The Savannah Morning News on giving back during the winter holidays:

Not every holiday gift comes wrapped in festive paper complete with a bow and placed under a tree.

The most impactful presents are slipped into a kettle, dropped into a cardboard bin or placed in the mail.

The unofficial start of the holiday donation season, Giving Tuesday, is now behind us. An estimated $400 million-plus was raised online in this national campaign.

Locally, though, holiday drives are just now building momentum. There are many worthy charities and many ways and opportunities to give.

You can give money, toys, food, clothing or your time -- or any combination thereof.

You can pull an angel off a tree at your church, the YMCA or elsewhere, purchase the item written on the ornament and place it under that angel tree.

You can make a difference in many lives this holiday season.

Here at the Savannah Morning News, we work with the Savannah Community Foundation on a holiday season fundraising drive, The Empty Stocking Fund. Now in its 48th year, the initiative raises money for local families enduring hardships and tragedies and struggling to fill their children’s stockings with gifts on Christmas morning.

The Empty Stocking Fund is held by the Savannah Community Foundation and promoted by the Savannah Morning News. The United Way of the Coastal Empire and The Salvation Army help identify families in need and review applications for assistance.

In 2018, The Empty Stocking Fund totaled more than $82,000 in donations, with gifts coming from every corner of this community: schoolchildren and retirees, businesses and charitable foundations. Donations ranged in size from $25 to $12,000.

The 2019 drive opened on Thanksgiving and continues through Christmas. To donate, mail checks made payable to SCF - Empty Stocking Fund to 2225 Norwood Avenue, Suite B, Savannah, Georgia 31406.

Once again, the Savannah Morning News is sharing a needy family’s story on the print edition’s front page as well as online every day during the holidays. Individual donors will be acknowledged in those spaces as well.

Happy holidays and thank you, in advance, for sharing in the giving spirit.


The Augusta Chronicle on helping jailed veterans:

The principle couldn’t be simpler. They helped us. We help them.

Just about any veteran can tell you that the transition back into the civilian world is seldom 100% smooth.

That journey is much rougher for some vets than others. When you’re out of the service and you run out of options, you also can run into trouble. That could mean arrests and jail time - too often more than once.

The National Institute of Corrections (NIC) estimates about 7% of America’s inmate population are vets. There are 2,752 confirmed military veterans in Georgia’s prison system, according to the Georgia Department of Corrections, which keep close monthly track. Richmond County is the listed home county for 105 of them. Murder, rape, armed robbery and assault seem to be the most frequently committed crimes among vets, but their offenses cover the whole spectrum.

These vets don’t just need help. They’re owed help. They’re at least owed a chance to turn themselves around. If these inmates once responded well to military training and discipline, authorities should try to tap into that potential to help those vets recover and transition peacefully and lawfully back into society.

The Augusta Judicial Circuit helps vets through its Veterans Court, or “treatment court,” started in 2013 and launched officially the following summer. The program stresses treatment and self-improvement for nonviolent offenders struggling with post-traumatic stress and brain injuries from combat zones.

Processing vets through this rehabilitative court costs a fraction of what it costs to house inmates in more traditional correctional settings. And gradually, as they fulfill court-set requirements, they’re getting jobs and reconnecting with their families - essentially re-establishing their lives.

We were reminded of the superb work accomplished in local Veterans Court when we heard recently of a new initiative being tried in metro Atlanta, but from a different angle - on the jail side.

A 70-bed housing unit called “The Barracks” is being used at the Gwinnett County Jail to equip vets - both violent and nonviolent offenders - with the right tools to make the most of their second chances when they complete their sentences.

“Our goal is to help reconnect these inmates to the time in their lives when they made better decisions, respected authority and obeyed the law. This program has the potential to greatly influence these inmates and help them lead more productive lives when they’re released from custody,” Gwinnett Sheriff Butch Conway said.

Authors of an NIC paper titled “Barracks Behind Bars” found that 77% of vet inmates who received honorable discharges but grappled with difficulties as new civilians. The paper pointed specifically to Gwinnett’s Barracks in citing the advantages of such a program. Inmate vets housed in a shared environment with military-style authority, schedules, physical training and inspections. They’re encouraged to rely on the values and culture they learned in the military to help themselves and one another in a positive way that a regular jail can’t match.

Our authorities locally should look into the need for, and the feasibility of, a like-minded program. Especially in a bustling military town such as Augusta, the wealth of area veterans resources and community volunteers could make a similar Barracks project a roaring success.

Vets in jail or in trouble fought for us. Let’s fight even more for them.


The Valdosta Daily Times on proposed gun laws prohibiting domestic violence abusers from owning guns:

No one is proposing coming into the homes of Georgia residents and taking away your guns.

But taking guns away from people who have a history of domestic violence is smart and the right thing to do.

Georgia House Bill 137 and Senate Bill 150 could save lives.

Essentially, the measures would prohibit people convicted of family violence, including misdemeanors, from possessing or carrying a firearm.

Bill sponsor, State Sen. Jennifer Jordan, D-Atlanta, calls the proposal a common-sense piece of legislation, saying law-enforcement officers are behind it, district attorneys are behind it and that it makes sense because it has the potential to save lives.

We agree.

Not everyone agrees.

Some gun owners think it will be a gun restriction gateway, leading to more regulation down the road.

We don't think so.

In fact, federal laws already place some restrictions around people who have been convicted of domestic violence, and it is obvious those restrictions have not led to other kinds of gun control.

Yes, it can be argued guns are not regularly used in the commission of domestic violence or against officers who respond to those crimes, but all it takes is once and it has happened much more than once.

This is not a Second Amendment issue and is not about taking guns away from law-abiding men and women.

It is about clamping down on people who do bad things, who harm others and who pose a threat.

Responsible gun owners should be fully behind these measures.

Bad actors, such as people who commit acts of domestic violence and threaten others, give those responsible gun owners a bad name when those bad actors use their guns to threaten, harm or kill.

Who wants someone who has even threatened his family, saying he will kill someone, to have easy access to a gun when he gets mad or drunk or both?

This is one example of how lawmakers can pass common sense gun legislation without assaulting basic Second Amendment rights.

Every gun control measure is not an affront to the Second Amendment.

Some things just make sense and are simply the right thing to do.

We encourage our legislative delegation to get behind this push, and if you do we pledge to help your constituents understand you do not support coming into their homes and taking guns way from law-abiding gun owners. We will let them know how you feel about the Second Amendment.

Abusers and firearms are a dangerous mix, plain, pure and simple.