'Tis the season for giving and generosity. We dig deeper into our pockets to help share comfort and joy. But while there are ever increasing ways to contribute, the stumbling economy makes it harder to do so.

With so many organizations and groups seeking help, it's increasingly difficult to decide where to spread the limited dollars. Locals in East Contra Costa talked about how they make their choices.

"I concentrate on those organizations that have the lowest overhead. If there's less for the administrators there's more for the needy," said Lisa Williams of Oakley. "When my heart is touched by people really in need I give money gladly. But, if I donate clothing it goes to individuals rather than the Goodwill who just sell it to anyone."

Sparky Livenspargar of Brentwood said giving for him is mostly spur of the moment. "I'm a believer that charity begins at home, but when an individual touches my heart I open my wallet. I like to see where my money goes."

Brentwood's Susan Wood relies on her faith in God to make the choice for her. "He leads me to where the need is greatest. Each year it can be different. I always follow the guidance I get from my prayers," she said.

Ruth Middleton of Oakley just lost her job. "I usually give to the church, Salvation Army and the SPCA, but I can't do it this year. Everybody has less money. It's unfortunate but the charities also will have to get by on less," she said.


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"I'm cutting back on giving this year and I'm making my choices by drawing names from a hat," said Sara Savana of Oakley. "Outside of that, I'm a soft touch anytime there are needy kids involved. This year I'm concentrating on brown bag churches for feeding the needy."

Wally DeAngelo of Antioch is big-hearted. "I try to save a percentage of my income each year for charity. Where it goes depends on circumstances. Right now, the causes dedicated to poverty and hunger get most of my attention," he said.

For Rosemarie Helberg of Brentwood, giving is a very personal thing. "Forty-five years ago I had a daughter with birth defects, so my contributions are aimed at helping disabled kids. The Shriners always are included. Also since I'm a dog lover, I donate to animal shelters and to research on animal illnesses," she said.

Stu Andrews of Brentwood takes a world view. "Compared to others on this planet, I'm rich," he said. "I've worked with charitable health organizations and feel it personally. The amount varies from year to year, but I give my time and money gladly. Currently, my biggest effort goes to the Antioch Community Outreach Center."

Irwin Lewis of Antioch admits that holiday giving is harder to figure out this year, but the amount he's giving is unchanged. "My goal is to help those who are the most deserving and I find it safer to contribute to the well-established organizations," he said. "At the top of my list are veterans, cancer research, needy women and children."

Antioch's Sally Westfall has become a skeptic. "I used to contribute to the big organizations, but I got turned off by what it leads to," she said. "Some of the highly respected charities started selling my name and address to other organizations. I ended up being hounded by them. You have to be careful how and to whom you make contributions."

Contact Ed Arnow at BrentwoodBuzz@aol.com.