06 December 2013

Holiday Giving Guide

Tis the season for holiday gift lists. It's fun to see what stuff people like (especially other running bloggers), but I am really conflicted about all the commercialism surrounding the holidays. Sure, I buy a few things for my family, but it's less and less every year. I'm grateful that we have enough, and I'd much rather we give to people who don't than add to our own stash. So instead of a gift list, here is my Holiday Giving Guide.


Our local YWCA does this and I'm participating this year through work. When you adopt a family, you get a list of things that family needs or wants for the holiday season, and you get to go shopping and buy the stuff on the list and then wrap it up. We bought a winter coat for a 3-year-old girl. This is a great activity to with others, as you can divvy up the list, shop together, and then have a wrapping party!

Donate to your local food bank

One in six Americans faces hunger. No matter where you live, your local food bank needs donations. We like the Rainier Valley Food Bank because it's in our neighborhood. They often have food drives right outside of the grocery store, so  you can just grab some extra stuff while you're shopping and donate it right there. It couldn't be easier. Find your local food bank here.

Adopt a pet

We've all seen those commercials right, where a guy gets his lady a puppy for Christmas? Why not adopt a homeless animal this holiday season? As I wrote this, my skittish recently-adopted kitty Marta was sitting next to me, and it reminded me that animals need help too. Check out to find a homeless pet in your area. Senior pets are especially needy, and cute.

Volunteer on Christmas Day

When I was a kid, our family friends always volunteered together on Christmas, delivering Meals on Wheels. I thought that was the coolest thing ever. Now that I have a family of my own, I finally decided to do this. I looked on and entered my location, searched for "Christmas Day," and found a local housing community that's requesting warm dishes for their Christmas dinner. We'll make a dish for them and deliver it on Christmas. This couldn't be easier since we'll be cooking anyway, and it will be fun to deliver the dish as a family. Then we can go smell the Sound afterwards -- one of my favorite activities.

Give money

Maybe you already have a favorite charity, but if not, you can use the Charity Navigator to find one. You can search for a charity in your area, or for charities which benefit people or causes that are important to you. Here are some charities that I will be donating to in the next year:
These charities all have good scores from the Charity Navigator, which means they don't have high expenses and they are effective in helping the people they say they are going to help. And donations are tax deductable!

One of my favorite things about giving is that my daughter is always involved. What a great way to nuture your child's sense of empathy, right? When I was a kid, I remember going door-to-door with my mom to raise money for the American Cancer Society. I remember going into people's living rooms while they wrote checks, and hearing our neighbors stories about how cancer had affected their lives. That experience made my world bigger.

Are you planning to give to people you don't know this holiday season? Tell me about it!


  1. This is a wonderful post. My first reaction was "but I don't have anything to give! I'm broke!", but then I realized that I'm giving something that is equally important- my time. I wasn't sure how to engage with the prostitutes that work in my neighborhood. I know them all by their certain specific characteristics and they all know who we are now. At first, I felt angry when I saw them, for reasons I don't even fully understand. But now I feel compassion and want to do something to show them I see them, and care for them as fellow humans, as women. I don't want to become targeted as a "bleeding heart" to be taken advantage of, so I'm making anonymous gifts of love to leave at the corner. They gifts are just a small token, things they ask for- a bottle of water, a few cigarretes, some home made cookies, and a poem with a list of shelters on the back. I'll post more when we get the project under way. <3

  2. That sounds awesome Stephanie! I can't wait to hear more about it.
    I totally understand your first reaction to the post. For years I didn't do anything for anyone because I thought "I'm broke and I'll do something charitable when I'm older and have more money." Now I am older and my finances aren't really any different, but I realize I can afford to make food or donate my time. I also realized that giving money doesn't have to mean giving a lot of money. If I can give a little bit, even just $5 or $10, it will do some good when added to the other little bits that other folks give.

  3. Hi Portia! I lost track of your website and found it again. Lots of change! :) I love your list ... I have to say, we've done 3 of the items already! 1) we already adopted a rescue pet this year, our kitty Johnny 2) we gave to a food bank this year, and 3) we always adopt a family through our church each year at Christmas. I love giving back in these ways, rather than consumption, when I can.