When it comes to gifts my main focus in this space is on handmade, but there are times when crafty presents aren't really appropriate. Take, for example, my father. He's 69 years old and has devoted at least six of his almost seven decades to collecting coins, stamps, post cards and other ephemera. His office, or "den" as I called it when I was little, is packed full of all of his assorted treasures. A small path winds through his room and there isn't any place to put another thing. He doesn't need anything, even something made by his only child.
Some people would say that the way to get around this problem would be to buy him consumables. I've tried that. One year my mother told me he liked honey, so I bought him several different kinds. My glee at having a specific item to buy for Dad continued after his interest peaked. He now has a honey collection on the top shelf of one of the kitchen cupboards.
(Sorry for the poor picture quality. My scanner is on the fritz so I took a picture of the program.)
The Alternative Christmas Bazaar describes itself as " a one-day opportunity to make one or many donations to local, national and world charities in the name of family and friends." This year, 14 charities gathered in the fellowship hall of my church to provide information about their organizations and how they use donations to further their missions.
While visitors to the bazaar were invited to make donations in the amount of their choice to all of the charities, different groups also explained how specific price points would help. For example, a twenty dollar donation to the Lake Erie Nature and Science Center would feed an animal for one month while a twenty-five dollar donation to the Cuyahoga County Animal Shelter would pay for the vaccines for a dog. Shoppers learned about the different charities, decided where they wanted to donate on behalf of their family and friends, completed an itemized invoice and wrote one check to pay for all of their donations. In return, they received cards to give to those they donated on behalf of to announce their gift, envelopes and informational inserts so each recipient could learn more about the programs that received money on their behalf.
When my dad's beloved Tibetan Terrier died three years ago at the age of 16, Dad was broken-hearted, so each year I make it a point to donate on his behalf to a mission that supports animals. In addition to the Cuyahoga County Animal Shelter, this year I also made a donation on Dad's behalf to an organization called Puppies Behind Bars. According to their literature, Puppies Behind Bars "trains inmates to raise puppies to become service dogs for the disabled and explosive detection canines." In order to be eligible to train a puppy, inmates must "have a clean prison record for at least 2 years and must be considered both reliable and trustworthy by prison officials." I know Dad will appreciate these gifts that honor both him and his old pal Bhi-Jhan.
The Alternative Christmas Bazaar at my church is over for this holiday season, but it's not too late to donate money to a worthy charity on behalf of someone you love. Heifer International has printable cards and e-cards you can send to friends and family to announce a donation on their behalf. Kiva also allows you to buy twenty-five dollar Kiva cards that enable the recipient of your gift to decide where to make their donation. If you know someone who is generous in spirit, but financially constrained, Kiva cards would make a perfect gift because they give the recipient of the card the choice of deciding where and who they want to help. Then, when the first person they help pays the loan back, they can use the same money to help someone else! Just think, your gift to your parents, grandparents, aunt or uncle could help someone establish a successful business, feed their famiy and empower them to be a successful member of the community--can a pair of musical Christmas socks do that?