There’s no busier time than the holidays. In December, our days get filled with office parties, family get-togethers, baking, shopping, and observing traditions. Though the days fly by, there are people whom we should take the time to remember during the holiday season. Whether it is through our prayers, by sharing a word of encouragement, giving our time, or making a financial contribution, taking the time to think of others is exactly what this time of year is about.

1. Soldiers and their families

This can be one of the most difficult times of year for those who are serving abroad. Some of our men and women in uniform won’t make it home for Christmas, leaving an empty place at the dinner table during family celebrations. Being a good friend or neighbor to military spouses and children can go a long way, and so can sending words of encouragement to our soldiers. Organizations like Operation Gratitude provide a way for Americans to send letters of encouragement to deployed soldiers.

2. The needy

According to census data, nearly 15% of people in Rapid City are living in poverty. Some of these individuals struggle to afford housing and end up homeless. OneHeart is a new organization that is applying a different approach to serving this demographic.  OneHeart provides for basic needs like shelter, food, transportation, utilities, and even childcare and WIFI, and works with adults to help them start or finish schooling and become employed and thriving members of the community. It’s what Executive Director Charity Doyle describes as “a college campus for getting out of poverty.” Nearly 70% of the individuals OneHeart serves have been victimized and 54% are children. You can donate online at oneheartrc.org/donate.

3. People who live in places of unrest

It can be easy to take the peace and safety we experience in America for granted. But there are many places around the world today that are experiencing war and unrest. For the people who live in these areas, “peace on earth and goodwill to men” is far from their reality. This past year, the world has watched as Russia has destroyed Ukrainians’ way of life. A South Dakota effort to bring Ukrainian refugees to our state was recently launched by community and private sector leaders. The Freedom’s Haven for New Americans’ Workforce Fund was established to defray costs for local sponsors who will ensure refugees have housing and support. To donate to the New Americans fund, go to the South Dakota Community Foundation’s website: sdcommunityfoundation.org.

4. The elderly

The holidays can be a lonely time for the elderly who have lost spouses or who do not have children or family nearby. Black Hills Advocate and Meals on Wheels are still taking corporate donations for their Elder Angel Tree which collects gifts for local seniors. On an individual level, you can also work with a local nursing home or assisted living center to give care packages to residents. Or, even just coordinating a group of carolers to sing when visitors are allowed is a way to bring smiles to residents’ faces.