Cheers to the Greater Purpose Team Ministry, a charge of six United Methodist Churches located in Jefferson, Rices Landing, Fredericktown, Denbo, Howe and Roscoe. The group continues to work together to coordinate Operation Christmas Child. Through the program, parishioners donate shoe boxes filled with goodies for children all over the world. This year, according to volunteer Susan Christopher, the charge collected 325 shoe boxes from Nov. 18-25. The shoe boxes are divided by gender and age for boys or girls aged 2-4 years, 5-9 years and 9-14 years. Operation Christmas Child began locally in 2010, when the Greater Purpose Team Ministry collected and filled 62 boxes.

Cheers to the many organizations, businesses and other agencies around our area who work every year to bring family holiday fun activities to our residents. From Santa breakfasts to parades to charity work to help those in need, the volunteers and community leaders should be commended for their efforts in providing safe and fun activities that promote the bringing together of residents. We are well aware that some of these activities, which are typically free of charge to attend, may be the highlight of the season for some families who may be facing hard times financially. Kudos to those who give of themselves and their time for others.

Cheers to the Pittsburgh Steelers after they pulled into contention for an AFC playoff berth with back-to-back wins after a tough, and controversial, road loss to the Cleveland Browns. The Steelers rebounded with wins over AFC North foes Cincinnati and the Browns.

Cheers to the financial support offered to local volunteer fire departments and emergency responders by Chevron, which donated $241,000 to more than 50 area companies. The service those first responders offer, often on a volunteer basis, is invaluable in our communities. They respond in our most dire and stressful moments, saving lives and offering help, often with little recognition or thanks. Their organizations are also among the most in need of our financial support. As we head into the season of giving, perhaps those who want to donate to a local organization will consider supporting those who keep us safe.

Jeers to those who prey on individuals, businesses and organizations, stealing funds online through nefarious means. In indictments unsealed Thursday, two Russian men were charged with heading up what amounts to a cyber gang that stole millions, globally, by remotely installing malware onto computers. The internet has led to incredible advances, making our lives easier. But with those advances too often comes those seeking a way to exploit them for personal gain. We all need to be more vigilant of our online use, carefully guarding passwords and looking for ways to make ourselves safer in an internet-based world.

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