Alas, here we are in December amid the annual holiday blitz of advertisements and specials and mass spending ... and, wait.
It's also the season of giving.
Despite rampant commercialization, the holiday season also has become a lifeline for nonprofits. One-third of all giving now takes place during the last three months of each year. About 18 percent of all giving to nonprofits last year occurred in December alone.
So far, it looks like that giving spirit will soar higher this year.
The Blackbaud Index, which measures charitable giving trends, announced last week that giving nationwide grew 2.3 percent for the three months ending October 2013 compared to the same time in 2012. Online giving increased almost 10 percent.
The numbers are based on data from 3,828 charities, according the index compiled by Daniel Island-based Blackbaud, a global provider of software and other services to nonprofits.
"It's phenomenal. It's just up and up and up," Blackbaud spokeswoman Melanie Mathos said.
Some of this giving receives the gift of widespread publicity. However, many local efforts to help others occur quietly, beneath the radar of recognition and accolades.
Here are just a few examples:
Blankies 4 My Buddies
Kristen Wright-Matthews received a heap of good cheer when two people in her life merged their efforts to help others this winter.
One was close friend and local stylist Angie Ravenel. The other? Her son C.J. Matthews, a student at Laurel Hill Primary School in Mount Pleasant.
Their separate projects, Project Warm Hands and Blankies 4 My Buddies, joined up to help keep folks warm this winter.
Ravenel founded Project Warm Hands to help those who lack warm clothing during the winters. Each year, she rallies her clients to bring in everything from coats and hats to blankets that she donates to disadvantaged residents.
In three years, Project Warm Hands has collected and donated more than 2,000 items to local shelters and nonprofits.
"When my sons were in school, I often noticed students without warm coats and hats when the weather was cold, and I decided to do something about it," Ravenel said.
Meanwhile, C.J. Matthews created Blankies 4 My Buddies last year when he was just 6 years old to collect new and gently used children's blankets to donate to places like MUSC Children's Hospital.
"I was raised with the giving spirit, and that is one characteristic that I am proud to pass down to my son," Wright-Matthews said.
Then last month, Ravenel and Matthews got together at Angie's Hair Studio in North Charleston to host a drop-off event for both blankets and warm clothing. They filled two dozen 45-gallon bags and delivered goods to My Sister's House, Lowcountry Orphan Relief and Neighborhood House.
Blankies 4 My Buddies is continuing to collect children's blankets and donations - and Matthews will keep making trips to the children's hospital to deliver them.
For more, go to www.facebook.com/Blankies4MyBuddies.
Vowing to help
It started with a surprise marriage proposal.
Local filmmaker Jason Gourdine took his girlfriend, Dontrell Tisdale, out for dinner and a movie. But the last movie trailer wasn't a trailer at all. It was a wedding proposal.
While dating, the couple had talked about starting a nonprofit geared toward educating students in Third World nations.
Instead of a wedding registry, they asked guests to donate supplies to Lila's Child Care Foundation in Ghana, Africa, a non-governmental organization that offers education to underprivileged children.
And after exchanging vows June 22, the couple announced to guests the launch of their organization, the Push 4 Change Project, which will partner with groups worldwide.
Now, the couple wants to supply Lila's students with Christmas gifts and other goods. Push 4 Change Project has launched its first Christmas Fundraiser entitled "Give Up A Gift for Africa" and powered by the online fundraiser YouCaring.com.
All funds donated will go to Lila's Child Care Foundation, said Dontrell Tisdale-Gourdine, executive director of the Push 4 Change Project.
Next fall, the nonprofit will begin working with local students at Daniel Jenkins Creative Learning Center.
"We not only raise money to support students abroad, but also partner with local schools in Charleston to help develop and train their students through leadership programs," Tisdale-Gourdine said.
For more, go to www.facebook.com/Push4ChangeProject or email email@example.com.
Gift of literacy
Three years ago, Robert Fludd and Coakley Hilton saw kids in their neighborhood getting into drugs and crimes - and knew education was the key to more promising tomorrows.
They started the Liberty Hill Literacy Program, which provides intensive after-school tutoring for Malcolm C. Hursey Elementary students reading below grade level.
When Kirk Lindgren, a science teacher at the Charleston County School of the Arts, heard about the project, he recruited student tutors from SOA and Academic Magnet High in North Charleston.
Those students tutor weekly, forming bonds while learning.
"They are reading better, getting better grades, their test scores are going up," Lindgren said. "They are also getting access to good role models."
Along the way, several National Honor Society students organized an Angel Tree for the younger kids they tutored whose families struggled with a lack of resources.
The first year, tutors organized the sponsoring of 20 students. Last year, that grew to 40 students. And this year, it will reach 60.
Tutors, some of whom use their own money to buy gifts, will wrap this year's donations next week during their lunches and then present the gifts at a party.
However, the rewards of teaching and building relationships will last long after the gifts are opened.
For more, go to www.lhicliteracy.org.
Charleston Southern University sophomores Brianna McNeal and Nicholas Lee set a goal to pack 100 shoe boxes together for Operation Christmas Child this year - and reached it.
They had never been involved in the effort before, but McNeal and her boyfriend, Lee, felt called to set the high goal.
"God laid it on both of our hearts to help with this organization and has provided for us so far," McNeal said.
Operation Christmas Child is a ministry of Samaritan's Purse, which has served more than 100 million children globally since 1993.
Meanwhile, the CSU's Campus Ministries collected nearly 1,500 boxes university-wide, 500 more than last year.
CSU students donated school supplies, toys and clothing to pack into shoeboxes to send children around the world.
"It isn't necessarily about the items in the shoeboxes, but it's about the greater message of proclaiming the name of Christ," said Julie Jongsma, VISTA service learning coordinator.
For more, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Tuesday, Twitter was atwitter with buzz over #GivingTuesday, a newish move to create a national kick-off to the giving season.
Think of it as the antidote to Black Friday's launch of the spending season.
Blackbaud, an original partner, measured $10 million in online donations on the first #GivingTuesday last year. That marked a 53 percent increase over the previous year.
One example of the many local #GivingTuesday efforts was put on by the Charleston Parks Conservancy, which asked resident to donate daffodils bulbs.
Each year, the conservancy plants thousands of daffodils around town. A $10 donation equaled 10 daffodil bulbs that will be planted this month and in January, just in time for that first burst of spring color.
Also for #GivingTuesday, people took "unselfies" (to counter those narcissistic "selfies"). They took photos of others doing charitable work, tagged their photos #unselfie and uploaded them onto social media.
C.J. has had his hands full at times since creating Blankies 4 My Buddies. At Children´s Hospital, he gets assistance from his mother, Kristen Wright-Matthews, and McInish on Wednesday.×
C.J. Matthews, 6, created Blankies 4 My Buddies to collect new and gently used children’s blankets to donate to places such as MUSC Children’s Hospital, where he got help from child life specialist Lacey McInish on Wednesday.×
Charleston Southern sophomores Brianna McNeal and Nicholas Lee reached their goal of packing at least 100 boxes for Operation Christmas Child this year. They set the goal after feeling God call them to support the global ministry.×
Jason and Dontrell Gourdine×
C.J. Matthews, founder of Blankies 4 My Buddies. (provided)×
C.J. Matthews helps donor Kat Ponds carry in donations. (provided)×