Though it began only in 2012, the local brainchild of the 92nd Street Y in New York City, Giving Tuesday has become a staple as Americans kick off the annual holiday season.

Drawing on the power of social media, Giving Tuesday is the perfect complement to the Thanksgiving season. Following Black Friday — the traditional start of the holiday shopping season, #ShopSmall that Saturday to celebrate all things local and Cyber-Monday, Giving Tuesday turns the focus on the many charities, civic organizations and nonprofits that make each of our communities the special places they are. It’s a day of giving back and celebrating generosity at a time of the year when we need it the most.

And the power of the day is growing, both here in the United States and across the globe. According to GivingTuesday.org, since the first Giving Tuesday events in 2012, there has been an explosion in the amount of online donations in the years since. Just consider these numbers since Giving Tuesday began seven short years ago:

» Giving Tuesday in the United States has spawned campaigns in more than 150 countries.

» Promotion comes through social media campaigns using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other sites, with more than 14.2 billion engagements.

» There were 3.6 million online gifts, averaging more than $105 per contribution and raising more than $400 million.

Among the local organizations taking part in Giving Tuesday are the Anne Spencer House and Garden Museum, the Academy Center of the Arts, Girls on the Run of Central Virginia, Lynchburg Daily Bread and the Lynchburg Diversity Center. Help renovate and refurbish the Lynchburg home of a leading light of the Harlem Renaissance literary movement. Empower young girls through the joy of running and educational programs build self-confidence. Enable a feeding ministry to provide hot, nutritious meals to folks in dire economic straits. Help fund programs that teach we are all equal and deserving of respect. To search for all of the Giving Tuesday campaigns in the region, check out GivingTuesday.org.

And even if your favorite charity or community organization might not be doing anything official for Giving Tuesday, don’t let that stop you. Send them a monetary donation, volunteer or help out in some other way ... it all is valuable.

Nor does the spirit of Giving Tuesday have to be confined to just one, 24-hour period. If you’re out and about at all during the next three weeks, you’ll almost certainly encounter a Salvation Army bellringer, raising money for the Army’s invaluable social services for the homeless, the addicted and those facing any number of crises in their lives. Drop a buck or two in those red kettles.

Feeding ministries like Daily Bread, the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, Meals on Wheels and a host of others that labor on in relative obscurity are on the frontlines of the battle against hunger on a daily basis. Their mission is even greater in this season when we give thanks for all we have in our lives.

This holiday season, as you draw family near and celebrate the traditions of the season, don’t forget the need in our community. Reach out and respond.

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