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October 28, 2021


Last-Minute Holiday Gifts That Truly Show You Care

by Linda Kellen Biegel

I received a secretive email from a friend of mine yesterday, telling me to search my “spam email filter” because she thinks that’s where a “special gift from Santa” may have ended up. So, I perused through the array of offers in my 97 unread “spam emails” to try and determine which gift Santa was bringing me.

As it turns out, my friend gave me probably the coolest Christmas gift I’ve ever recieved. It was an e-gift card for a website called where the card recipients can choose which education project(s) at schools across the United States will get their help.

The website has hundreds of worthy projects listed by town/city, state and poverty level of the children at that school (high, medium, minimal). A card recipient gets to peruse the site, creating their own criteria for which project should receive their support. There are also wonderful success stories, like the one that accompanies the picture above:

Let me express my sincere thanks and appreciation for funding my project to help improve the literacy of my 23 first grade students, many of whom are English language learners. One of the issues that my English learners face is difficulty learning the 100 most common English sight words that are so crucial to their literacy skills. For many, their parents do not speak enough English to help them study these important words, nor can they read to them in English to model fluent reading. The 8 cassette players and A/C adapters you helped to fund allow my students to independently listen to and practice the sight words I have recorded on tape for them. It also allows them to read along as they listen to quality literature on cassette.

I was pleased that there was the option to search by state, as one of my priorities is to assist students out in Rural Alaska. The project I’ve chosen to support is in honor of my daughter’s struggles this year with Algebra…a math project in Togiak (over 30% of the families live below the poverty line per the US Census).

Giving gifts cards is a breeze and can be done via email, snail mail or the giver can even print their own at home to put in a Holiday card.

Another way to give meaningful gifts is through supporting the Food Bank of Alaska’s 2010 Gift Catalog. They list gifts in all price ranges, from purchasing a holiday turkey for $10.00 (the under $25.00 category), to provide shipping costs to a village in rural Alaska for one month for $360 all the way up to $60,000 for the purchase of a mobile food pantry truck.

According to Alaska News Nightly:

Over at the Food Bank of Alaska, Mary Mike Adams says that most agencies the Food Bank serves are reporting a 20-30 percent increase in numbers using the food services.

Two other organizations, Beans Cafe and Brother Francis Shelter, are also reporting dramatic increases in the use of their facilities. Recently, ADN’s Julia O’Malley gave an alarming look at not only the increase in Alaska’s homeless problem, but the realization that more and more faces in the shelters are the working poor:

[Dewayne] Harris said many among the new homeless are working. But many are under-employed, working part time or less. They can’t get enough hours to get a place.

“They are not folks who choose to be homeless,” he said.

The now-regular overflow capacity at the Catholic Social Services Shelters is made more difficult by the news that donations are down:

Right now individual donations to Brother Francis are down 60 percent, or about $30,000 below what is usual this time of year. The shelter has a total budget of just over $1 million, most of it grants.

Both Beans Cafe and Brother Francis Shelter have lists of needed items that provide perfect opportunities to give. It can be in honor of others or to express personal gratitude for a home and warm blankets.

Speaking of personal gratitude, I want to say how grateful I am for the experience of writing on Mudflats this year. It’s something I plan to continue, but I’ve been quite remiss in my posting lately as I get quite caught up in the Holiday Season. I hope to post again this week but, if not, may all of you have a wonderful celebration!



18 Responses to “Last-Minute Holiday Gifts That Truly Show You Care”
  1. Jen in SF says:

    Whoops, I missed this before: Scrap lists a number of like locations around the country.

  2. Jen in SF says:

    Digging through the closet to get to the gift wrap, I’m also reminded of Scrap in San Francisco, CA. Scrap accepts donations of any new or used materials that possibly can be used in school art programs. (I know I’ve seen a similar organization in Durham, NC; I’m sure there are more.)

  3. bluebanshee says:

    Not only can we Mudflats folk participate in these programs, we can suggest that the businesses we work for participate at the corporate level. I’m sure that most employees would rather receive one of these charitable gift cards than attend some company holiday bash … er, um, I mean .. party with their bosses — or receive the iconic Christmas ham (given with no thought to the preferences to vegetarians, Jews or Muslims., I might add) .

    Yesterday in a burst of housecleaning I gathered together office supplies, as well as children’s educational toys and games — and today I took them over to Schoolhouse Supplies, a local non-profit that offers teachers at Portland’s 130 public schools to “shop” for classroom supplies at no cost to the teacher. They also accept $$$$ donations. Their website is Another program is their backpack program — each Fall they fill backpacks with school supplies and give them to students at schools with high numbers of free or reduced price lunch program participants. Check in your community and see if there is something similar — or you could think about starting something similar.

