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Comments

SarcastiCarrie

I'd rather have the cash, but in lieu of that an actual thank you, smile, and handshake would be nice.

Food drive: I'd give regular canned goods like I'd buy my own family (usually generic or less-expensive regular brand). I doubt I would give cash because somehow that seems wrong. It's a food drive, hence, I figure they want food.

For the toy drive, I'd give Barbies. I once read that most people assume needy kids are boys and give trucks and nerf things and balls and battle helicopters and Legos (not that girls can't like those things) but dolls and Barbies and pink Legos and doll houses and dress up clothes and Polly Pockets and Pet Shop Friends were conspicuously absent. And when they do get dolls in, they are usually of the blonde hair light skin kind, so I would probably give Barbies and baby dolls in the full range of colors.

dregina

As someone who ran children's programming at a domestic violence shelter, I would encourage people to be picky about what they donate to families in need. Our emergency shelter, which was pretty typical as far as these things go, provided one large bedroom per family, so Mom and all her kids had to share their space pretty closely. I'm sure you all can empathize with the stressfulness of their situation - why add noisy beeping toys into the mix if there's a quiet alternative? Small toys that don't have a ton of parts to keep track of and that can be played with quietly in a small space are a true blessing for families living in shelters.

I don't think the general public has any idea how much time and money shelters spend processing inappropriate donations. We received everything from sweaters that looked like they had been lifted from Vanessa Huxable's closet (one of the women I worked with joked, "Isn't it enough that they're victims of violence? Do they have to be fashion victims too?!") to an entire case of those Rely tampons that were banned in the early 80s after they killed a bunch of women (toxic shock). We had to pay for a much larger size dumpster than we actually needed because at least half of the donations that were left for us really belonged in the trash.

I think a good rule of thumb is - if you're donating something primarily because it makes you feel guilty to throw it away, you should probably just throw it away.

End rant.

paola

I'd take the dosh!! I don't get offended easily either.

When we got married 4 years ago, we got money from all our friends. It seems it's an Italian thing. Don't remember ever hearing about people giving money as wedding presents in Aus. Anyway, I have to admit, it beat the usual 10 toasters and 50 million cassarole dishes. We were able to buy our living room furniture with it and had some spending money for our honeymoon.

Ditto for Christmas and kids presents in general. Apart form the plastic everything we discussed recently, I find that well meaning relatives get mixed up big time with sizes and seasons and it's not because they are coming from the other side of the world where the season is opposite. I was getting woollen baby suits for a European August that no doubt cost a fortune, that my little
girl would have fried in. So €20 would have been a far more useful present.

Lily

On the donation (though not kid) front, I would also suggest that if you *do* have linens, blankets, pillows and towels that are effectively "garbage", donate them to a local animal shelter that uses them for bedding for the pets. Frayed edges and stains don't bother the puppies, and they barely last 5 washings after Fido has chewed on it and its been laundered in a steaming hot bleach bath between uses.

Also, if you have toys that your pets don't like, animal shelters are happy to recieve those as well. Treats and food are more dodgy, as they typically try to maintain a consistent diet for their charges. Other supplies, like crates and cages are also typically welcome.

dregina

Great idea, Lily! We're moving this weekend, so I actually do have some old sheets and blankets to get rid of. Thanks for the tip. I would never have thought of it.

Kelly

To Heather, if you are thinking about this issue enough to write it out then I would go with the organics and safe toys. Otherwise, it may weigh on your conscience for a while. Just be thankful that you are able to spend the extra money.

About Santa ... it's not the lying thing per se that I am struggling with (I lie daily to my toddler, "it's broken," "we are all out of cookies," etc.). I believed in Santa until I was about nine. I remember asking my dad and being so utterly heartbroken that he was not real. I know that not every kid takes the news as hard as I did. I love the magic that Santa brings but I don't want my daughters to potentially have the bad experience of finding out he's not real. I'm still struggling with this and I need to decide soon!

