Read all 12 profiles on the Faces of Christmas page
There are some things that just can't be counted.
Like the number of kids Jamie Barker has helped at Dakota House.
Or the times that Rodney Lowery has made a tough situation more bearable in his role as a Fresno police chaplain.
Or the miles that Eric Payne traveled to get where he was needed most.
But we can count blessings -- and take comfort knowing that Barker, Lowery, Payne and so many others in the central San Joaquin Valley are so willing to give back to make life better for others.
The Bee celebrates those acts of kindness with the 12 Faces of Christmas. Now in its 18th year, our profile of people who embody the spirit of the season has shed light on the largely unsung good deeds of more than 250 people.
Take, for example, Lowery, who answered a call to comfort others after he was forced to retire as a police officer because of injuries suffered when he was hit by a drunken driver while on duty.
"This is the perfect opportunity to impact people because everybody has lost something in the last few years and people realize that material things can be lost in a moment," Lowery says.
Or Payne, a 28-year-old who just this year extended his community service to becoming a State Center Community College District trustee. He answered his calling in Alabama where, he says, it dawned on him that his hometown could use a little help, too.
Or Barker. Sure, if pressed, she can estimate how many children she has served since opening Dakota House in 1998.
But quantity just isn't that important. People make the difference.
Barker sums it up best: "I love the kids. They are brave and funny and loving -- they are burrowed into my heart."
The 2012 Faces of Christmas
-- Jamie Barker
-- Michael Brandon
-- Brandon Dorman
-- Rodney Lowery
-- Bill Olinger
-- Art and Mary Olvera
-- Eric Payne
-- Morgyn Peabody
-- Kurt Salierno
-- The Sunshine Singers
-- Song Vang
-- Shirley Ward