Alternative Christmas Gift Guide

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By Beth Fussell

    This is the biggest shopping weekend of the year, with huge sales at nearly every store in the country.  The malls will be packed with people searching for the perfect gifts for their loved ones.  Many people, however, choose to give their Christmas gifts in the form of a contribution to a charity.  You can donate in honor of someone to the charity of your choice, or to your loved one’s favorite cause.  As children, the magic of Christmas could be found in gifts under the tree.  As adults, however, we often get the best gift in the form of something we do for someone else.  In a time when many of us have an overload of material possessions, there are many more who have little.  In the giving spirit of Christmas, you can make a huge impact on someone’s life this season.  There is a wide variety of charities and other ways to give, so we have prepared a list of options ranging from a nearly free gesture of kindness to providing livestock to a village overseas.  Check out our “Alternative Christmas Gift Guide” below for details, and see if there is a way that you would like to help this Christmas.

    If you know of a charitable Christmas cause that we have not included in our list, please email so that we can share the opportunity with the community.




The Angel Tree is a Salvation Army program in which people are invited to select angels from a tree.  The angels represent children in need this Christmas, and they include information like the child’s age, gender, and what he or she would like for Christmas (many of them very much want a bicycle, though your generosity in any way is appreciated).  Visit Capital One Bank, Wal Mart (beginning next week), or Blackwater Methodist Church to choose your angel(s). 



Run by Central residents who volunteer both their time and storage space, the food bank provides food for families in need.  Drop your non-perishable food items at the Central Fire Station to donate.



Collects toys to distribute among local children in need for Christmas.  Bring a new, unwrapped toy for a boy or girl age newborn through 16 years old to Ross Tire on Greenwell Springs Road.  As a bonus, you will receive $10 off an oil change when you bring a gift. 

Call 262-8473 with any questions.


Hope Ministries is located at 4643 Winbourne Avenue in Baton Rouge (70805).  They provide a food bank as well as educational and counseling services to families in need in the area.  You can donate online, by mail, or call 355-0702.  Visit for more information.  When you donate, you may give in the name of a loved one, and Hope Ministries will send a card to the honoree.



St. Alphonsus Catholic Church has put up a “Living Giving Tree.”  Similar to the Angel Tree, there are ornaments for local families with requests for Christmas.  Visit St. Alphonsus on Greenwell Springs Road to choose an ornament.  They are also color coded to show which group the family is associated with (local family, Greenwell Springs Hospital, Big Buddy, etc.)



Each year, Pat Shingleton and WBRZ partner with community members to probide coats for kids in need, as children outgrow their coats quickly.  You can donate a coat or a monetary gift (make checks payable to “Pat’s Coats for Kids”) at the Neighbors Federal Credit Union on Hooper Road.




Baskets of Love is a program of Rwanda Partners.  The organization is working to improve the lives of impoverished weavers in Rwanda through reconciliation and poverty reduction programs.  By buying handmade baskets from these weavers, you help to support these programs.  Visit to learn more and to see the baskets.  Order online or by phone at (888) 757-3031.



Doctors Without Borders provides aid in nearly 60 countries to people whose survival is threatened by violence, neglect, or catastrophe, primarily due to armed conflict, epidemics, malnutrition, exclusion from health care, or natural disasters. They provide independent, impartial assistance to those most in need by sending medical teams to evaluate, then assist, in whatever needs they can meet.  Donate online at, or mail to 333 7th Avenue, 2nd Floor, New York, NY 10001-5004, or phone 1-888-392-0392. They send card to honoree.



The Gideons currently distribute the Bible in over 90 languages to hotels and other public places around the world.  Visit to donate online, or mail to The Gideons International: P.O. Box 140800, Nashville, TN 37214, or phone (615) 564-5000.  Select a card, and they will mail it to your honoree.



Gospel for Asia trains national missionaries to visit and minister to areas of Asia most unreached and unfamiliar with the Gospel.  Visit to learn more.  You can donate online, or mail to Gospel for Asia: 1800 Golden Trail Ct., Carrollton, TX 75010, or phone 800-946-2742.  They provide a card for you to send to the person in whose name you are donating.



Habitat for Humanity works along side families in need around the U.S. to help them build their own homes.  Donate online at, or phone 800-HABITAT.  They will send card to honoree.