Christiana

On Heather's question: Regarding the food - I just don't know. I'm not an organic-food only type of person, so personally, I'd buy largeer quantities of generic brand food (reasonably healthy stuff, not total junk), but that's me. As for the toys - while I'd have to agree with dregina above who said to think about those loud, noisy toys before you donate, if it's simply your kid has too much or your own personal ban on CPC or whatever, I'd donate it rather than throwing it out, if that was the alternative. Ideally, though, a dozen (even cheap) teddy bears would be an ideal donation IMO - they're quiet and cuddly and most kids adore them and they give comfort.

hedra

I totally blew it and bought something from Amazon without clicking through. GAH! Poopies. Will try to remember. Sticky note on forehead.

You *must* stop asking these multi-parters, the editing time is KILLING me, LOL! Sigh. Trying to keep the length short-er-ish.

RE: Santa: We have that same transition from believing child to seeking teen to creating the story again. I don't have a lot of awareness of my own transitions for that on Santa, but I sure remember my little brother going through them. He TOOK OVER Christmas as a teen, shoo-ing my parents away to bed and setting out the gifts, filling stockings, and then getting up early with coffee made to wake them up. It gave him great joy, and I remember the pride in his eyes as he took it over, and the pride in our parents eyes as he did so. At 16, similarly, I took over Thanksgiving, making it a day my mother need do NO cooking at all.

And last night, I started the process with my kids, though a little all at once (I included the 3 year olds). As we left the Food Bank where we'd delivered a 23-lb turkey (oof), I told them of the lean times when I was a child, and how by Grace we ended up with food for an extra week when we were down to just oatmeal and bread. My mother had despaired, and her need was answered by a feral Guinea hen flying into our yard. Yum.

Last night my children and I were one small part of the hand of Grace for another family. Our wheel turns, and living the tale becomes telling the tale becomes living the other part of the tale for someone else's story.

I have to agree with Shandra that the Santa thing for many is a family rite of passage. I hadn't really thought about it that way, but that's how it works in our family, as well. I just hope to not have it be a harsh transition for G, who I suspect has forgotten that he *started out* knowing Santa was pretend. I'm working on that, so that it is a gradual transition, and not a harsh one.

I still think it is okay for people to have 'Santa-free' lives. I also think it is okay to be TV-free, religion-free, and all sorts of other 'typical family/culture stuff'-free. What I find notable about so many of the 'it's a LIE!' people for any living-without path is that it sounds not like just a different path, but such a painful rejection, striking out at, struggle. It reads like pain, loss, hurt feelings, humiliation, dismay, and grief - like a broken heart still broken and bleeding, and not like a healed one free of anger or hate. Taking a LOVING path to being Santa-free, a ... dang, here we go again, Safe, Respectful and Kind one. That's utterly different. It doesn't have to be so hard, so sharp, almost a violent rejection of whatever (faith, Santa, etc.) to be a sure, true, and steady reflection of one's heartfelt position.

Enough on that, I think.

As for the donations, I donate food my family eats, or that I would feel okay feeding to those I care about. If possible I get it from Costco so I can get more within our budget, or I buy on sale, etc. I think the best bet is just checking to see what the program needs most. We called the Food Bank to find out if they needed vegetarian food, alternative protiens, or turkeys most right now. They needed turkey, we bought turkey. Just KNOWING what they want is a huge help - though often enough, what they need is ANY, and MORE. If some people go for the large quantities of reasonable store-brand, and others do higher quality or special foods for special needs (kosher, low-salt, etc.?), then I'm sure they can find a use for each. (and thanks to those here who helped illuminate the details of the receiving side.)

Also, as someone who has had to rely on assistance before, I go with 'don't poop where you may someday eat' - donate what you'd want to be given, what you'd need, what you'd hope your own child to have if they could have just one thing (within whatever budget you allow, or donated from the castoffs). There will surely be other kids who have the same loves and dreams and passions as yours, there. Giving from that perspective may make it easier, and also more relevant to your own kids. If they could picture a child just like them, but with nothing, what one small thing would they want that child to have? Beyond that (or as a filter to that), I tend to think of the esthetics of 'want' - there's a real need for concrete, 'wholesome' (sensory-rich, really), solid-feeling, comforting items when your world is upside down. Distraction is fine, but things that have a satisfying 'feel' to them is probably a decent place to start.

Still gastly long, but I tried!

