Tag Archives: charity

Minimalist Holiday, Wrapped Up

I’ve been thinking about the Minimalists lately. The holiday season is lurking ahead, replete with the dangers of over consumption. It is easy to go overboard with superfluous purchases, falling prey to ingrained expectations and family rituals. This habit of overspending during the Christmas season is born in good intentions but lacks the restraint and thoughtfulness which the minimalist movement embraces.

If you are unfamiliar with the Minimalists, I encourage you to watch the compelling Netflix documentary about a trend towards simplicity and away from the excessive pursuit of non-essential material goods. (Or peek at the website here: The Minimalists ). I saw the film for the first time in January of this year, still high from the massive spending record I had set over the prior few months. The timing for the message was perfect, and in my state of unprecedented stress and debt, the story of Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields Millburn resonated with me in a profound way.

I’ve watched the video multiple times throughout the year, and have been aggressive in pursuing the values. The entire house has undergone a transformation, with the exception of my husband’s possessions, which he has patiently asked me to stop donating without permission. My wardrobe is streamlined, our house decor borders on the austere, and my sister’s eBay sales have hit a spike. Whatever missing part of my life I was trying to fill with spending, I now attempt to fill with hobbies, such as writing, reading or gift wrapping. Which leads me back to the holiday predicament.

How do I embrace the values of minimalism and still pursue my passion for the creative outlet of gift wrapping? How do I tweak my approach to the gift exchange traditions which have been a part of my family’s story? The Minimalists offer suggestions in this podcast ( Gift Giving for the Minimalists ), including gifts of experiences, consumables and charitable donations. This last idea hits home for me, since there are so many cool non-profits in the area I would love to support, and I like the message of “hey, I know this cause is important to you, so for Christmas, I made a donation to them in your honor.”

Suddenly, a development opened the door to a solution for my dilemma. My friend Crystal has a new job with Augusta Animal Services, and told me about a donor who is willing to match any contribution made during the first two weeks of November. When I heard this good news, it seemed like an ideal way to try to get the “donation as gift” concept out there. I told her that for anyone who makes a donation to her organization on behalf of a loved one, I will offer to gift wrap a custom message so that their recipient is still able to experience opening a present. Free gift wrap and matching donations might just be the platform we need to do something positive for the furry friends in our area, and satisfy my personal challenge to give gifts with more meaning and less material consumerism.

If someone on your shopping list has a passion for animals, this might just be the unique and thoughtful gift you have been seeking. I will customize the look of the gift to the style you think they would enjoy, such as a natural, craft paper wrap or an upscale, high-gloss presentation. If you have a hard time with the complete lack of a physical object, I can include a pet-based holiday ornament, so there is some small keepsake memento of the gesture. (While not a strict minimalist approach, I could still get by with it by building a case for the ornament adding value to the overall gift-opening experience. 😉 )

Feel free to message me on the contact form on my wraps website ( Orange Cat Wraps  ) if you would like more information. I will likely stress a minimum donation around $50, because of the quality and time of the wrapping, and the urgent need for the spay/neuter program which will benefit. I am flexible, though, because I want us all to feel like it is not how much we give or spend, but how much thought there is behind the gesture. Hopefully the Minimalists will approve.

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P.S. If the animal donation is not a fit, but you like the idea of charity-as-gift and want the complimentary wrap, I will also wrap for donations to other non-profits in the area, including (but not limited to) such organizations as the Miller Theater, Golden Harvest Food Bank, SafeHomes, Fireside Ministries, Salvation Army and Child Enrichment. Let’s chat.

 

 

For the record, I did not cry in Target

There is a brief moment when you know you are on the verge of crying but you decide not to surrender. You feel the emotion simmer to the surface, the moisture wells in the eyes, and the face begins to crinkle. It takes a conscious effort to send the tears back to their source, and shake off the tingly feeling that could easily betray your cool demeanor. You normally only have this kind of control for the “easy cry” moments, like when you see that commercial for Budweiser where the Clydesdale horse recognizes his trainer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WuAAXCOUH6Q

In case you didn’t respond normally to this famous Super Bowl spot, I will tell you that the facial twinges should start occuring as soon as the parade is over. You don’t have to cry, but you know you want to.

It is this exact same twinge that hit me at 8:30am yesterday in Target while shopping for a child I don’t know, an 8-year old boy named Chris who was part of the Salvation Army’s “Angel Tree” program. Kids in need tell the Salvation Army what they would like for Christmas, and the information is put on a card so that people can “adopt” them for the holiday. If you take an angel card off of a tree on display at any participating company, you are essentially agreeing to take ownership of that child’s Christmas morning.

So in the case of Chris, I had ownership of his holiday happiness and the card informed me that his happiness hinged on my decision to sport out a train set . Target had a starter kit, but upon close inspection, I realized that it only included the track and depot. I had to invest more for the trains and other accoutrements essential for a fun Christmas morning (including 9 AAA batteries).