Heifer Project enables you to provide animals to villages overseas who are in need.  These animals serve in many ways, consistently providing things like milk or wool that can be used or sold to aid in the fight against hunger and poverty.  You can order from their online catalogue at, or by phone at 1-800-422-0474.  They send card to honoree.



The International Bible Society is working to make Bibles available to everyone around the world.  One of their big projects is translation, since many places lack a complete or accurate version of the Bible in a language they can understand.  This organization tackles 30 translation projects a year to reach people all over the world.  Visit to donate online, or phone 1-800-524-1588.  They mail card to honoree.



The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews was founded in 1983 by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein to promote understanding between Jews and Christians and build broad support for Israel and other shared concerns. Over the years, The organization has been a leader in Jewish-Christian relations, building bridges of goodwill that have led to greater understanding and cooperation between members of these faiths. They have helped hundreds of thousands of Jews escape poverty and anti-Semitism and return to their biblical homeland, funded humanitarian assistance that has touched the lives of millions of Jews in Israel and around the world, provided life-giving aid to Israel’s victims of war and terror, and much more.  Visit to learn more or to donate.  You can make a donation in honor or in memory of a loved one.



A Christian organization that ministers to prisoners through a weekend of visiting worship teams, food, and prayer.  Visit to learn more.  Donate online, or mail to 6903 University Blvd., Winter Park, Florida 32792, or Phone: (407) 629-4948.  They send a card to the honoree in whose name you donated.



The Make-A-Wish Foundation benefits children with life-threatening medical conditions through granting the child’s “wish.”  The foundation now grants a wish to a sick child in the U.S. every 40 minutes.  The money you give allows the organization to make children’s wishes come true.  Donate in honor of a loved one by visiting  You may select the option to send a card to the honoree.



Operation smile provides surgeries to needy children who have facial deformities, such as a cleft lip or cleft palate.  The problem goes beyond a cosmetic one, as these types of deformities can lead to issues like malnutrition or social stigma in their home towns.  Visit to learn more or donate.  Send mail donations to 6435 Tidewater Drive Norfolk, VA 23509, or phone 1-888-OPSMILE (888-677-6453).  They will send a card to honoree.


 Ronald McDonald House of Memphis, TN. not only houses family members of patients at St Jude, they do many other wonderful things for the children and their families.  Their contact information follows:
Ronald McDonald House Charities of Memphis
535 Alabama Avenue,
Memphis, TN 38105
Visit or call 901-529-4055.
They (along with St Jude) have a program to give a donation as a gift in honor of individuals or families.



This charity hospital brings in kids from around the country who are in need of special medical attention for serious diseases.  St. Jude proides treatment regardless of the patient’s ability to pay for it.  There are several ways to give, one of the newer ways being through virtual Facebook gifts to your friends and family.  Donate $5 to send a virtual gift, which also lets the recipient know that the gift helped save a life at St. Jude.  You can also donate in the traditional way by visiting  The hospital runs primarily on donations and volunteer efforts from people around the U.S.



This nationwide program provides fresh Christmas trees to families who spend Christmas separated from loved ones serving our country.  With either a $35 or $55 donation, you can help provide Christmas trees to U.S. military bases in 17 countries.  Through a $35 donation, you will receive a commemorative pewter Trees for Troops ornament.  Through the $55 donation, they will also send a similar ornament to a military family.  To donate, call 800-678-5752.



Through World Vision, you can sponsor a child through monthly donations of around $30.  These donations provide things like food, clothing, and education for the children you sponsor.  You can also make a one-time donation if you are unable to give monthly. Donate online at, or mail to P.O. Box 9716, Federal Way, WA 98063-9716, P.O. Box 9716 or phone 1-888-511-6548.  They send card to honoree.


Or Try One of These Ideas:

    Send a card or gift to a loved one in the military.  It means a lot to our soldiers to know that they are thought of and missed during the holidays.

    Visit someone in a nursing home.  While we all tend to associate the Christmas season with shopping, your time is often the most valuable gift.  Holidays can be a lonely time for many in these homes.  Even if you do not know the person you are visiting, it will make a huge difference to both you and the one you visit.


  1. Because I Care...

    November 27, 2010 at 9:15 pm

    Thanks for sharing all of these ideas, Beth! What a meaningful way to celebrate Christmas by focusing on others and bringing JOY to someone else that you may not know at all, through some of these other ways that you have shared with us! Also, as you mentioned, sometimes your time can be one of the sweetest gifts!
    Merry Christmas, Everyone!

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