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My last post stated that Christmas is about more than your family. That might seem an obvious point, as many do help others at the holidays, but we can be exclusive rather than inclusive without realizing it. This post continues with a more than theme: Christmas is about more than children. I hope that isn’t too abrupt. Children are important, and it is good that various ministries try to ensure that children, especially from troubled or underprivileged situations, have an enjoyable Christmas.

A local ministry that helps victims of domestic violence had a special need this year. For whatever reasons, they had a shortage of gift items for the families. They try to provide not only toys to the kids, but gifts and practical items for teens and the women: clothes, shoes, toiletries, household items. The organization provides a list. I chose to get items for the women (or older teen girls) and was glad because…When I dropped off my items, it looked like 90% of the donations were toys for young children. The women and teenagers deserve to be remembered too.

I’ve always made my “shoeboxes” (Operation Christmas Child) for ages 10-14 because I read that this is where the need is, as more people make boxes for the younger ages. There is a special need for males age 10-14, and next year I plan to make the majority of my boxes for them, even though I don’t enjoy it quite so much as for the girls. Join the group “Shoebox shoppers” on facebook to get ongoing box ideas.

These 2 situations (and other random observations) made me realize that teens and adults can be forgotten about in the often child-centered focus of Christmas.

You can always contact an organization directly to find out where they typically have need. Years ago I was a volunteer with a Crisis Pregnancy Center that had a large “closet” of items for pregnant women, newborn babies, and toddlers. I regularly worked in the closet, and we seemed to always have excess with certain items and a shortage with others. If someone who wanted to donate had called, I definitely could have suggested certain items over others.

I know it may be more enjoyable to buy certain items, but that may not necessarily be the need if most people donate those things.

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Contents of one of my shoeboxes for a boy, age 10-14

As said above, I don’t enjoy making shoeboxes for males age 10-14 as much as for the girls, but there is a need for the older boys. It can be harder to think of items for them, but you can turn it into a fun challenge! Here are some ideas for those boxes: deflated soccer ball with pump, small ball for tossing, rope, harmonica or other small music maker, flashlight, hat, school supplies, calculator, colored pencils, games like marbles/jacks/dominoes, hand tools, hygiene items, a stuffed toy. OCC says all ages love a stuffed toy, even though we might think a 10-14 yr old boy beyond this. While my photo has packages of gum, know that candy (and toothpaste) will no longer be allowed starting in 2017.

And as you remember different service people this time of year, think about who might be typically overlooked. The school bus driver? The trash pick-up folks? This year, for the first time, we remembered the “garbage men” who pick up in our neighborhood. We got this idea from a church several years ago (and yes, it took us this long to put the idea into practice for our self), but this church arranged to go to the city public works department and served breakfast to the garbage men, and each one got a gift bag. The workers were overwhelmed, and said this was the FIRST TIME they had ever had anything like this done for them!

Well, this Christmas is already very close but maybe these thoughts can be helpful in 2017? On a final practical note, are you familiar with Charity Navigator? This organization rates charities on how well they utilize the funds donated to them. It can help you verify that you are donating to a reputable group. Don’t waste your money with a group that may squander donations.

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