The Huffington Post reported last summer the number of Americans living in poverty is expected to grow to levels not seen in nearly half a century. Economic pundits predict a rise in the year's poverty rate that could climb as high as 15.7 percent.

That number will account for a great deal of people hurting financially, making the holidays an especially difficult time to face.

Erath County has always been a community that rallies together to help others in their time of need. And despite the economy taking its toll on everyone, citizens will no doubt reach into their pockets to help those who are suffering.

As can be expected, the area is teaming with organizations in need of support.

Christmas isn't complete without presents for children, and there are several places where those needs can be addressed. Cross Timbers Family Services is collecting stockings filled with small gifts. They are also accepting new books, crayons and coloring books to distribute throughout the year. They can be contacted at 965-5516.

The Optimist Club is sponsoring its annual Toys for Kids drive, asking for unwrapped toys to be dropped off at Stephenville fire stations. More information is available at 965-3151.

The Adopt an Angel project benefits children of families who have applied for assistance through H.O.P.E. Call 965-2700 for more information.

For those more inclined to provide for the practical needs of children, the Rainbow Room is looking for youth apparel, diapers, cleaning supplies and food items. Contact Teresa Young at 965-2605 for more details.

Children of soldiers are in special need of support. The National Guard is collecting toys for young ones whose parents are serving our country. Five dollar gift cards are also wanted for teenagers. Call 592-1456 for further information.

The Pantry & More is planning a trip to Mexico and is in need of new or gently used toys as well as children’s clothing to distribute to a village south of Monterrey. Call 592-9696 if interested in contributing to the mission.

Grace Place assists area residents in desperate situations by supplying groceries, money for utilities bills, temporary lodging and rent. The organization is in serious need of funds and can be reached at 965-4022.

For a convenient way to contribute during the holidays, The Empire-Tribune is sponsoring Becky’s Wish, a project that collects new and gently used mittens or gloves. Boxes for collection are located at the E-T office and area businesses. Call 965-3124 for more information.

Tarleton State University students are in the giving spirit and are making the Ronald McDonald House in Fort Worth their focus. They are accepting food, kitchen and cleaning supplies and cash donations for the home-away-from home for families of children receiving treatment in area hospitals. Call 968-9098 to learn how to help.

Whatever your inclination to be a part of someone’s Christmas during their time of need, participating in one or more of these initiatives is sure to make your own holiday celebrations that much more meaningful.