This was no problem for me, as I was prepared to spend whatever was necessary for Chris, although I knew nothing about him outside of his affinity for trains. After these decisions were made, I picked up an outfit, careful to find something that looked cool, although I was unsure of his style. Somewhere in the process of selecting these presents in the early-morning quiet of my favorite Target (aka “the Mothership”), I got so wrapped up in what his story might be, that I started to become sad. Why is Chris in need, and have I done enough to help make this Christmas special? Will he like what I have selected? Will he be elated that there is so much, or sad that there is not more? I picked up a couple of smaller items, including a board game he could play with his family, in the hopes that there is one who would be willing to participate.

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Train set for Chris

And then the facial twinges started and the tears leaked into my eyes. I quickly pushed them back, so that nobody would know that Chris had snuck into my heart, just a bit, just like the Clydesdale horse. This has happened before during Angel Tree shopping, which is a different charitable experience from donating to “Toys for Tots” or similar toy drives, because you have basic details regarding the child for whom you are shopping. And because I’ve coordinated enough of my company’s Angel Tree programs, I also know how to tell if Chris has a sibling. I often try to make sure siblings have the same number of gifts, the way my mom did for me and my sisters when we were little and easily jealous of one another.

Even a little bit of information is just dangerous enough to make you feel involved. This emotional connection, however brief and slight, is not necessarily good or bad, but certainly is an integral part of the holiday experience for many donors. This is certainly true for me. I would no more let the month of December come and go without buying toys for kids like Chris, than I would let it come and go without buying a gift for my mom. I just have to be sure to be on the alert for the signs that I am about to start crying in Target. For the record, on this occasion, I was able to hold it together. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Wish List

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The girl from the Rape Crisis Center called me back today. I had left a message that I was interested in hearing her “wish list”, supplies that her agency uses on a daily basis. As she read off her needs, I could picture each of the items not just being used, but being extremely significant in a moment of crisis.

“We need gallon ziplock bags to put together emergency care kits,” she explained. It is easy to imagine that soaps, shampoo and new socks would be appreciated, but as she spoke further, my mental image became more detailed. “We need Kleenex for our counseling offices. Also, it is getting colder now, so it would be really helpful to get hooded sweatjackets.” I envisioned a counselor or volunteer offering a tissue to someone in tears, or the hoodie to someone needing comfort. It made me want to corner the hoodie market, and buy all of Walmart’s Kleenex supply, so that every one of their clients would have these small gestures of support.

Buying items of necessity for non-profits does a couple of different things. Most obviously, it saves them money, because they don’t have to spend their dollars to get the needed supplies. Of course, it also saves them time going to the store, so that they can be more available for direct programs.

But the reason I most like getting a charity’s wish list is to help with awareness. The public sometimes doesn’t have a full grasp of what it takes to run a non-profit. I remember when I volunteered at the CSRA Humane Society, I was blown away at how much kitty litter it took to run that no-kill shelter! They would send a couple of strong volunteers to the store in a truck, and when they returned, it was all hands on deck to help unload and put up the supplies: gallons of bleach, huge containers of food, heavy slabs of bagged kitty litter and large boxes of laundry soap. Think of how much we all dread shopping for the two or three pets we have at home, and multiply it times 100! It’s quite an expensive ordeal.

Knowing this, many volunteers started getting in the habit of picking up extra pet supplies while at the store for themselves, and would bring some of these items with them when they came to work at the shelter. It was such a blessing! I thought, let’s get everyone in the habit of doing this for the causes that are important to them. We all go to the store several times a week (Target is my personal mother-ship), so with a little encouragement, perhaps we will think to toss a few extra essentials into the basket.

During the holidays, when non-profits feel the strain of helping families more than ever, it is an ideal time for volunteers like you and me to keep a few charity wish list items on our radar. That is why, for the past couple of years, I have coordinated a drive for my dealership called “15 Gifts of Christmas”, a chance to people to buy presents for the charities. We put a huge Santa sled in the showroom, and put out decorative bins for visitors to drop their donations. Here is a past blog about the project: https://angelamaskey.com/2011/12/16/73/ .

We are finalizing the 15 items we will collect for agencies this year, but in the meantime, here are some thought-starters for your consideration. Some are holiday-based-any charity helping families needs toys- while others are year-round essentials. So the next time you pass by the aisle with kleenex, soaps, or hoodies, consider tossing a couple extra items in for donations. Or consider getting your church or civic club to do a group donation drive. No matter what time of year it is, you can bring the gifts to the dealership and we will make sure they go to a good home.

Ronald McDonald House always needs: paper towels, laundry detergent, 10 oz. insulated cups, twin/queen mattress covers(cloth, washable), laundry baskets, toilet paper, games. Salvation Army needs twin sheet sets, laundry soaps, small toiletry items. SafeHomes needs stuffed animals, diapers and baby care items. Heritage Academy needs hard-backed books, especially for grades 3-8. And finally, ALL non-profits need office supplies!

I look forward to hearing what you think about the non-profit wish list idea, and to seeing the Santa Sled fill to the brim!