Kate

I don't remember learning that Santa isnt real. My mom never stopped putting presents under the tree from him, even after we all knew better. I was thrilled the first time I got to help be Santa. I still have that warm feeling whenever I think about it. We just told our son the truth this year, and I am looking forward to Christmas more than ever this year.

RE the food, I don't do organic food for my family. I think that in this situation more food (generic cans, etc) would be better than fewer organics, just because of the situation of the people needing food.

Laura

On the Santa thing-- I also agree that Santa can be still be "real", even once kids know that it's not a fat guy in a red suit coming down your chimney. Santa always brought the fun gift, the one we thought Mom and Dad would never buy (too frivolous, expensive, impractical, etc.). My favorite Santa memory is from my teens, when Santa brought the brown, suede ankle boots my mom refused to buy for me.

This year, I can tell my 6 year old son wants a Transformer more than anything. He knows I don't like them, so he's not asking for one and didn't mention it to his grandparents when they asked what he wanted for Christmas. But, I have a sneaking suspicion that Santa might bring one. He's just a sucker for sheer joy on a child's face. Just like he was when I opened those suede boots.

ACJ

Long time reader, first time commenter.

Can you tell I listen to too much talk-radio? Oh dear.

As to our friend Santa and all manner of magic, it seems to me the window for make-believe is a small one and we do some harm if we are too literal through that phase. I LOVED Brownies because of the fairies and little people but found Girl Guides a bore - no magic (well, except for the cookies - they're still magically delicious!). Life is hard and they will learn that all too soon - in the meantime, if they can also learn to search for wonder, to believe in the unbelievable, to hope when hope may be foolish... well, I think that might be a life skill. And I'm a kooky-Jesus lover who should be up in arms against that red-suited chimney sweep! But as long as T is willing to wonder if that doll is really crying, if Tinkerbell still visits nurseries, if a Toothfairy notices when her teeth end up under her pillow - as long as there is still room for magic, I'm going with it!

As for the food question, organic is probably less important than edible. I worked in a food bank and can tell you there is not much demand for pickled quail eggs or canned escargot (I am not lying - real donations). The suggestion to phone your food bank is a good one but if that doesn't work out, proteins (tuna, peanut butter) are always good. Junk food (cake mixes, candy, ramen noodle soups, chips) - these are not treats, just more garbage nutrition that makes a bad situation worse (think what these foods do to your kids and now imagine that effect multiplied by inadequate housing and a crappy school). And do find out if your food bank has fridge & freezer capacity. If so, fresh meat, milk, cheese & produce are SO wonderful.

Loving the image of hedra being the hand of Grace with her turkey in hand...

Noel

I'm worrying ahead about Santa, as booper is only 16 months old right now. This may sound nutty, but I had severe phobia about Santa: I considered it home invasion. If he could get in, who else could? My mother forced me to sit on his lap, and there are a number of pictures of me crying but all dressed up with this frightening man. Yes, I was afraid of everything as a child; and somehow I've transcended into the least fearful person I know. My son is also not fearful of anything (right now). So projecting my past on him is probably a bad thing. Additionally, most members of mine and my husband's family are non-believers. But both our mothers (his is here, mine out of state) like the holiday spirit/Santa stuff. I guess I will take my cues from the boy as to what to do in the coming years.

He goes to a small home-based daycare 3 mornings a week while I work. The owner and her helper are Hindu. Unless it's improper to give money in Indian culture, I was planning on giving them cash. Does anyone know if that's okay? I also wonder about how much. (We're in a smallish university city in central CA.)

AmyinMotown

Others, most notably Hedra, have answered this more gracefully than I, but Holly's question (and moreso, the responses given Monday) really irks me. Why in heaven's name, if you are able to spend the money on organics and have very high standards for what toys your children play with, wouldn't you apply those standards to all children, including those who recieve donations? Are yours more precious because they are priveleged? Why would your children not be allowed to play with CPC but it's fine for those poor kids?

Also, my understanding is that grocery store gift cards, etc. and cash are VERY welcome by food banks, soup kitchens and so on, so they can buy perishables. Our biggest local food bank is hurting and I know cash is one of the things they need most--they have relationships with stores so they can buy in bulk or at a discount.

