Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Gifts, Candied Fruit, and So Forth

by Barbara D'Amato

I don’t know about you, but I am FULL UP TO HERE with stuff.

Last year at this time I posted a suggestion for avoiding most of the fruitcake and other items that you either guiltily regift or permit to clog your closet.

The suggestion was to get the name of a family in need and tell your own family and friends that, instead of giving you gifts, the gifts should go to the needy family. With a little looking, you can find a name, either from your church, your job, advice from friends, even from your local police department, of a family strapped because of fire, flood, financial reversal, or an unexpected illness. You and your friends can send the gifts anonymously if you like [actually I would advise it]. Just have whoever gave you the name check first to be sure the gifts will be welcome.

By the way, almost any needy family can use a nice set of new towels.

Another option is to trade charities. Suppose your uncle in Florida always sends you a box of candied fruit. You hate candied fruit and everybody you know hates it, and you can’t even sell it on EBay. But say your uncle is into greyhound rescue and you are a cat-lover. Can he give a donation to your local animal shelter and you give one to the Greyhound rescue people?

But let’s talk about children without toys.

There are a lot of organizations that give toys to children. The Marine Toys for Tots programs is a good one. However, they want cash donations. Suppose you want to do something a little more personal.

It is possible to get the names of women’s shelter sponsors or battered women’s organizations. It is NOT possible, nor should it be, to get the addresses of those shelters, as they are kept well protected. But with two or three degrees of separation, you can find somebody who can get the toys to somebody else, who---well, you see. Many of the women in these shelters have children with them and no resources. If you have children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, cousins, whatever, put the word out that you are collecting unwanted toys. Most of us have an uncle who thinks out seventeen-year old and our college sophomore are still six and ten, and we therefore have toys that are inappropriate, one way or another. If you live in a neighborhood with a lot of children, you may be able to put the word out that you are collecting toys that the children they were intended for just don’t want. Have a block party. Fill the car. Then drive them to your contact person.

For most organizations, try to get the toys while they are still in the box. Some shelters are needy enough that as long as they are clean they will be accepted.

And now for something completely different--

If you want to give at the holidays and not get, but children are not your thing--

Mystery Writers of America has a loan fund that is available for members who are experiencing temporary financial difficulties and the Author Sponsorship Fund. The second is intended to help fund special events. A third possibility is a donation to Reads, the children’s literacy program. All you need to do it send a check to Mystery Writers of America, and let Margery Flax know which fund you are donating to.

For the price of a couple of hardcovers, make somebody happy.

Barbara D’Amato


Maryann Mercer said...

Thanks, Barb. My daughter gave me 1/2 llama for my birthday through Heifer, International. She vetted them before doing so. The animal goes to a family in need, as a means of income not a source of food. This started a family discussion of how we all have enough 'stuff'and the resolve to do better at giving next year. Great suggestions, all well worth the dollars. And if time is what we have to give, volunteering is always a good thing as well. We just need to be reminded...and you did it beautifully. Happy Holidays, sans fruitcake!

Libby Hellmann said...

I gave gifts from Heifer to everyone last year... it's fun to tell your sister and brother they gave a six chickens or half a goat to someone. :)

Barbara D'Amato said...

Thanks, both of you, for mentioning Heifer. And thank you, Maryann, for reminding me about volunteering. It can be fun, and some types of volunteering can be done with your older children, too.

Michael Dymmoch said...

Lots of places aren't taking toys this year because of the China/lead problem. So how about donating CHILDREN'S BOOKS to gifts for the needy drives?