Two Christmas share drives organized through the Chillicothe Constitution-Tribune and generously supported this year by the community to help people in need surpassed all expectations, and generated a combined amount of nearly $34,000.

The Giant Greeting Card, which is included in today's C-T, raised more than $16,100 for Operation Help, a local not-for-profit organization which helps fill financial gaps for individuals and families having trouble meeting basic living expenses.

The Food for the Needy share drive, coordinated through Hy-Vee and Piggly-Wiggly, raised $17,786 in cash and food items for The Salvation Army.

C-T Publisher Rod Dixon said the generosity of those who helped out with both efforts and donated was nothing short of "spectacular."

"This is the best holiday message from the community," Dixon said. "The spirit of giving lives in Chillicothe."

So far this year, Operation Help has written nearly 500 checks totaling nearly $100,000, said Operation Help Treasurer John Cook. The organization relies on donations, as it receives no federal or state funding, and all of its administrative expenses are donated.

The C-T notified Cook this morning about the total amount raised through the Giant Greeting Card. While somewhat speechless upon hearing the number, he was not completely surprised.

"I have always told our screeners, 'Don't be concerned about our money; the people of Livingston County will come forward.' They sure have this year."

However, because of a growing need for financial assistance, Cook admitted that he was a little concerned this year.

The Giant Greeting Card is one of Operation Help's largest fund-raisers. For a monetary donation of at least $1, anyone could have had his or her name included in the greeting card that is published on pages 12 and 13 of today's C-T. Many donors far exceeded the required minimum, and several gave anonymously.

All the money collected through the project is donated to Operation Help, to assist the organization in meeting needs in the community.

Last year, the Operation Help Greeting Card raised $6,334. The record for amount collected — that is, up until this year — was $8,360, in 2007.