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By Meghan Godby

Mid-November is a tricky time of year. One day, you spot a few abandoned jack o’ lanterns on your neighbor’s front porch, while the next, you start to hear Christmas music on the radio. The weather is cool, a few leaves still cling to a hint of color, but holiday decorations are slowly creeping onto store shelves.  You’re bombarded with discounted Halloween candy, cornucopia displays and Christmas lights. It’s as if all the year-end seasons meld together into one big mash of holiday spirit.

The timing of all this is hotly debated, but there’s no doubt that the holiday season is coming at us fast. Need something to get you in the spirit? You’re in luck. There are plenty of family-friendly activities in the area and lots of ways to give back to your community this time of year.

Ridge at 38th Holiday Celebration

A longtime favorite, the Ridge at 38th Holiday Celebration, presented and organized by Localworks, will take place on Sat., Dec. 1 from 3 to 6:30 p.m.  Warm up with a cup of hot cocoa, delight in the sound of carolers, and enjoy arts, crafts and holiday shopping. A beautiful 25-foot evergreen will be lit at 6:30 p.m. at 7101 W 38th Ave., lighting up the city and heralding the start of the holidays. Have little ones? You may want to come early; the first 120 families will get a free professional photo with Santa! Food will be available for purchase.

For more information, including information on volunteering at this event, visit ridgeat38.com.

City of Edgewater Holiday Lighting Ceremony

Santa continues his grand tour of the area with the City of Edgewater Holiday Lighting Ceremony; the date and time have not been confirmed. Enjoy carolers, dance performances, hot chocolate, and even make a gingerbread house (there is a modest $5 fee for the gingerbread houses which supports Edgewater’s senior programs). Santa himself will help light up the city, sure to delight the kiddos and bring out the kid in the rest of us.

Holiday Lighting Contests

Do you fancy making a Christmas display of your own? The City of Edgewater and the Two Creeks Neighborhood Organization are hosting holiday lighting contests this December. Open to local residents, prizes include gift cards and, of course, bragging rights for the year ahead. Both organizations will judge lighting displays in mid-December. Even if you can’t participate, you’re sure to enjoy the colorful and elaborate displays created by your neighbors!

For more information on registration, please visit playedgewater.com and twocreeksneighborhood.org, respectively.

A Time To Give

While it’s always fun to celebrate, we can’t forget that there are less fortunate families in our community that could use a helping hand. It’s never too early to spread holiday cheer – after all, the season of giving lasts all year long.

The Wheat Ridge Police department kicks off this time of year with its annual Operation Blue Santa, which will take place on Sat., Nov. 24 from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Lakeside Wal-Mart, 5957 W. 44th Ave. Hosted in partnership with the Wheat Ridge Optimists Club, this event helps bring holiday cheer to needy families in our area by collecting new, unwrapped toys. It’s not only a great way to help those in need, but it’s also a wonderful way to meet and connect with our local law enforcement. In addition to toys, monetary donations are accepted - the funds will go towards gift cards to help with food and clothing. If you’d like to help wrap the gifts, head to Wheat Ridge City Hall on Dec. 14 from 4 to 6:30 p.m.; they will be distributed to families the following day.

The Boys and Girls Club is a nationwide organization with local chapters to help serve needy children in our community. Every year, they host a toy drive that runs from the day after Thanksgiving (Friday, Nov. 23) through Christmas Eve (Monday, Dec. 24). Donations can be dropped off at a variety of locations, including the Wheat Ridge (5301 W. 38th Ave.) and Edgewater (1725 Sheridan Blvd.) King Soopers. What to bring? New, unwrapped toys for ages 6 to 18. While gift cards are always a safe bet for older kids, consider creative alternatives like art supplies and sports equipment. Their website also has a wish list to help you brainstorm ideas. For more information, including a comprehensive list of drop off locations, please visit bgcmd.org.

Short on time but still want to help give back this holiday season? Consider making a donation to the Rotary Club’s Operation Warm fundraiser. This annual project helps collect funds to purchase brand new coats for less fortunate children. Donations can be made from the comfort of your own home via PayPal, by visiting wheatridgerotary.org. If you’d like to send a check instead, that information is also included on the website.

If you’re looking for more ideas on events, charity drives, and volunteer opportunities, consider checking your neighborhood NextDoor page (nextdoor.com), Facebook (click on Events to find all sorts of local activities near you), or milehighonthecheap.com.  These sites pull together events from a variety of sources, including smaller happenings that might get buried under more established events.

No matter how crazy or busy the world gets, this time of year brings out the best of us. With election season under our belt, let’s all join together and make the most of this holiday season. So mark your calendars - it’s time to give back, connect with your neighbors, and celebrate everything that makes our neighborhoods great.