Thanksgiving 2015 St. Mary'sThanksgiving is going to be a grand occasion at the Sanders house this year as my wife and I prepare to host 30 family members and friends. We are extremely fortunate to have so many wonderful people with whom to share the holiday and give thanks for the blessings in our lives.

As we count our blessings, our prayers go out to all the Parisians recovering from the recent terrorist attacks in France. We lend our grieving hearts to the families who lost loved ones while also lending our unwavering support to the hard-working authorities who are tracking down all of the perpetrators.

As we keep the people of France in our prayers, I give thanks to our own U.S. servicewomen and men, serving at home and abroad, who put themselves in harm’s way and spend time away from their families to keep us safe and protect our way of life.

We are lucky and I am thankful our lives have been blessed so that we have never had to search for food, shelter or warmth. But there are many people in Greater Phoenix who face these challenges on a daily basis. There are several Valley organizations that feed the hungry, house the homeless and clothe the cold. And they deserve our thanks and, more importantly, our support.

During the holidays last year, St. Mary’s Food Bank provided more than 23,000 turkeys and 11 million pounds of food to 250,000 Arizona families. The need is even greater this year as several large charities reported today that turkey donations are down as compared to last year at this time. St. Mary’s spokesman Jerry Brown said his organization collected 2,200 turkeys this weekend as part of a “Super Saturday” event, but is still more than 1,300 turkeys short of demand.

Central Arizona Shelter Services (CASS) has served as the community’s safety net 24 hours a day, 365 days a year since the organization first opened its doors 30 years ago. The organization has myriad opportunities to volunteer, especially during the holiday season. CASS needs volunteers to wrap gifts, hand out meals and pass out presents at its shelter locations.

This year, The Salvation Army is celebrating 30 years of fulfilling Christmas wishes for Arizona children through its Christmas Angel program. The program has ensured that more than 600,000 kids have had something under the tree on Christmas morning.

Chrysalis has provided a safe place for those escaping domestic violence situations for more than 30 years. But the work doesn’t stop there. The organization uses a “360-Degree” approach to help 1,200 domestic violence survivors per year with shelter, education, advocacy, counseling and more.

The state of Arizona encourages all residents to donate this holiday season by offering a tax rebate. Donating to any of these organizations or similar ones such as UMOM, Catholic Charities, Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest and Foothills Food Bank allows Arizonans to take advantage of a dollar-for-dollar tax credit of up to $200 for individuals and $400 for married couples. The credit, formerly known as the Working Poor Tax Credit, is now identified as the Credit for Donations made to Qualifying Charitable Organizations.

While we enjoy our ample Thanksgiving meals, watch some football and spend time with our loved ones, it is always important to remember those who are less fortunate and help the organizations that are working non-stop to help them experience something that everyone deserves – safe, warm and happy holidays.

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