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The gift of giving to a charity

Sometimes when we are out in the midst of Christmas shopping madness, trying to out do one another in our gift buying, we lose touch with that spirit of giving which is at the core of the Christmas season.

With the worldwide economy still in a slump, why not think about giving a gift to charity this year? Perhaps the family can come to an agreement that instead of gifting one another with things they might not need, they can put it toward a charity that is significant to them or toward a person they know who may be in need.

For example, if a friend or family member has been battling cancer, why not donate to The Cancer Society?

If a beloved pet passed away, why not give to an organization that helps animals like Baark! or The Humane Society?

If your community was affected by the hurricane this year, why not donate to The Red Cross?

Relief organiza- tions such as the Red Cross and the Salvation Army are inundated with donations in all forms following natural disasters yet few often think to donate to them during the holiday season when those who are in need feel it the most. “At this time of year there is a lot of energy and excitement going on, and persons who don’t have feel left out, es- pecially children and the elderly,” points out Caroline Turnquest, Director General of the Red Cross Society.

“This is the time for sharing and people may say they are treating themselves, but think of those persons who do not have they may have had last year but time and situations have changed. If everyone looked out for someone else, we would be good.”

To boost funds for their relief efforts which increase during the holiday season such as sending food packages to those in need in the Family Islands, including especially those affected by Hurricane Irene the Red Cross provides Christmas cards for sale every year. This year, they are honoring the late Jackson Burnside by printing one of his festive Junkanoo paintings on their cards. By purchasing some of these beautiful Christmas cards at just $20 for a dozen, you can get something in return for a donation that you know will go to a good cause.

A significant donation during the holiday season doesn’t have to be a check, however. In fact, many people forget that the smallest acts of kindness like a can of food or a donation of used clothing or even of their time can be some of the most humbling experiences and will remind both the giver and the receiver of the true magic of Christmas.

Just donating blankets, clothing and food to shelters and homes for the elderly or sick, like The All Saints Camp of St. John the Divine, can touch the lives of many people in need in the community. Donating food even just a few cans collecting dust in your pantry can also go a long way, points out Executive Director of Hands for Hunger, the humanitarian organi- zation fighting food insecurity on New Providence.

“It only takes a pound of food to provide a meal and a canned good is a pound of food,” she says. “So it’s easy for all of us to purchase a canned good or look on our shelves but for someone in need, that’s a whole meal they wouldn’t have had.”

This year, Hands for Hunger is partnering with three corporate sponsors to help the needy during this holiday season. The Charity of Hope Foundation under Furniture Plus is offering an opportunity to support Hands for Hunger (as well as Grand Bahama’s Chil- dren’s Home and the Every Child Counts School in Abaco) though donations by its clients until De- cember 16th. Scotiabank held a food drive and matched every pound of food with a dollar which they passed on to Hands for Hunger. In addition, all Starbucks stores under the John Bull umbrella held a food drive.

Yet Darville points out that one doesn’t need to go through a corporate sponsor to donate food to their organization, which then distributes it to 18 recipient agencies.

“If companies or even groups of friends want to get together to do food drives for the holidays, that’s a good idea too and it makes an impact. It’s something me and my family are planning to do we’re going to invite our friends,” she says.

Indeed, organizing a food drive or even gift drive can be a rewarding experience. One organization that will be helping underprivileged children tap into the magic of Christmas is the Rotary Club, which for its annual Christmas party is requiring each member to bring one or two wrapped gifts for a child. Even though that will result in hundreds of gifts, Adam Darville, the President of the East Rotary Club, says anyone can contribute by dropping off a wrapped gift for a child at Pinder Enterprises on Prince Charles Drive.

“When you distribute these gifts, emotions run wild people cry tears of joy. Just to see the face on a child when they open a gift is quite an amazing thing,” he says. “To be honest some of those kids we deal with, that may be the only gift they get. Sometimes the parents break down and cry. So it really is very emotional but it’s the joy people get out of giving and Christmastime is the time to do it.”

So this season, stop and think about what matters most to you and your family, practice thankfulness and thoughtfulness and give anything you can. If you’re at a loss at how you can help, a good place to start is to contact your local churches to see what special drives or events they are planning for the holiday season.

After a little research you’ll find the many ways you can enrich the holiday experiences of others, as well as for yourselves, and find the true meaning of Christmas again.

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