Spirit of Giving

Here’s how to make Christmas 2018 truly the season of thoughtfulness

By Nancy Cardillo

One of the reasons we began giving gifts at Christmas is to remind us of the presents the Wise Men brought to Jesus: gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Needless to say, today the tradition of giving and receiving gifts has, shall we say, grown.

According to the National Retail Federation, consumers will spend an average of $1,007.24 during this year’s holidays — a figure that’s 4.1 percent higher than last year. Of that amount, roughly $650 will be spent on gifts. Christmas is the season for giving, but it’s not just about buying flat-screen TVs or the latest must-have toy or electronic device. It’s about giving, particularly to those less fortunate.

Buffalo is called the “City of Good Neighbors” for good reason. When there are those in need, Buffalonians step up in a big way by volunteering, supporting or donating. That’s particularly true at this time of year, as the holidays seem to bring out the “good neighbor” in a big way. So, this year, Buffalo, as you shop ‘till you drop, also consider opening your hearts and wallets and giving back.

To help you, here are some helpful tips for making that charitable donation this holiday season:

Before deciding where and what to give, Charity Navigator suggests you ask yourself these questions, so as to ensure your donation will reach those you are intending to help:

 Does the charity match your passion?
• Is the charity fiscally responsible, ethical and effective?
• Does the charity have strong leadership?
• Do you trust the charity enough to give without strings attached?

Once you’ve narrowed down your charity or charities of choice, the next step is to decide what to donate. But before you start gathering or shopping, keep in mind you can’t just throw whatever items you no longer need or want into bags or the trunk of your car and drop them off at a donation site.

Call your charity of choice beforehand to make sure the items you’re donating are needed and wanted. Otherwise, the charity might have to pay someone to haul away items they can’t use, which defeats the purpose. Never donate anything that’s been recalled, banned or doesn’t meet safety standards.

Here are some of the most-needed, most-appreciated items to donate:

Clothing

Warm clothing in particular is in demand, as are underwear and socks. But please keep in mind any clothing items you donate should be clean, new or gently worn and in good condition — free of rips and stains.

Food

According to the Food Bank of WNY, one in eight people in its service area struggles with hunger, and depends regularly on places like food banks, pantries and soup kitchens. Most-needed items include cereal; peanut or other nut butters; canned tuna, chicken, soups, stews or chili; canned fruits or vegetables; beans, pasta or rice; spaghetti sauce and baby food, formula and diapers.

Hygiene Items

Items such as shampoo; diapers; toilet paper; feminine hygiene products; toothpaste and toothbrushes, hand sanitizer and laundry soaps are always in demand, particularly if they’re travel size and are sealed or still in their original packaging.

Toys

Nobody wants to see a child go without, particularly at Christmas. New toys — still in their original packaging — are always a welcome donation, particularly if they’re suited to older children. If you’re donating used toys, be sure they’re sanitized, safe and in good condition.

Pet supplies

Let’s not forget to take care of our fur babies! By donating items such as food, litter, leashes and collars, toys and beds, you might be helping someone avoid having to turn over their beloved pet to a shelter because they can no longer provide care.

Miscellaneous

Items such as school supplies, backpacks, reusable water bottles, kitchen items, furniture, books and bicycles are always in need, as are old cell phones, computers (just remember to remove all personal information before donating) and office supplies, such as printer/copy paper or ink cartridges.

Cash

While it may not seem as “thoughtful” as tangible items, cash is always a welcome donation. Most charitable organizations depend on cash donations to some degree, and can use that money to purchase whatever they need. Not comfortable giving cash? How about a gift card?

Many charities have a running wish list on their websites of the most-needed, most-desired items, giving you a good place to start. Keep in mind as you consider your donation that the rules covering income tax deductions for charitable contributions have changed. You can learn more on the Internal Revenue Service website.


Donating Destinations

Not sure where to donate? Here are just a few organizations around Western New York that accept donations (hint: they need our help year-round, not just over the holidays):

• Buffalo Animal Shelter

• Buffalo City Mission

• Buffalo Pug & Small Breed Rescue, Inc.

• Dress For Success Buffalo

• Food Bank of WNY

• Friends of Night People

• Goodwill Industries

• Harbor House Resource Center

• Hearts For The Homeless

• Jericho Road Community Health Center

• Journey’s End Refugee Services

• Joyful Rescues

• Ken-Ton Closet

• Operation Pets

• Pet Connection Programs, Inc.

• Salvation Army Buffalo

• Second Chance Sheltering Network

• SPCA Serving Erie County

• St. Luke’s Mission of Mercy

• Ten Lives Club

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