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Donate to the local SPCA or county animal shelter
While this might not seem like a gift you would like to receive, what it symbolizes makes a difference to the furry friends living at your (or your giftee’s) local animal shelter.
Animal shelters are ALWAYS in need of food, money, and time. This means that there are endless ways to give back and make a difference.
Grab a huge bag of dog food and donate it in honor of your babysitter or postman. Make a monetary donation to the SPCA in honor of your child’s piano teacher that you know loves her kitties.
In my experience, this is the best gift to give someone who has it all and adores animals. It will touch their hearts infinitely and go a long way to serve a group of living beings so often neglected, abused, and unloved.
Many shelters often have the option of purchasing a brick in honor or memory of both people and pets. Our neighbors did that when our dog passed after 15 happy years. Inquire about an option if you know your gift recipient is mourning a recent pet loss.
Low on cash? Get signed up as volunteers, and go into the local shelter and volunteer for a day in someone’s honor. Take a quick photo of yourselves washing those dirty dogs, print it out, and include it in a card explaining what you did for the giftee. Remember, the thought that went into it will blow your giftee away. And as with the other gifts, teach your little ones that volunteering in a thoughtful way can make people even happier than material goods.
Change the world one little kitten at a time!
Give a Membership to a Local CSA
One way to make a big difference in your local community is to purchase your food from local farmers.
Sometimes it’s difficult to track down local food, though! Where are the best farmers’ markets? What stores sell local food? One of my favorite sites, Local Harvest, takes all the sleuth work out of it! Just type in your location, and find farmers’ markets, Community Supported Agriculture (“CSA”) groups, food co-ops, U-Picks, and more! It’s really amazing.
So, a great gift for a friend or entire family could be a share in a CSA! Find one near your giftee on Local Harvest, and give them a call! You will be supporting your local farmers and community as a whole. You pick the quantity of food to be picked up at a central location at your choice of time, and they get it. (For a price point reference, our CSA, which feeds 8 people, is $350/year. For a single person, you can find great plans starting from $50-80.)
What a great gift for anyone that likes to eat and loves their community!
Donate to a Library
As the economy struggles to revive itself, one area where there is still constant struggle is our public libraries. People are doing things increasingly digitally and I am told that libraries are becoming things of the past. Well, I don’t agree with that nor am I willing to accept it.
I loved, and still love, my local library, and could spend whole days there just lost in all the neat books that those walls contained. Do you know a bookworm? Make a monetary donation to the library in their neighborhood and you will give them the most meaningful gift you can give– sharing the love of books with their community.
Donate to a Local Elementary School or Your Alma Mater
I personally often fall victim to thinking too globally when it comes to education and the things our education systems right here at home may need.
The reality of it all is that thousands of schools here are in dire need of just a little boost of support. A few gallons of tempera paint so the kids can paint rather than only draw, a years’ supply of facial tissues (24 boxes or so), a big box of extra pencils, extra crayons, anything. Domestic public schools are often hurting for basic supplies.
Have an artist friend? Call the public school close to her home and ask what the art teacher would like that they can purchase for $100 or so. Donate the money to the school there, so the kids that attend the school can have as enriching an education as possible.
Have a musical friend? See if the music teachers have any kids unable to afford a recorder for the annual recital, unable to pay their membership into and after school music lesson, or unable to attend an upcoming field trip. Cover the costs in honor of your friend and let them now.
Enriching your local schools benefits absolutely everyone in the school and community. And the U.S. as a whole. Give the gift of an enriched education this year.
Gift Carbon Offsets
In these economic times, all shades of green are thinking “Well, I should probably do something to offset my carbon emissions, what with COP-15 going on in Copenhagen, etc. Wait, $75?! Ughhhh, I’ll think about it.” So why not offset for them? Like a carbon offset angel!
TerraPass is a well-respected, highly accredited group that offers a year’s worth of offsets for an average car, air travel, an individual, and a family of four.
We like TerraPass because they back up their claims. Their reductions are confirmed by a third party. Annually, they are audited to confirm that their final reductions reports are accurate. Essentially, you get what you see and what you pay for.
Do you love your green friends? You should offset their emissions this year!
Give a kindness
The holiday season is about sharing love with friends, family, and members of your community. Giving material gifts might help express that love, but the gifts do not validate or define it. So this holiday, feel free to not give a single gift or donation to any of the causes listed these eleven days. Instead, give your giftee’s a hug and sincerely tell them what they mean to you and that you appreciate their presence in your life more than they might realize. That is what the gifts are intended to do, but you will find that verbally expressing the sentiments communicates them much more effectively than giving a sweater. Or you could write a note. Or a poem. Sharing love and kindness with those around you is what the holidays are for, not gifts.