The Monitor and United Way of South Texas are once again teaming up this holiday season to draw attention to families from the Rio Grande Valley who are in need.

A spiritual successor to AIM Charities’ efforts to raise tens of thousands of dollars for local nonprofits, which would then distribute 100% of those funds to people in need, the Spirit of Christmas series is a campaign designed to profile individuals who’ve suffered tragic losses as a result of natural disasters, illness and economic mishaps, leaving them in squalid conditions and struggling to get by.

Many of the problems these individuals face have been compounded by the health and economic factors of the pandemic.

According to United Way, the community donated $17,329 to the 11 families featured in The Monitor’s 2019 Spirit of Christmas series, donations that helped those individuals turn their lives around, says United Way Community Investment Specialist Maria Flores.

“It was so amazing seeing the community get together to help these families,” she said.

Flores says the publicity helped in other ways as well. She remembers visiting with one woman who had been struggling with unemployment before the series ran, but wound up getting a job at a local Pep Boys.

“She was a whole different person,” Flores said.

This year’s charity drive will only accept monetary donations instead of donations of items and goods, a move Flores says was made because of COVID-19.

“We don’t have the capacity to be delivering the product donations because of the pandemic,” she said.

Monetary donations will be given to the families as designated by the contributors or distributed proportionately among all the families if an individual family is not designated.

Stephan Wingert, The Monitor’s publisher and editor, says the campaign represents AIM Media Texas’ moral responsibility to the community to directly impact the underprivileged, a long-held value of the company.

“We’re there when public officials succeed, and we’re there when they fail us. We’re there when our local governments help improve the quality of life for the entire community, and we’re there when they need to do much more. Like the institutions we hold accountable, we hold ourselves accountable to be more to our neighbors than their No. 1 source of news, but to be a driving force for positive change in the region,” Wingert said. “We’ve all suffered in some way during the COVID-19 pandemic, and for those already suffering before the coronavirus impacted the Rio Grande Valley, heavy burdens got heavier. Work became scarcer. Opportunities became less available. And living became surviving.

“So we’re asking our readers to join us in a campaign that encourages you to lessen the suffering. Generosity, after all, has never been more important than it is now.”

The first of many families to be featured in The Monitor will appear in Monday’s edition.

To donate, call the United Way of South Texas at (956) 686-6331 between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, and inquire about contributing to the Spirit of Christmas campaign.