Appreciate all the respnses from people who have worked at food banks, etc. and I love Lily's idea about giving trashed linens and even toys your pets don't like to a shelter.

Jamie

I know this is kind of an odd way of dealing with the Santa issue but my mother has handled it by refusing to acknowledge that Santa doesn't exist. Ever. To this day, in response to direct questions and even with adults.
When I was little and other kids would tell me Santa wasn't real, I would go home and ask my mother about it and she would say, "well, I am sure they believe that is true..." which left this big open suggestive pause and then she would wink at me.

julie

Jaime, that sounds lovely. For us, Santa is a rite of passage in our family, along with believing in magic, fairies and all the rest. Over the past week, Alex has been BEGGING for a white coffee maker. He's asked me to go to the store to buy it. I know he is coveting the white one he sees everyday with Grandma at St*rbucks.....but I'm sorry. He's 2. He does not get one - even though I considered it for about 30 seconds. Every day he asks me if I've gotten it yet. So the other day I went into a long ramble about Santa and how he brings toys to boys and girls all over the world (honestly, it was awful. I've not even thought about explaining Santa to him yet.....so it was pretty much a mess) and how we could go see Santa, sit on his lap and ask him to bring us a white coffee maker for Christmas and Alex said "No Santa's lap.....sit on MOMMY'S lap. Alex wants a white coffee maker." So.....we have a ways to go in that area.

But back to the issue at hand......we have four boys in our extended family - ages 4 all the way down to 1. So not only do we have to think about how we handle the "Santa Question", but we need to get on the same page with my sisters and their husbands and families. Our biggest question so far is......what do we say about the stockings? All of us go to my parents' house for Christmas day, and they have stockings there. Do we say the stockings at home are from Santa, and the stockings at Grandma and Papa's house are from them? Because it wouldn't make sense for Santa to go to BOTH houses..... So it gets complicated. It would be easier to tell the truth.....but I loved believing in Santa as a kid, loved adults who believed in him long after I knew he didn't exist.....because it's just a little bit of "what-if" out there that makes the everyday world just a little bit magical.

Katie B.

I, too, have needed assistance (well, I still do, but that's completely different ;P), and moreover, my father's a social worker... so it's always been an issue just below consciousness all my life to think about what little we could set aside for those in more need even than us. (ok, that was awkwardly phrased, but you get the point) I have been as guilty as anyone of donating ramen, or pineapple chunks, or other things less than useful - because it was all we could spare! It's hard to grow up poor or on the edge in a wealthy town where it's expected that you can go to Safeway or whatever and buy extra food just to donate, when your family is only a little way away from needing those donations themselves. My dad was a social worker and my mom was a SAHM in a town of stockbrokers and lawyers and doctors, and the only reason we made it paycheck to paycheck most of the time was that we lived with my grandmother, who helped with food and other essentials. Without her, we would not have been able to live where and how we did. I honestly don't know what our lives would have been like, but they would have been even worse than they were.

I do think about "would this be something I'd want to receive" before donating - even if the reason I'm donating the item is that I hate it. Hey, my taste is not the same as everyone's, and someone else may love something I can't stand!

I took the opportunity to ask DH last night about the Santa question. He grew up Santaless; his very religious family emphasized instead the giving of gifts as being related to Jesus' birth. We decided to go ahead and keep Christmas itself as being about Jesus, but because Santa magic is important to me, we're going to celebrate Sinterklaas and talk about Saint Nicholas as Santa. I'm only 12 weeks along with #1, we have time to thrash out the details. ;)

Lucky

My was (still is - at 5) SO into pretend / fantasy that to not participate in the Santa myth would have seemed odd for us. Fantasy towns, fantasy siblings, fantasy animals ... why NOT a fantasy source of presents and joy? I never though ahead to how we might handle the Santa thing when she was born and got older. It just sort of evolved. And it ended up fitting in so well with her whole toddler / preschooler paradigm where the line between "real" and "pretend" was so fuzzy for so long and magic explained so much. Now of course rationality is entering the picture in a bigger and more concrete way. But she still believes, so far. I think I'll go with the "well, what do YOU think?" angle when she starts questioning. It's how we handle other kinds of magic / pretend stuff - she works it out and lands where she is comfortable.

hedra

Julie - our solution for the three (four including ours) houses with gifts thing...

