Faced with a sagging economy, soaring prices and a tight job market, holiday gift givers might feel compelled to summon their inner Scrooge. But a new national survey shows, improbably, that consumers plan to donate more to charity this year even as they scrimp on traditional holiday gifts. Here and on page 8B are some ideas that don't require trips to the mall and whose benefits last long after the wrapping paper hits the floor.
Use gifts as a teaching tool
Dan and Sylvia Walbolt plan to teach their grandchildren — 8, 6, and 4 — a lesson in charitable giving. The Walbolts purchased "gifts" from World Vision, a Christian relief organization.
On their grandchildren's behalf, they donated five ducks, four chickens, one goat and money for children's education in developing countries.
My grandchildren "have never lived in the inner city, and they've never had friends who are hungry or homeless" said Dan Walbolt, a retired college administrator who attends St. Peter's Episcopal Cathedral in St. Petersburg. "It's going to be more meaningful this year when they understand there are people who are really less fortunate than they are."
Visit the Alternative Christmas Market
Shoppers at this market run by Hyde Park United Methodist Church in Tampa can purchase gift cards to support more than 20 charities locally and around the world. Agencies in need range from bay area-based Abe Brown Ministries, which assists prison inmates and their families, to Heifer International, a group that gives families livestock for food and farming.
Now in its third year, the market is intended to provide presents for people who seemingly have everything or who despise trips to the mall. Last year, the church raised $17,800 for charities through the event. This year's market takes place on Dec. 7 and Dec. 14 at the church. Admission is free.
"You don't need another tie," Lisa Rorrer, the event's chairwoman said. "Give the gift that really matters."
For more information, call (813) 253-5388.
Give of yourself
At Countryside Christian Center in Clearwater, the Rev. John Lloyd plans to preach a series of sermons in December that center on the gift of time. In his first message, Lloyd plans to use the Christmas movie Home Alone to illustrate a talk about loneliness. He hopes those who listen will seek out people to befriend, including the elderly, nursing home residents, singles and family members. Lloyd also plans to charge his church members to focus on the spiritual meaning of Christmas rather than materialism.
"I'm really encouraging our congregation to really forget about the money stuff," Lloyd said. "Sometimes just a note with a little memento means more to some people than a gift. Tell your kids; they understand that we're having to cut back. It's not the time to (go into debt) or to use the charge cards. There's other ways we can express our love to one another."
Clean out your closet
Leaders at Crossover Church in Tampa expect their members to donate hundreds of pairs of new and gently worn shoes Sunday. The effort, spearheaded by the Nashville charity Soles4Souls, is aimed at the needy in the United States and in developing countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa where hookworm infestation is rampant among people who go barefoot.
The church welcomes the public's participation in the campaign, which will take place during each of its three services Sunday. The charity accepts all shoes except high heels.
"Even though it's tough economic times, we still have it much better than the rest of the world," said the Rev. Tommy Kyllonen, the church's pastor. "Even if we don't have extra money, we still have something that we can give."
For more information, call (813) 935-8887.
The rickety economy has people cutting back — except when it comes to giving. Some options: