When it comes to shopping for gifts, the most wonderful time of the year can be downright stressful.
Crowded stores. Crashing websites. Sold-out merchandise. Too many choices. Concerns that loved ones won’t like the sweaters, jewelry and video games that took hours to find and a big dip from your bank account.
Here are ways to make holiday shopping and giving less nerve-wracking, less expensive and a lot more meaningful:
- Make a donation on behalf of someone you love. Choose a charity that your loved one supports or go to www.universalgiving.org, which helps people give to and volunteer with top-performing projects all over the world. One hundred percent of your donation goes to the selected group. Your loved one receives a card announcing your donation, the amount of which is up to you and not disclosed. Another possibility is the GiveNOW charity gift card. You choose the value of the card, your recipient chooses the charity and the charity receives the donation.
Give a gift that helps end hunger. Food banks feed millions of struggling Americans and Canadians. In the United States, Feeding America, the nation’s leading hunger-related charity, allows you to give in the name of someone special in your life. You can give a meal or, through the online gift catalogue, buy food items including chicken, milk, fruit and vegetables to help a family in need. These purchases are tax-deductible. Through the website, you can send your loved one an eCard or print a version to put in the mail or place under the tree. Canadians can make donations through Food Banks Canada, the charitable organization that represents the food bank community across Canada. If you would prefer to donate directly to a local food bank, both organizations can help you find ones that are located in your community.
- Give the gift of life to someone you don’t know:
- Donate blood. Every few seconds, someone in the U.S. and in Canada needs blood, but during the holidays blood banks often come up short. An hour of your time to donate one pint of your blood helps ensure that three people in need and their loved ones have happy holidays.
- Sign up to be a marrow donor. Every year, more than 20,000 people in the U.S. and Canada are diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses, including leukemia and lymphoma, for which a well-matched (genetically similar) marrow or umbilical cord blood transplant is the best treatment option. Many die waiting. Among patients of racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds, the need for donors is acute. Joining the Be The Match Registry is free for adults between the ages of 18 – 44 years. Adults between the ages of 45 – 60 pay $100 that is tax-deductible.
If you are pregnant, read about the need for cord blood donations here.
Register to be an organ donor. Organ and tissue donation provide a second chance at life for thousands of people every year. At the same time, thousands more die waiting for the right match. Minorities have an especially hard time. Although organs are not matched according to race/ethnicity, individuals waiting for an organ transplant have a better chance of receiving one if there are large numbers of donors from their racial/ethnic background. People of all ages can be organ donors. Registering is free, and no cost is incurred by the donor’s family. Designate your decision on your driver’s license or go to www.organdonor.gov for more information.
These gifts neither break the bank nor require a lot of your time. Plus, you and your loved ones will have the satisfaction of knowing that, unlike that sweater lying forgotten in a drawer, what you gave this holiday season really made a difference in someone’s life.
[Janet Lubman Rathner]