1) My dad's xmas is from each to each, no Santa. Sometimes something 'from Santa' will slip in, but it's little treats. That's usually a week or two ahead of Xmas, or the week after, so everyone can come. One gift per child, pollyana one to one (each child gives only one, each child gets only one), no gifts for adults.

2) Our house, Santa brings one special item for each child. No stockings at our house. We scarper from our house fairly early to go to my mom's, where the reindeer (and/or Father Christmas' horse) have eaten the foods left in the shoes for them (now including the traditional onions that one grandchild insisted that rudolph needed - I guess that's why the red nose?), and left yummy treats for them in return, and Santa brought goodies in stockings (santa only provides in stockings there), and the rest is gifts between families and 'real' people.

3) My ILs have no santa-specific presents. They're from the grandparents, aunts and uncles, period. Again, the odd item may sneak in, but that's just part of the magic.

Santa goes to EACH house. And Santa knows that you'll be at different houses, and spreads out the goodies.

Charisse

Late to the party here! On Santa, we've gone with it as a lovely piece of magic. My biggest Santa trauma as a kid was the year I was 3 and was sure I'd been so bad he wouldn't have come (my parents used a lot of threats)--I refused to get out of bed on xmas morning, for hours. My folks guffawed and took pictures, but wouldn't let me off the hook by telling me anything about what I'd find in the living room. So we haven't so far been very big on the "naughty or nice" aspect for Mouse. Santa comes to wherever we are--we're either at our house or out of town, as the one in-town grandparent is Jewish. We take her own stocking with us.

Mouse's old daycare had a no-gifts policy, but I'm thinking hard about what to give the teachers at preschool. Appreciate all your suggestions. I'd like to do something for the school (maybe books) as well as something for each teacher.

I do donations of stuff I'd get for myself or a family member

m

Growing up, our Christmas was very magical. We hung our stockings for St. Nicholas and we didn't put up a tree--Santa did. On Christmas Eve my sister and I would go into town with my Dad. It was very special as we rarely did anything alone with him (sad, I know), but we would often go get a treat that would involve pop--something we normally were not allowed--and usually buy a present for Mom. We'd also drive around looking at the lights of town. We would come home and the door between the living room and the rest of the house would be closed. We'd change into our good clothes, wrap any last presents and then have a special seafood (also the only time of the year we would eat this meal) dinner. Santa would come while we were eating and would let us know it was okay to enter the living room by putting on a record. It was always so exciting. Then we'd run into the living room and see a huge tree (7-8 feet, usually) all lit up with gifts underneath. We would light the last candle on the advent wreath and start opening presents.

Santa was very real to us. So real that I *swore* (still do) that I saw him and his sleigh one Christmas Eve and one year when I was way past the age of most kids finding out, my mom sent me into the living room by mistake to get something to wash. I went in and saw the tree and it was decorated. I didn't dare say a thing. I was afraid that I caught him and now he would leave and Christmas would be ruined for everyone.

Later, I was eleven when I finally approached my Mom. I sat her down and said that I knew Santa wasn't real, but don't worry, I won't tell my sister. (Who, unbeknownst to me, already knew! She was 4 years younger.) Sometimes I'm embarrassed that it took so long for me to realize, but it was all so very magical I don't think I wanted to know the 'truth'.

I don't know exactly what we'll do about Santa in our family (A will be 21 months at Christmas) but I know that there will be something. I'd hate for him not to feel and experience the magic.

(As a side note, the only time we ever received toys was at Christmas or on birthdays, and even then it was a minimum. I'd like to keep that up for our family, a way to keep the consumerism down.)

sue

Re. the food ? - I would go with conventionally produced produce, but would still follow my labelling guidelines otherwise (for example, no HFCS in the canned tomatoes - it's in some brands). We eat 70-30 in favor of organic, but any time we have a lean month, it's definitely a luxury that we drop. I wish it weren't so, because I believe strongly that organic and local is the right path, for my health and for the planet, but I also want to eat every day, kwim.

