Start counting.

There are 23 shopping days left until Christmas; 25 shopping days (not counting Christmas) until the last night of Hanukkah.

Keep counting.

Over that period, Westporters collectively will spend thousands of hours and millions of dollars trying to make the lights on the tree, the candles in the Menorah shine brighter for loved ones. But what of those less fortunate?

Keep counting.

Westport's median family income is $177,000 -- modest perhaps by New Canaan standards but more than twice the statewide median and four times Bridgeport's.

How much of that $177,000 will the typical Westport family spend on holiday gifts this year? If you said "too much," you are no doubt correct.

We're aware of no scientific survey, although one could extrapolate from national data.

The median U.S. family income is $62,000, according to census data. Nationally, the midrange of various holiday-spending surveys is about a $1,150 per family.

So one could reasonably -- perhaps conservatively -- estimate that the Westport family with the town's median income would spend about $3,200 for the holidays.

Start counting less.

If that same family trimmed just 10 percent of its holiday spending -- $320 -- and gave it to local causes, the holidays would glow at least a little bit for disadvantaged kids and for adults and elderly having a rough time.

Toys for needy kids in Fairfield County would be a great way to start.

The Westport Police Benevolent Association and the officers' union will conduct their annual Holiday Toy Drive next weekend and the weekend after -- Dec. 10, 11, 17 and 18.

Westport's finest will be collecting new, unopened toys and cash donations in the parking lot of The Athletic Shoe Factory, 1560 Post Road East, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It's a great chance to pull over for a cop and handover something other than your license and registration.

Toys and donations also can be dropped off through Dec. 18 at the police station, 50 Jessup Road.

With job loss and home foreclosures continuing, town officials say, some Westport families are hurting. The town's Human Services Department is still taking donations to its annual holiday appeal.

Following established income guidelines, the department serves as a facilitator, allowing Westporters to give while protecting the confidentiality of both the donor and the recipient.

To donate, call the human services department at 203-341-1069 or email as soon as possible.

Here are some other deserving local organizations that need support year-round:

Homes With Hope: The local nonprofit organization offers vast services to homeless and needy in Westport -- including men's, women's and family shelters, transitional housing and soup kitchens, food pantry, teaching of life skills and more. Visit or call 203- 226-3426.

Westport Volunteer Emergency Services: The nonprofit group is funded solely by donations from individuals and businesses. It is in the midst of its annual appeal, which funds the training and certification of crews, equipping ambulances, and purchasing of life-support equipment. Donations of any amount are critical, the group says. Visit:

StaplesTuition Grants: The non-profit scholarship fund awards tens of thousands of dollars in college scholarships each year to Staples High School students who need help. The organization's creedo is that financial need should not be a barrier to attending college.The gift of education -- in any denomination -- is priceless. Visit

Make the giving of little gifts a routine. That jing-jing-jing-a-ling in your pocket means you're Santa. Put that jingling pocket (or purse) change into the Salvation Army kettle at the supermarket or the mall. Those quarters, dimes, nickels -- yes, even pennies -- add up to lodging for people left homeless by fires or other disasters and helps provide other emergency services.

Are you a teenager or a senior without a dime to spare?

Call a nursing home and volunteer to read a holiday story to lonely elders or engage them in a discussion of holidays long ago. The gift of companionship at this time of year can be priceless for shut-ins and the disabled, too.

It is the season of giving, and thousands in Westporters have the means to make a difference. Give yourself a gift -- a reason to feel good about yourself.