We think of almost everyone.

Sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbors, friends … that gift list is plenty long enough to keep us busy for most of December. We shop, bake, knit, wrap and then do it all over again. (OK, maybe we don’t all knit.)

But as busy as the run-up to the end of the year can be, that list won’t quite cover it.

This year, consider your community. Consider what it is now, and consider what you want it to be. Then, find a way to give something — money, time, donations — to fill that gap.

Considering those questions shouldn’t be too difficult. What would you like to see more of in your hometown? Food assistance for the hungry? Help for homeless pets? Support for public lands initiatives? Aid for hospital patients far from home? Money for seniors who need help heating their homes during these cold months?

The next part is a little harder. It involves finding the right organization, one you trust with your money or your time. You need an organization that will amplify your cause and spend its resources in the way you think is best.

The good news is that our city and state are teeming with organizations that aim to tackle these problems and many others. (Full disclosure: I happen to work and volunteer for one that falls into this category. It’s a nonprofit that works to help sick kids and their families across the state. I’m writing this column for the same reasons I chose to work there: because I think the cause is important, and I believe in doing what you can to make your community a better place.)

And our state has a reputation for generosity: WalletHub recently ranked Wyoming fourth nationwide for charitable giving and volunteering. In one category — percentage of donated income — our state ranked first. In a separate study, Travelocity ranked Casper the “most giving” city in the country. That’s incredible! We should be proud of those rankings, and we should build on them.

As part of this process, you’ll want to check into an organization’s background and activities, of course. Ask lots of questions. And once you identify the organization you want to support, keep asking questions. The biggest one: How can I do the most good?

Some groups will gladly take money, time or items — whatever you have to give. Others might desperately need volunteers to carry out their mission. For some, money truly is the most valuable gift, because they are able to buy supplies (such as food) at really low prices — and that makes your dollars even more valuable.

It’s important to remember, too, that this isn’t just a gift to your community. It’s also a gift to yourself. If you can give money or time toward comforting those homeless cats and dogs at area shelters, for example, you’re bringing our community just a little closer to what you want it to be.

Get your whole family in on it. Decide how you’d like to give, and together, identify some causes that are important to you. Then, give time together, or watch as the money you give buys something someone truly needs.

Ready to start giving but feeling overextended because of the holidays? That’s OK. Start thinking now, and choose a time that works for you. Maybe it’s February. Maybe it’s May. No one expects you to give when you’re not in a position to do so.

But once you find a place to give and a way to do it, prepare to be stunned by the wellspring of generosity and compassion that exists here. There is a committed group of charitable-minded Wyomingites out there, and once you meet them, you won’t be able to help falling just a little deeper in love with your community. They unload pallets, unpack donations and give hours of time and whatever money they can spare to make this a better place to live.

This season, remember those people, and remember the people who need them. These groups are working to make our world a little better every day. Whenever you can, however you can — that’s something worth being part of.

Mandy Burton, a former Star-Tribune opinion editor, currently works for Make-A-Wish Wyoming in Casper. Her column about life in Casper and Wyoming has appeared on this page since 2016.

Mandy Burton, a former Star-Tribune opinion editor, currently works for Make-A-Wish Wyoming in Casper. Her column about life in Casper and Wyoming has appeared on this page since 2016.

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