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The needy need you News Neediest Fund offers chance to brighten holidays for impoverished

This is the conundrum of alleviating the weight of poverty: The greater the need, the fewer people are able to help.

Such is the problem in Western New York, anchored by Buffalo, recently identified in updated census figures as the nation's second-poorest big city. It's why the News Neediest Fund needs the help of all who can give to help make this holiday season a little cheerier for families that can't otherwise afford presents for children or a special holiday meal.

The Buffalo News' 26th annual drive has begun for 2007, seeking donations of gifts for children of various ages and cash to buy 12,000 dinners and other perishable foods. In a city where nearly 30 percent of residents -- and almost half of all children -- live in poverty, filling that need is a challenge that requires generosity for everyone who can afford to pitch in.

It's not just Buffalo, either. While the city has a greater percentage of poor residents than other Western New York municipalities, poverty also finds its way into Amherst and Clarence and Hamburg and Lewiston and every other city, town and village in the region.

The News Neediest program is based on eligibility. Applications will be accepted until Dec. 14. For information call Central Referral Service at 851-5555, Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Gift donors are asked to provide new, unwrapped toys. Demand is high not only for very young children, but for 8- to 12-year-olds, as well. For those older children, welcome gifts include books, electronic games, board games, crafts, gift cards, cosmetics and athletic equipment.

Drop-off sites for toys include:

The Buffalo News lobby, Washington and Scott streets; 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Friday; 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

All Wegmans stores in Erie and Niagara counties; 24 hours daily.

Hunt Real Estate, 4363 Main St., Amherst; 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Friday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Hamburg Fairgrounds.

In Niagara County:

Summit Park Mall Customer Service Desk, 6929 Williams Road, Niagara Falls.

Tops International, 7200 Niagara Falls Blvd., Niagara Falls, and Tops in Lewiston, 9060 Center St.

The Buffalo News, 8353 Niagara Falls Blvd. at Military Road, Niagara Falls.

For large, group donations of gifts, call Deborah Patti at 849-5524. Cash donations may be mailed to: The News Neediest Fund, Station C Post Office, 1245 Main St., P.O. Box 444, Buffalo, NY 14209-0444. Online donations may be made at www.buffalonews.com/neediest.

Most of us know the truth behind the aphorism that it is better to give than to receive. Giving is selfless, an expression of love and caring. That's what this season, especially, is about. We hope you'll give to make this a happier holiday all around Western New York.

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