By Staff Writer Susanna Kopecky.
Today it is easier than ever to give a meaningful, personalized gift, and more specifically, one which will continue to provide joy and assistance to others. A wonderful option to consider this holiday season, is the idea of donating to the needy, to honor family and friends. A little thinking outside the box can make the difference this holiday, both to a loved one being honored, and to the individuals whose lives you can touch!
Give a Gift of Play
Did you know that Marine Corps is the driving force behind one of the most well-recognized names in children’s charitable drives? The Toys for Tots program (which is ranked within the top 100 nonprofits in the United States) is put on through the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, and is sponsored by such businesses as Babies R Us, The UPS Store, Build-a-Bear Workshop, Toys R Us, Scholastic and more. Whether you choose to drop off a toy at one of many Toys for Tots bins at businesses and schools or to specifically make a monetary donation in honor of someone else, Toys for Tots makes it easy to do so. According to the foundation, “over 96% of your donation goes to our mission of providing toys, books and other gifts to less fortunate children,” and none of the money is used “to pay for salaries or any other manpower costs.” One can send in monetary donations and one can also donate as a tribute or in memory. With the latter option, the foundation sends “a personalized card… on your behalf for each memory or tribute donation.”
This is a highly thoughtful organization which is known for its generosity with needy children around the holiday season, but what many might now know is that Marine Toys for Tots also runs the Native American Toys for Tots Program, which aims to serve “some of the most underprivileged children in our country… many of [whom] are living on Reservations which are home to some of the worst poverty in the world and in deficient housing with no plumbing, sewer or septic [systems].” This is also the “only Toys for Tots Program whose primary mission is to move toys out of the toy collection area, and reach out to needy Native American children on their Reservations. “ Donating to Toys for Tots an/or the Native American Toys for Tots allows a gift both honors the individual in whose name the gift is given, and gives joy to its underprivileged recipient. Toys for Tots makes it quite easy to give to the needy and honor loved ones: for those looking to get creative, or who cannot afford a monetary donation but want to help, Toys for Tots also accepts donations of used vehicles and of items off of eBay.
Give a Gift of Joy
There are many wonderful organizations with highly dedicated individuals seeking solely to make sure children do not go without gifts over the holiday season. One of these worthy organizations, like Toys for Tots, has been highly successful in its mission to collect as many toys as possible for Southern California-based children for the Christmas and Hanukkah celebrations. The Spark of Love Toy Drive Fund is put on through the generosity of Southern California firefighters and ABC7. This is another excellent way to make the holiday season so special both in your home, and at the home of a child whose life you will forever touch: donating a toy in honor of a family member or friend is a deeply honorable act, and can make a huge difference this holiday season, for a child who otherwise may not receive any new baubles.
Give a Gift of Literacy
“Do you remember the magic of your first book?” This is a question posed by First Book, a charity group which works to provide free and very low price books to children, to combat illiteracy and inspire a life-long love of reading. According to the organization, in just under 20 years of existence, it has provided about 70 million books to needy children. What better gift to give this season than a gift of literacy, a gift which can inspire, change a life, and help set a child up for a lifetime of success and curiosity for the world around them? First Book makes it easy to donate books under the two categories of a donation in honor of someone special and a donation in the memory of a loved one. Monetary donations are accepted between $20 (to supply 10 new books) and $1,000 (to supply 500 new books). Such a thoughtful gift would give pride to any honoree, and the concrete sense that they have indeed made a difference to the life of at least one child. As the saying goes, save a life, save the world. Would you like to save a world this holiday season, through a simple, generous and meaningful donation?
Give a Gift to the Environment
What’s tall, green and helps to make California so beautiful? Donate a tree this holiday season! Donating a tree in honor of a loved one or friend for a special occasion is a thoughtful and forward-looking gift. According to the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, it is also a gift recommended by the state this year. This state organization encourages individuals to visit American Forests (“the nation’s oldest nonprofit conservation organization,” since 1875) at American Forests.org, and this holiday season, donate a tree in honor of a loved one; this is truly a gift that gives back to the community members at large. CalRecycle classifies tree donation as a top “No Waste Gift Idea,” pointing out that “each dollar sent to AmericanForests.org will allow two new seedlings to be planted in environmentally sensitive areas scorched by recent wildfires.” Why not give a thoughtful gift to a loved one, while also allowing them to be the impetus for something great? What a wonderful way to honor a beloved individual!
Give the Gift of Life to an Animal
Another intriguing and meaningful gift can literally be the gift of life. For many animals in shelters across the state, levels of funding and materials can mean the difference between life and death. This year, consider donating money, food, blankets and bedding to your local animal shelter. Such items help keep shelter animals warm in the coldest months of the year, when bedding and blankets are scarce and in high demand. This can be done as a formal or informal gift for a loved one. The honoree can help drop off the materials or can be informed of the donation in their honor, later on. Friends of Animals is one such organization, located in Los Angeles. Friends of Animals offers individuals who are looking for that special gift for that animal lover they know, the opportunity to donate a Kuranda dog bed to honor a loved one. With the donation comes a “personalized gift card” which is mailed to the honoree “to inform them of the wonderful gift” the donor has given in their name. Friends of Animals also maintains a wish list of needed items (including dried and wet food, litter, blankets and towels, cleaning supplies such as laundry detergent and dish soap, and grooming supplies such as scissors and shampoo), and giving any of these items in the name of a loved one is another great option for those looking to please and to save lives this holiday season.
Other Wonderful Alternative Gift Organizations
Heifer International – www.heifer.org – Donate animals to impoverished families to help provide variety to diets and needed income
Charity: Water – www.charitywater.org – Help bring safe water to those who have little or no access
Ten Thousand Villages – www.tenthousandvillages.com – Fair trade gifts from around the world
World Wildlife Fund - www.worldwildlife.org – Help save endangered species for future generations
Opportunity International – www.opportunity.org – Breaking the cycle of poverty around the world by providing small business micro loans
Creative Alternative/Free giving ideas - www.buynothingchristmas.org