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IN THE SPIRIT OF THE SEASON

The end (of the year) is nigh, so you're running out of time to take advantage of the state's charitable tax credit to help the least fortunate.

Here's how it works: You give $200 (or $400 for a married couple filing jointly) to a charity that aids the working poor. Then you get the money back next year when you file your taxes. It's a way of directing some of your taxes directly to the nonprofits that help those in need.

You can find a complete list of qualifying agencies and more details about the working-poor tax credit at azdor.gov/TaxCredits/WorkingPoorTaxCredit.aspx.

Here are a handful of recommendations if you're wondering about where to dish out a few bucks in the spirit of the season.

• The Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona continues to see demand rise. From January to November, the Food Bank assisted nearly 807,000 individuals by providing food boxes and other services.

Community Food Bank President and CEO Bill Carnegie says donations are down from last year, while demand is up by about 10 percent. That leaves the Food Bank about $400,000 short of what it needs to continue to provide services.

Here's a bonus: Contributions to the Food Bank will be matched dollar for dollar via grants from auto dealer Jim Click and the Peebles family.

While cans of food are always appreciated, cash contributions can do more to feed the hungry, says Sio Castillo, major-gift officer for the Food Bank.

"Every dollar that's donated, we can turn into $9 worth of food," Castillo says.

To make a contribution, call 622-0525; mail a check to P.O. Box 26727, Tucson, AZ 85726; or make an online contribution at communityfoodbank.com.

• The Pima Council on Aging provides services for the elderly in our community, including helping people continue to live independently in their homes. It's done through the Meals on Wheels program, as well as home visits that provide assistance with everything from housekeeping to bathing.

Pete Hershberger, the new director of PCOA's community-services system, says PCOA caseworkers serve more than 1,000 clients—but because of budget cuts, that number is down from 2,700 a few years ago.

"These are frail, elderly people that we are helping to stay in their homes with dignity and respect," Hershberger says. "Otherwise, they would be in assisted-living arrangements."

The economics are obvious: It costs $400 to $500 a month to provide these services to PCOA clients, while moving them to nursing homes costs thousands of dollars a month.

"We serve the most needy," Hershberger says. "These are people who would not be able to afford that care. The state would end up picking that up."

To make a donation to PCOA, call 790-0504; mail a check to 8467 E. Broadway Blvd., Tucson, AZ 85710; or make an online contribution at pcoa.org.

Emerge! is the domestic-violence agency created in 2008 when the Brewster Center Domestic Violence Services and Tucson Centers for Women and Children united. The nonprofit provides emergency shelter, child-care centers and outreach services for about 5,000 victims of domestic abuse annually.

The center has historically seen an increased need for services when the economy falters, said operations manager Anna Stevens-Denae.

More than a third of its budget goes toward maintaining the emergency shelter, but Emerge! is expanding its services. In October, Emerge! rolled out Housing First, a program geared toward helping victims of domestic violence move into their own homes. To date, there are 18 people enrolled in the program. Though it's hard to estimate, Emerge! hopes to serve up to 100 people a year, said Stevens-Denae.

"(We are) looking at what they need to maintain stability in order to make them successful," Stevens-Denae said.

To donate, visit emergecenter.org; call 795-8001; or mail a donation to 2545 E. Adams St., Tucson, AZ 86716.

Red Cross of Southern Arizona has helped Southern Arizonans weather disasters since 1916. The local chapter of the international organization provides disaster relief and outreach to veterans, and collects blood donations.

"This has been a rough year," said CEO Richard White. The holiday season brings an influx of home, apartment and trailer fires. Christmas trees, candles and faulty heaters are generally to blame, White said.

The Red Cross has also found that a single house is often home to more than one family, increasing the need after each disaster.

"We depend almost 100 percent on gifts from individuals, families, foundations and businesses here in Southern Arizona," White said.

For example, when the Red Cross arrives on the scene, families are given a preloaded debit card to pay for a hotel stay and to purchase immediate needs like clothing. Cash donations fund these cards.

For the holidays, people can purchase gifts from the holiday-giving catalog in honor of others. A donation of $100 provides emergency shelter for two people; $20 buys a phone card for a deployed service member; and $15 buys three blankets.

Donations can be made through redcrossarizona.org; by calling 318-6740; or by visiting, or mailing a contribution to, the Red Cross office, 2916 E. Broadway Blvd., Tucson, AZ 85716.

A few others you might consider: Child and Family Resources (881-8940), the Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault (327-1171), Casa de los Niños (624-0312), Casa Maria (624-0312) and Youth on Their Own (293-1136).

In addition to the charitable tax credit, you can also give $200 (or $400 per couple) to a public or charter school and get the money back on your taxes, so consider that as well. There are plenty of schools that need the extra boost for arts and athletic programs.

Finally, there are a few nonprofits out there that don't qualify for the tax credit, but we think you ought to consider a year-end contribution to them as well, because they make this town a better place (and you still get a tax deduction—just not a dollar-for-dollar credit):

• The crew at the Rialto Theatre works year-round to bring you plenty of great music. But it's not just a great place to see a band; it's also an entertainment anchor for downtown that brings people there to eat at restaurants, drink at bars and shop with merchants new and old. Call 740-1000, or visit rialtotheatre.com for more info.

• The Loft Cinema is in the midst of raising money for even more improvements at Tucson's best movie theater. This year, it has opened a third screen in the former auto shop next door—and there are plans for a whole new lobby, snack bar, offices and more. You can find out more at www.loftcinema.com or by calling 322-5638.

• In an age of corporate radio dominance, independent radio station KXCI 91.3 FM is a local treasure that keeps on giving. The KXCI gang brings you music and other programming you are definitely not going to hear anywhere else, and sponsors concerts and other events throughout the year. Find out more at KXCI.org or by calling 623-1000.

Arizona Public Media brings you outstanding free programming on both radio and TV. The news organization's Web presence continues to grow. And, of course, we dig that Political Roundtable show on Friday nights. Find details on how viewers like you can contribute by calling 621-1600, or by visiting support.azpm.org.

Reach down and give, people. Your community needs you, and you'll feel good doing it.

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