Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tis the Season for Giving...Call Me Scrooge

Thanksgiving to Christmas is my favorite time of the year. I enjoy the meanings behind the holidays of being thankful for all that we are blessed with and celebrating Jesus' birthday. Spending time the family, holiday baking, house decorating, shopping, and gift giving (and who am I kidding the receiving) are all reasons why I enjoy the season so much.

But, one thing that I don't enjoy is all the people asking for money, food, clothes, and other donations during the holidays. I know that sounds harsh, but just being honest. You can't go anywhere without being hounded to donate money, drop off food, give toys, buy clothes....I get that there are other people out there who need these items, but why do they only need it during this time of the year? Are there not any hungry, naked, poor people during the rest of the year?? Why do we get inundated with charities only during this season?

Of course, I fall for it though. Zoe bought boxes and boxes of macaroni and cheese (because to her this is something that nobody can live without) to contribute to her food drive at school, Dylan bought cans of vegetables, fruits, stuffing, and baked beans for his, and I donated cans of yams to help stuff dinner baskets for our community. Honestly, I could have probably cooked two Thanksgiving dinners for what I spent for food drives!

What I would really like to know though is where does the food go? Are the baskets going to families who really need it or to just random families who asked for help. This is going to sound cynical, but I wonder if sometimes food and other items are given to families who really should not receive it.

Let me tell you a story...

Every year my school nurse collects names of families in our school to receive holiday assistance. The family, if chosen, then completes a questionnaire about their family, the ages, interests, needs, wants, etc. Then she matches the family with a donator. Last year one of my student's family was chosen for holiday assistance so I asked the nurse if I could go ahead and have them as my family. Of course, it is anonymous so the student never knew, but I had so much fun choosing some toys, games, new clothes, and putting together a food basket for the family. I kept thinking about how I was helping a family have a special Christmas that otherwise they wouldn't be able to have. I loved the feeling. Skip forward to the students return after the holidays. There is always a lot of talk about what they all got, where they went, what they ate, and I was very curious to hear what my student had to say. Well evidently, the family got a new X-Box with multiple games, a big screen tv, the dad got a new cell phone, the student had an Ipod, and the list went on and on. Now you may wonder if he was just saying all this to keep up with the other students, but I really don't think so because he wasn't that type of child. I'm pretty good and picking out those kind!

Anyways, since then I admit to having a sour attitude about holiday assistance. I wonder if my contributions are really going to a family who will appreciate it or if it is just a way of enabling.

What is your take on holiday charities? How do you ensure that your contributions are being put to good use? Are there any charities that you always donate too or any that you avoid? Do you put a monetary limit on what you donate throughout the holidays? I'd love to hear all you have to say so talk to me people!


  1. There will always be people who abuse charity. And giving to charities like the Salvation Army or places like that will ensure that the family has been preapproved by looking at their financial records or things like that. However, there are many people who make money but are truly living on the edge, and these people are excluded from some charities.

    On your note about why do so many people ask for donations at this time of year, I think the answer is simple. I think that most people are not generous with charities except when they have the holiday spirit.

  2. The one and only place I give is to the women's shelter. These women are shut-in the home to protect them from a abusive husband. They have their children there and they deserve Christmas more then anything.
    You are not allowed in the home. They have a person who takes unwrapped donation. If they are not used as Christmas gift they use them year round. Possible birthday gifts or just supplies:)

  3. We avoid the holiday rush and actually budget our charitable donations. Food pantries and other great causes get what we can afford in one big check one time during the year. Our attitude is 'why wait until Christmas?' People are hungry and in need year round.

  4. We don't really contribute any more to charities this time of year than any other though sometimes we do food drives, etc.

    Hubby just showed me something from his company where you could select a needy child to buy a gift for, but they wanted you to spend $50 on the gift! What? I don't spend that much on a gift for my own kid (except for occasional large gifts to be used for a few years!). I was so surprised by that - isn't the point to get a nice gift so the child feels special, not how much money is spent? Wouldn't it be better to spend $10 each on 5 children rather than $50 on one?

    I guess I prefer giving food to people rather than presents.

