My wife Teresa and I come from parents who were extraordinarily generous with both time and money in supporting charities and those less fortunate. It’s a trait we feel blessed to emulate and to pass down to our two children, daughter Mikkel, age 26, and son Lex, age 22.

While we believe in and support some great global charities such as World Vets, Heifer International and World Vision, we concentrate the bulk of our giving locally. Our two primary charitable thrusts are for children and pets, and as such, we donated heavily to our local schools and the animal shelter in Bonners Ferry, Idaho. Since we were in a position to share our good fortune, we gave the money to build our town’s high school auditorium into a facility worthy of a big-city school with deluxe seating, lighting, staging and sound. The school board named the facility Becker Auditorium, which always seems a little odd when we read about an upcoming performance there.

When my book Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover’s Soul was a big hit, we donated a large amount of money to Second Chance Animal Adoption, money that they set aside drawing interest until they were able to build the wonderful new shelter that we’re blessed to have in our town now. My precious Gracie was among the first pets to move from the deplorable conditions at the old city shelter to the beautiful new facility that was built to keep the pets happy, healthy and adoptable.

Local shelters across the country struggle to get more used towels, buy cleaning supplies, get needed veterinary care for sick or injured pets and support the efforts of tens of thousands of incredible, animal-loving volunteers. All of these things are best provided by people in the communities they serve.

I’m not telling you not to support national and international charities — I surely do — but I’m suggesting that you visit and give the bulk of your money (and time) to help pets and support the volunteers in your own community. There are few things more rewarding than seeing a pet in need come into the shelter and leave with a wonderful family to a forever home. Teresa and I give lavishly to Second Chance — everything from supplies to donations to the thrift store, covering adoption fees for certain promotions, new signage, Christmas parties for pets and even helping to handle legal and community issues.

Our reward? Seeing that a dog or cat whose picture has been in the adoption center for many months has now gone home with somebody who will love them and get love in return. Or playing with our special Lab/Pit Gracie, who has graced our lives with more pure joy and affection that we thought possible the day we brought this crippled shelter veteran from the cage at the shelter to the couch at our home.