Posts Tagged ‘giving’

A Guide to Giving From a Former Domestic Violence Shelter Worker

Wednesday, December 21st, 2016

A guide to givingWhen I used to work at a domestic violence shelter, there was little in this world that was more heartwarming than to see the members of the community reach out to try to provide a Christmas for those who were in undesirable situations. For some, though, there can be some questions about what can be expected of those hoping to help these families during the holidays, so here is a list of do’s and don’ts to help you:

Do:

  • Call your local domestic violence shelter and ask how you can help. Some offer Sub for Santa programs, where they can match you up with a family staying in the shelter and give you a list of the things they might want/need this holiday season.
  • Offer to purchase gift cards for the shelter or the women staying there. Gift cards are great to use for planning holiday parties, or can be used by the women to purchase gifts on their own to provide for their children. As wonderful as the Sub for Santa programs are, it can help the self esteem of a shelter resident to actually go to the store and be able to purchase the items herself.
  • If baking is more your speed, contact your local shelter and see if they can accept homemade goods. Sometimes due to allergies and safety reasons, some shelters can only accept store purchased food. Find out what works for them, and see where you can drop off treats to share to help boost the morale of those living there.
  • Call the shelter to see if they have a list of items they might need. Shelters often rely heavily on donations, and can run low on things like tampons, toilet paper, and diapers. At your next holiday party, request on the invitation that your guests bring one of these items to donate.

Don’t:

  • Request to be there when the kids open the presents that you purchased for the Sub for Santa. This was a frequent request, and understandably so—part of the joy of buying presents is seeing the happiness on the faces of those you purchased them for. As a parent, though, one can imagine how difficult it can be to know that your child wants or needs something, and you aren’t in a position to provide it for them. While these women are not technically providing the gifts, they are doing an incredibly brave and difficult thing by choosing to leave what was likely a more financially secure situation because of the abuse they would no longer endure. What greater gift could you offer them than their pride on Christmas morning?
  • Forget the dignity of the people you are donating to. The saying is, “Beggars can’t be choosers,” but there is also the saying, “Don’t add insult to injury.” We would receive wrapped packages with requests that they be given to the residents, and the staff had to open them for safety reasons first. We would find partially used rolls of toilet paper, wrapped individually to be given as gifts. We would open boxes with an item of clothing inside, with food spilled on it that had not been laundered.
  • Overextend yourself with offers to volunteer. Spreading yourself too thin is an easy thing to do during the holidays, with all of the opportunities to do so that are presented. When an organization depends so heavily on volunteers, it can make the difference between an organized event being successful or stressful when a volunteer does not show up. It is wonderful if you can; but don’t pencil yourself in if you aren’t certain you can be there.

When in doubt, call and ask. And when you do, be pleasant to the person who answers the phone. It could easily be a new volunteer answering phones for the first time, and I can say from experience, little is more terrifying than answering a potential crisis call when you haven’t before. Thank you for caring to help; the world could use a lot more of that.

Keighty Brigman is terrible at crafting, throwing birthday parties, and making sure there isn’t food on her face. Allegedly, her four children manage to love her anyway. 

Tips for Minimizing Gift Overload this Christmas

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

Tips for Minimizing Gift Overload this Christmas‘Tis the season of giving, and when you’re a parent it also becomes a season of overflowing toy chests. Our kids seem to get gifts from all directions and sometimes it’s hard to know how to minimize the influx. Here are a few ideas to keep the deluge to a trickle.

Want, Need, Wear, Read: Basically each child gets four gifts: something they want, something they need, something for them to wear, and something for them to read. I love it because it sets a concrete boundary for gift purchases. Our family chose to use this strategy this year and it really helped me focus my gift planning and stay on budget. It also keeps excessive amounts of toys down because each child is only getting one or two actual toys.

Gift an Event: For older children, a gift of a special family outing might be a great alternative to toys or more stuff accumulating around the house. It could be museum passes, zoo passes, or a concert or show to attend.

Limit the Number of Gifts: For your immediate family, choose a number of gifts to give each child. Choosing two or three things per child instead of five or six could cut the stuff accumulation down dramatically.

You’re in Charge of Your House: My mantra with gifts from extended family is that though I can’t control what they give, I do get to decide what to do with that item once it enters my home. We have had gifts from grandparents in the past that have immediately gone to a thrift store or been returned because they don’t fit our parameters for suitable toys. I offer loose suggestions to grandparents if they ask, but if they choose to buy us junk or things that don’t fit the kind of things we want our kids to play with, I reserve the right to make that toy disappear after it comes home.

Hopefully these ideas help you find some ways to minimize the overflowing toy bins and keep your holidays low stress this year.

Becca Schwartz is a cloth diapering, baby wearing, semi-crunchy mama to a toddler girl and baby boy. She and her husband have a small mini-farm with a flock of chickens, a few goats, and a couple rabbits.