We're adopting a family through the Salvation Army this year (along with a couple of friends, to spread out the cost) and we'll definitely be purchasing most of the groceries instead of a gift card (we will include a small gift card so the family can buy fruit, vegetables, milk, and cheese). I was tempted to just buy a large gift card so they could buy what they wanted, but then I got to thinking that these people with two small children probably don't have a car, and the gift of not having to drag two toddlers on the bus to grocery shop is probably as big a gift as the food itself. So we'll do the food schlepping for them.

Brooke

I still say cash for the food bank. If you are thinking far enough ahead to go to Costco to buy a case of something, give them the cash instead. Dropping a can on the way out, or sending in cans at school are certainly fine, but if you are planning to go out and buy something, save the gas and mail in a check. A lot of food banks are gleaners. They get food that is past the "sell by" but before the "use by" date from grocery stores. They need money for the trucks to pick up the food, they need money to buy more food, they need money for their staff.

Buying non-organic so you get more for your money is so entirely beside the point, as is going to a Costco so you get a better price. The food bank buys even more in bulk, and they have tax breaks and deals with the supermarkets.

Don't give them the f-ing soap. Give them the cash.

hedra

Brooke you cracked me up.

And you made an excellent point. Wanted to note that we do the Costco for the school food drives, where the concreteness of it is part of the process for them. For most of our charitable giving, it's cash, and we don't beat around the bush on that. We tend also to dodge the endless fundraisers (unless they're selling something we otherwise buy, when we'll get a little something), and just give them the cash up front on that, too. Likewise my family - I tell them it's fundraiser time again, they send checks to the school - 100% gain for the school, and no f-ing SOAP for anyone else!

As for the turkey? that's what we did with the 'free turkey (or lasagna or shrimp or ham)' the grocery store gives us for spending our money there. We're currently getting nice grass-fed lamb on barter with a farm (for architecture work they need), so we don't need no turkey (or lasagna, or shrimp) - yeah, we could eat it. But we don't need to, and someone else does, and the store won't convert the free food to a cash gift to the Food Bank (though I've suggested that they offer this as an option, as they have the checkout coupons for the Food Bank, why not just have it be 'turkey, ham, shrimp, lasagna, or donate it as $20 to the Food Bank!'? They don't go for this, dangit! I keep trying, but in the meantime, we'll deliver the turkey. Or whatever.)

I think 'no f-ing soap!' needs to be another bumper sticker/slogan that Moxie's (so far mythical) Cafe Press shop offers for purchase.

hedra

(Was referring to school fundraisers, BTW.)

Brooke

Thanks. I was afraid that came across really rudely.

hedra

okay, it was more direct than I tend to go, but consider how much typing space you saved! ;)

Shandra

dregina, my best donation story from my time at a NGO is the truckload of condoms donated by a national chain, which were distributed through the youth programmes and shelters... only to discover that they were defective and prone to break. There's still a running joke in that neighbourhood about the "nameofngo baby boom," although it really was no joke!

I already said we mostly do cash cards to food banks, but I was reminded of the way a friend of mine does it - whenever there is a loss leader sale on something really healthy/useful, she buys that and puts it in the collection bin. I think that's a nice year-round way of leveraging one's donation budget too.

Susannah

@AmyinMotown, I see what you are saying about why even pose the question that Holly posed?

And yet, I think many of us were raised to plan how much money we will give to charity every year. There are probably lots of other good ways to decide how much to donate (whatever's-left-after-I-cover-all-my-family's-needs comes to mind, but that seems like a surefire guarantee there won't be much). I was taught that budgeting an amount is a good way to ensure that charitable giving makes it into the budget and you have thought through your financial priorities.

SO- if you know exactly how much money you plan to spend on charity this year, it makes sense to me to ask the question: how far can I stretch this money? Do I believe that buying organic is really a luxury or a necessity? We may enjoy sleeping on 500-count egyptian cotton sheets, but no one says we have to purchase them to donate when 50-50 cotton poly will work, stains less, and you can buy 5 times as many.

On the other hand, Hedra's' point that a bit of quality can make a big difference makes sense to me. If I decide to spend this year's money on something wholesome, sensory-rich and solid instead of volume, that seems like a valid choice. Both are needed. Giving money seems best to me though.

No matter what, giving away toxic toys seems unconscionable.

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(http WWW wholesaleshoesCN COM )

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