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Remember to give locally

With the approaching holidays comes the reminder that the people of New York and Washington are not the only victims of the terrorist attacks. Unemployed Florida workers face bleak prospects and will need a hand. But with so many private and corporate neighbors donating generously to the Sept. 11 fund, local charities find themselves with dwindling resources at a time of increasing need.

Preliminary statewide numbers show that nearly five of every 100 Floridians able to work in September were unemployed. In Pinellas, more than 17,000 residents were jobless last month _ about 5,000 more than the same time last year. Counties throughout the bay area saw similar spikes in unemployment.

Local charities say they are hurting and unable to meet the increasing demand for assistance. The director of Suncoast Haven of Rest Rescue Mission fears the Pinellas Park agency might have to close its doors. Mission workers are serving twice the number of daily hot meals they did two years ago, in addition to assisting 3,000 families who need groceries. As of Wednesday, the group had yet to receive its first Thanksgiving food donation. Donations usually start rising in October. Other charities tell a similar story.

In hard economic times, everyone must stretch resources. That may mean spreading a charitable giving budget among a larger mix of local and national agencies. Even a small donation to a soup kitchen or other Samaritan agency can make a difference in people's lives.

As we reach out to the Sept. 11 victims with our hearts and our wallets, let's not forget those in need in our own communities.