The Christmas and holiday season is certainly the perfect time to recognize those citizens among us who have gone above and beyond to "give back" to their community. "Giving back" is a term we hear often about, and most of the time, the folks who do so give back because they believe deeply in the intrinsic value of it, not because they want to get their name in the newspaper. As a newspaper, we try as best we can to "sing" about these folks when given the chance, but that's not the reason someone volunteers in a local civic club, church or organization, and goes the extra mile to make their community a better place.

Joe Charbonneau, Lani Lovisa, Lou and Patti Midura and Penny and Roger Preuss, the winners of Manchester's "Unsung Heroes" awards last week, all in their different ways, have made, and will no doubt continue to make, contributions to the town and the area that leave things better off than they would have been without their efforts. We join everyone else in saying "thank you" to them, and all the other "Unsung Heroes" dating back to 1989, when the award originated. We're sure their example will continue to inspire others.

Having and encouraging people to step up to help fill needs and voids is a rich and long term tradition not only here but elsewhere around the country, and it's a feature of civic life that we often forget about. It's also one we need to nourish, protect and not take for granted. It seems harder and harder for many people who might want to get involved in some civic good works or volunteer for something, but are finding the time and resources to do so difficult to manage. That may be a passing phase or it may signal the start of something more fundamental. One thing we know - public programs are vital, crucial and important, but without the private, selfless and volunteer efforts of individuals like our recent award winners, our quality of life as a community takes a direct hit.

Congratulations to all the winners over the past 23 years, and may there always be a steady supply of candidates for such recognition.