadness, fear and loneliness.

Every day, the news is filled with stories of people who have lost their homes – pictures and memories that took a lifetime to collect gone in moments. The very basics we need for everyday living need to be replaced for survival. Here in California, we feel sympathy for those who have also been affected with hurricanes and horrific storms, but for us, the fires are the culprits that have caused local devastation beyond belief.

We have endured earthquakes and other natural disasters, but the fires this past season were record-breaking.

I’d like to think we have enough empathy and goodness in our hearts to reach out to those who have no costumes to wear or candy to give out. They have no doorbell to answer when kids are out with their buckets or sacks. But between robo calls asking for donations for everything, solicitations through the mail and ads on television, it’s sad and confusing and one can stretch their charitable donations only so far. We all want to help those who are in dire need, but what is the best way to do that?

It is said that charity begins at home, or in this case locally, so that is a good place to start – with our neighbors who need help.

Every year, I put on my thinking cap and heat up my angel wings to write a holiday piece about how sharing is caring. I, like everyone else, would like to do a little something, but want to make sure that my donations are going directly to the people who need it and not the management and administration.

I am not naïve. I know there is overhead with any charity, but let’s face it, some take more of a percentage than others do. After a lot of research, I found some national and state-run charities are better than others, and you can find those at https://goo.gl/iDGpHo.

On a more local note, if you are thinking about a holiday donation helping seniors and others, I can highly recommend three that will not only fill your heart, but will also go to the ones intended.

Kaleidoscope in Byron brings baskets of joy to those affected by cancer. They do a lot of good work for families and patients. Their hearts are huge, and some of the volunteers spend endless hours creating some happiness for cancer patients young and old. They are located behind the church at 14671 Byron Highway, PO Box 432, in Byron. If you can’t give with your wallet, you can give with your time.

The second one of my favorite charities is An Elderly Wish Foundation that, like Make a Wish for children, grants wishes for seniors with life-threatening or terminal illness. They can be reached at 925-978-1883. Ask for Mary Chapman. Meals on Wheels Diablo Region is another much-needed organization supplying healthy meals to house-bound seniors. They are always looking for volunteer drivers and financial support. You can reach them at 925-937-8311 or at www.mowdiabloregion.org.

Our hearts got tugged with the numerous disasters and hardships this past year has seen. I know my family has a roof over their head, warm food in their stomachs and everything they need for a safe and happy life. Opening up your wallet and your heart to others is a great gift and wonderful lesson to share with your kids and grandkids this holiday season.

Marla Luckhardt is a Brentwood resident who works with senior care and advocacy groups. Email her at marla2054@aol.com.

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