One of my very favorite things about the holiday season is seeing the best come out of a lot of people. Even though many of us are busy in December balancing our family obligations with work or school, shopping and our regular lives, local charities are often blessed by generosity of many of these busy people.


Last week, I joined dozens of my fellow Rotarians who participated in bell ringing for the Salvation Army. We volunteered an hour of our time to help a deserving charity and as always, it was heartwarming to see how many shoppers stopped by to visit and donate money to this important effort.


Others were coming in to drop off new toys for the Toys for Tots program there at the mall.


Also, inside the mall is the SPCA giving tree where many people donate money for supplies or bring in food, pet toys, cleaning supplies and everything else on our wish list.


Out at our shelter, just about every day during the season, a car will pull up, pop the trunk and soon our lobby will be full with large bags of dog or cat food, blankets, towels and other things on our wish list, brought to our front door.


Still others stuff our mailboxes, along with other local charities with their end of year tax deductible donations that every organization serving here in the CSRA always needs. Generous people donate food to the food bank; visit a homebound senior, who may not see anyone else over the holidays, or collect presents for children who might not receive many of the items on their list for Santa.


We all enjoy opening great gifts under our trees on Christmas morning. But here in the CSRA, so many people find great pleasure in giving their time, their talents and some of their hard earned money to help others a little less fortunate.


Local animal shelters, like ours, often even see spikes in people wanting to adopt a homeless dog or cat. Like I wrote last week, bringing one home Christmas morning with all the chaos that happens during that day isnít a good idea, but adopting several days before hand or after Christmas can be a good thing. Many people use a lot of their vacation time around the holidays and their children are out of school for the break. This gives families additional time to help their new addition to the family a better chance to settle into their routine quickly.


To help spur on more adoptions before and after the holidays, we are offering two specials. First, the first 25 cats adopted in December have their adoption fee reduced from $75 to $25. Already more than a dozen cats, mostly adults, have already found forever homes. We also are celebrating our 13 for 13 special. We have 13 long term resident dogs and cats (with us 6 months or more). We want 2012 to be the last year they ever spend in a shelter so we are making every effort to find them a new home before the end of the year.


Not all of you can find the time to spend with a homebound senior, or have the room to adopt a dog, or the money to send a big check to your favorite charity. There are, however, easier ways to give that still will be a big help. Look up programs where you can send a holiday card to one of our brave service men and women serving overseas, who wonít be able to spend the season with their families.


Check in on a neighbor or friend you know that might not have others locally looking out for them.


If you want to bring over some eggnog or cookies with you that would likely brighten their day.


However you spend this holiday season, please consider giving a small portion of your time or resources to make someone elseís life a little brighter. You might just find that you get more out of it than you give yourself. Happy Holidays.


Gary Willoughby is the president and CEO of the SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare.