CHAMPLAIN As the holidays approach, many families are preparing for big get-togethers and lots of eating. However, for some, big family meals arent always in the cards, unless theres help from organizations like the Joint Council for Economic Opportunity of Clinton and Franklin Counties. Sarah Trahan, coordinator for the JCEO outreach center in Champlain, is among the 11 outreach coordinators in the county preparing Thanksgiving baskets for those in need. The organization annually assembles baskets consisting of turkeys, stuffing, vegetables, cranberry sauce and other Thanksgiving staples through donations from the community. This year, donations for the baskets are doing surprisingly well, despite the uncertainty of the national economy, said Trahan. This time of year always sees a higher need between the higher costs for heating and electricity and Christmas coming, said Trahan. Were usually lower on donations this time of year, but luckily, some of the organizations in the community like the schools and the Boys Scouts have been doing food drives for us. The generosity hasnt only been for the Thanksgiving baskets, said Trahan. Donations toward the pantry overall are also up, which she said is a good thing as demand is up as well. We do have a good amount of food right now, but donations are always needed and appreciated, said Trahan. At any time, we could be just about empty here, especially with todays economy. In the town of Altona, Ellen Montgomery oversees the outreach center there. She, too, is putting together Thanksgiving baskets and said she has seen an increased demand for both the baskets and regular services this year. I think more are using the pantry because lots of people are losing their jobs and because of the cost of fuel, said Montgomery. When you work in an $8 an hour job and you have to drive 20 miles to get there, it takes a lot of your money, which doesnt go as far as it used to. Just as in the town of Champlain, Montgomery is seeing an increased effort in Altona to bring donations to the outreach center. There, the Boy Scouts and other organizations are making a difference with conducting food drives as well. When it comes to why people should make donations, Montgomery said she puts herself in the shoes of those she serves. I just think about myself when our family gets together for a nice holiday meal, there are others who arent sitting down to as nice a meal as were having and I donate for that reason, she said. I would hope people would think of their neighbors and help support the food shelf. The Joint Council for Economic Opportunity has outreach centers across Clinton and Franklin counties. In the Northern Tier, outreach centers are located at office buildings for the village of Champlain, 1104 Main St., Champlain; town of Altona, 3124 Miner Farm Road, Altona; town of Beekmantown, 571 Spellman Road, West Chazy; town of Ellenburg, 5534 State Route 11, Ellenburg Center; and the town of Clinton, 23 Smith Road, Churubusco. For more information, including scheduling appointments or making donations to the JCEO or its outreach centers, contact the main office in Plattsburgh at 561-6310.