  4. BarbinDC says:

    I’ve given to several projects in DC, mostly books. I kind of felt bad because the teachers had to take pictures of the students with their goodies, have them write letters to me, and also write her/his own letter to me. I felt that I had impinged upon their time that would have been spent more productively. I would rather just fund the projects without all the hooha. Mostly, I felt bad because I went through public schools in California (which, at the time I started, had the best schools in the country), Texas, and through the military; in NONE of those were the teachers having to beg for books or supplies of any kind and didn’t have to spend their own money for same. Man, this just sucks.

    Still, the need is out there and you can certainly choose to fund whatever project strikes your fancy. So do it.

    • OtterQueen says:

      It’s kind of sad, isn’t it? We spend all this money in taxes, but somehow it never makes it to the schools. I went to public school in California until high school, when my mom put me in a private school. The education I received in public school was actually far better than what I received at the pricey school – yes, they used to be *that* good. Until I got to a private school, I never had to participate in fundraisers or sell magazines or buy my own books. It’s a travesty that kids have to do that these days.

  5. Marnie says:

    Thanks Linda
    Added the link to my list

    Also too
    Southwest Indian Foundation
    Artists and artisans work and some of proceeds go to the needs of the people on the reservations, like drilling wells.
    Awesome T shirts

    On of the best international groups
    In the philosophy of “Teach a man to fish.” this organization gives milk cows, chickens, goats etc to help people help themselves. You don’t have to pay for a whole heifer on your own just a donation toward its gifting.

  6. Bretta says:

    Thank you for this post of great ideas.

    And Happy Winter Solstice with a Full Moon Eclipse tonight!

    Happy Yuletide!

  7. bubbles says:

    Great Granny posted this yesterday and i sat down and cried like a baby:

    Many, many thanks to my special friend and fellow mudpup GRAMIAM – she made a donation in my name to K.I.N.D. and now one more child is off the floor and at a desk in Malawi.

    For those who don’t know what I am referring to, Lawrence O’Donnell on MSNBC’s “Last Word” ran a segment on his summer vacation to Malawi and the fact that all of the children sit on dirt or concrete floors as there are no desks and chairs for students or teachers. In his infinite kindness, Lawrence made contact with UNICEF who then put him in touch with a local craftsman who could make the desks and chairs at a small cost of $48. Each desk and chair will seat at least two children, but given the lack of obesity amongst some of the poorest children in the world, most will hold three children. So for a mere $24, another child can be up off the floor, have a better chance of absorbing an education, and will know there are some Americans who truly care and can do something about the situation.

    My family had been discussing Malawi last evening and how much we were going to donate when the message came in from Gramiam – like minds (and hearts) think alike! Thank you ever so much dear lady! This is the link to watch the video:

    thank you GG. i am going to send something this week so more kids will be off the floor.

  8. TX SMR says:

    Along the same lines — I read this blog daily, and this post brought tears to my eyes:

  9. UgaVic says:

    Thank you Linda for some great ideas.

    I was lucky enough to have a Santa who let me choose a gift through this group. I am pouring over the options!

    Given the continued tough times in the world this holiday I am happy to say that those close to me have given, as have I, to various food banks and other great organizations ‘in honor’.

    Also for those who wonder if the gifts that either are passed out or bought and given out from Toys for Tots are good….YES!!!

    We assisted a local village this year in getting a donation for their kids and the program came through with shining colors.

    Thanks to all who have given in all the ways this past year. It is appreciated…I have seen it 🙂

  10. Lacy Lady says:

    For almost 30 years now, the Souhwest Indian Foundation have made Christmas a prioity.
    One can buy a food basket or a wood stove for an Indian family this Christmas.
    A Christmas basket cost $58.60.
    A half-basket is $29.30.

  11. Zyxomma says:

    This made my day. Thanks for posting, Linda.

  12. fawnskin mudpuppy says:

    DONORS CHOOSE is marvelous in many ways. not only does one get to give to a project that is meaningful to the donor, but the donor is gifted by thank you’s down the line.
    i have a file full of handwritten cards and photos and even “newspapers” that the students produced with the donations given by me and others.
    the donor is blessed with both the giving and with the sharing of gratitude.

  13. Thank you so much Linda for posting these great ideas! very cool.

  14. Alaska Pi says:

    Oh me too! I gave to the math project!!!
    It’s a great gift from or to someone…
    especially those of us of… well…a certain age who have no need or want of more “stuff”

  15. TX SMR says:

    That’s a great idea. I was actually pondering this idea yesterday as a potential mudflats xmas exchange project, we are all giving sort of people, wouldn’t it be nice if we could give gifts to charities in others’ names as an exchange. Then I got to thinking of doing this for the overseas friends that I have, could even do something like it for kids, as I remember sponsoring a wolf when our oldest was little, she would get photos & updates & got a certificate. The main thing is to get the opinion from the recipient of the gift as to which charity they feel obliged to help.

    That’s a nice gift you received and gave!

  16. jwa says:

    What a great way to truly honor the spirit of the season.

    Speaking personally, may all the Mudpuppies out there have a wonderful season this time of year – regardless of what your tradition is / or isn’t.

    This blog is truly a home away from home for many of us. And for that (along with many other things) I feel truly blessed.

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