With all of the post-election division across the country, as well as in our communities and even within some families, I have found myself looking for opportunities to reconnect with others.
While Thanksgiving meals among divided families may be a little dicey this year if politics comes up in discussions, the holiday gift-giving season that follows presents us with a way to extend an olive branch and demonstrate the true meaning of the season as well as what makes America truly great: our support of each other.
If you don’t have money to spend this season, volunteering an hour of your time or extending a kind, understanding word to someone new can be a timeless gift. But if you do plan to buy gifts, here are a few ways you can reach out to others while also purchasing a gift for the loved ones on your list:
1. Buy a $29.95 subscription to one of the magazines published by Cricket Media, and the company will donate one subscription to children in underserved communities. These beautiful magazines were a childhood favorite of mine, and I have been passing the gorgeous art and quality writing to my kids as well. There is a magazine for nearly every age or interest, from babies through age 14. Subscribers can then select one of two nonprofits to receive the second subscription. One choice helps families across the globe, and the other is a domestic-based charity.
Libraries Without Borders offers literacy support to 20 developing countries to fill the vital need for books, culture and information, while the Parent-Child Home Program assists American families challenged by poverty, isolation, language and literacy or other boundaries. The program provides early literacy support and parent-child mentoring through regular home visits to families to help set children up for academic success. The organization has several locations across the country; the closest is run through the Middlesex County/Central New Jersey United Way.
To order go to cricketmedia.com/doublethegiving.
2. Instead of buying a toy that will be forgotten after two weeks or even sooner, stimulate kids’ minds with music, art or science lessons while helping stimulate the local economy. Instead of giving your money to ToysRUs, invest it in your child by giving him or her the tools to learn a new skill. There are several local independent voice teachers and instrumental music instructors, as well as larger organizations that offer several options in one place.
The Ocean City Cultural Arts Center offers private music lessons for $25 per 30-minute session (minimum of four classes required). Cygnus Creative Arts Centre in Egg Harbor Township offers art classes for nearly all ages for about $100-$150 for five weekly sessions. The Egg Harbor Township Police Athletic League offers Lego WeDo, Lego Mindstorms, robotics and a new program for drones.
3. Pets are part of many families. They lighten the mood and help us relax and laugh. But because of the economy, some local families are struggling with bills and facing the horrible decision of possibly not being able to keep their furry friends. The Kibble Cupboard of South Jersey is a nonprofit dedicated to helping low-income, disabled or homeless citizens keep their pets by providing supplemental food, litter and other basic necessities. When you go out to buy that stocking stuffer for your dog or cat, think about buying something to donate to the Kibble Cupboard too. All donations of money and supplies benefit South Jersey communities. For donation drop-off locations see kibblecupboard.com.
4. At the online store Everything Happy, for every “Happy Blanket” purchased, a second blanket goes to a child in need. The company was founded based on a 7-year-old boy’s “One to love, one to give” idea for helping children less fortunate than his family. The donated blankets are sent to hospitals and orphanages all over the world. The chenille blankets are lined with satin and feature animal themes. Prices range from $32 for a “mini” suitable for an infant to $75 for the “luxe” size for children up to age 10. Gift bundles and embroidery are available. See everythinghappy.com.