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'Tis the season for grace and charity, even in a Grinch economy

From Palm Desert, Calif., to Boise, Idaho, people go to extra lengths to help the needy this holiday season. 'The harder things get, people are more generous,' says one charity organizer.

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Salvation Army bell-ringer Margaret Carpin stands outside a major department store seeking donations at Tyson's Corner in McLean, Virginia, Wednesday.

Paul J. Richards/AFP

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Despite a year of economic turmoil, or perhaps because of it, the light of kindness and charity is shining brightly across America this holiday season.

Office workers are helping school children from low-income communities. School kids are providing care packages for soldiers overseas. As Americans stretch to help people beyond thier families and friends, the desire to give often takes form through spontaneous action. Some of the efforts have grown using online networking tools such as Twitter or Facebook. Here are a few of the examples that have cropped up in news reports across the country in recent days:

• Five moms near Palm Desert, Calif, decided to take action when they read a newspaper story about how many students at one nearby elementary school were poor and lacked good shoes. They created a group called Hearts 4 Soles and provided new shoes and socks for all 94 kindergartners at the school, the Desert Sun paper reports.

• Teens at Archbishop McCarthy High School in Florida's Broward County organized 36 holiday boxes of goods to send to graduates of their school now serving the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Miami Herald reported. The recipients can share the food, books, music discs, and other items with fellow service members.

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