  5. i really bet that kid was just trying to fit in. Seriously. I had a good friend in elementary who seemed normal - genuine, etc. I finally went to her house after several years of knowing her and was shocked to see how little they had. She had never let on at all!!! Even if he was telling the truth - it doesn't mean they aren't needy. They may have been on several charity lists - so got some nice bling, but still can't pay the heating bill. That is another big thing that happens - people like to buy fun stuff for families, when they really need food and gift cards to the pharmacy or grocery store, etc.
    Sorry..just my 2 cents.

  6. I'm so on your page. I agree with Heidi, I try to give to reputable companies who have ways to determine who is truly needy. But it will always be abused. That's not a reason not to give, I don't suppose.

  7. I always give to the battered women's shelter, because I figure that the women and children there are absolutely not abusing the system. Last year, my student council did a drive for them, and we collected four HUGE boxes of lotion, shampoo, toys, books, you name it, to take to the shelter. I was so proud of my kids.

  8. I'm very cautious about the charities I support, and I like to support those which - as best I can tell - are careful in screening who they assist. While I do sometimes participate in the "adopt a kid" type programs, I particularly like to support organizations that have a broad reach and that have a significant measure of accountability. My kids love putting together shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child, run by Samaritan's Purse, and we try to give generously to Heifer International, in particular because I like their model of having recipients "pass the gift" to others in their community.

    I understand and sympathize with your disillusionment. I think the key is to be careful and do a bit of research into the criteria used: going into the process with an eye toward selecting projects and charities with minimal opportunities for abuse, for example.

  9. We always take 1 or 2 names off the giving tree at hubby's work. I enjoy shopping for a kid I don't even know, and usually spend quite a bit on clothes, shoes, socks, undies, and some fun stuff. I will never know if the stuff fits, or if s/he likes it, but the feeling of picking it all out is priceless. I even did a stocking for our boy last year.
    I would like to see our school organize something for our needy families, but we haven't done that in several years. Maybe I'll plant that seed in my principal's ear tomorrow. Although it might be getting too late to get it all organized for this year.

  10. funny you should post this.. the Cancer Fund of America just called tonight to ask, no.. TELL me that they were putting my committment card in the mail and could they count on the $20 that I had donated last year. Well last year we had money. This Christmas it is going to be REALLY tight. I felt really badly saying no.. So I said we could do $10. We typically give more to the kids we sponsor through Compassion and World Vision. And I did shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child this year. That is how we give back. I'd be super cautious about other organizations tho.

  11. I've noticed that since having caller ID and being put on the 'do not call' list, the only unsolicited calls I receive are to donate to charities. I'm all for it, but I like to do the choosing and don't give to anything over the phone, especially when they won't send more information about their organization for me to review and make an educated choice! The child you posted about is a tough call to make - I work at our school and you'd think it would be easy to tell which families are struggling or not but that's not always the case. I don't think the answer is NOT to give, but to have a giving attitude. You gave with the right heart - if someone takes advantage of that then I think those things are better left for God to handle (smile).

  12. WOW! I know how you feel. I also wonder sometimes where the items go...... I donated last year to a family at shcool and got a really good response, but if I had not, or had gotten your response, it would very hard to look forward to doing it again.......

  13. WOW! I know how you feel. I also wonder sometimes where the items go...... I donated last year to a family at shcool and got a really good response, but if I had not, or had gotten your response, it would very hard to look forward to doing it again.......

  14. I wonder the same things. I think that charities ramp up this time of year because people are more willing to give. I think that when people are buying so much for themselves they feel guilty knowing there are others who have so little and giving to charities helps erase that guilt. There's cynical for ya :P

    I give to a charity locally that I know supports those in need and I give year round - not just this time of year.

  15. We have had the same problem more than once. My husband (as you know) is the chief of police so he sees just about everything just as I'm 100% you do. It's made for a jaded but very realistic view of what is "out" there.

    I used to love picking the names off the tree and shopping for people....until...until I found the cold hard reality.

    Jeez, call me scrooge #2 here. Good heavens.


Go ahead...tell me like it is!

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