GUEST: Share Christmas through Walla Walla Alternative Gifts

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Walla Walla Valley Faith Communities for Sustainability has some gift suggestions for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, birthdays, anniversaries, or as a thank you - Walla Walla Alternative Gifts.

Whether it is our custom, ritual, requirement or obligation, we all are probably making a list and checking it twice to make sure we have not left out someone we "need" to give a gift to. Some of us may go overboard and collect many gifts for that special someone, or for our grandchildren. We may also pick up a "little something" just in case someone we don't have on our list should favor us, so we will be ready to reciprocate.

If your Aunt Mimi doesn't need or want another box of scented powder, or box of candy, she may be hard to shop for. Often our dilemma is how to thank someone who has done something nice for us, when you want to say a special thank you, but don't want to make the gift too personal (or expensive).

Faith Communities for Sustainability recommends you give a real and significant gift to someone locally who needs it, and send a card telling Aunt Mimi that in her honor a needy person has been blessed by something they truly need.

Our recommended list includes a new suggestion for this year: toilet paper. That may not seem like a "real" gift, but it is one of the things food stamps does not cover (like other personal-care items), and frankly, it is a basic need.

My personal challenge to everyone is: if you give $40 through Helpline for the toilet paper project, I will give the other $3.06 to finish funding the cost of one case.

We are already receiving funds from the community for this and our hope is we can order at least one full pallet of toilet paper ($1,280) so we can supply our food banks, Christian Aid, Helpline, and the Women's Shelter with enough product (to quote Dan Willms) "to wipe out poverty, at least for a while!"

If this idea doesn't strike your fancy for gifting, please consider one or more of the following recommendations:

20 one-way bus tickets that don't expire, $15. Or a month-long bus pass for someone who is disabled, low-income, a student or a senior citizen, $10. These may be purchased from Helpline or Valley Transit and can be distributed to someone who needs help by Helpline, 16 S. Colville St., Walla Walla.

Scholarships for GED or ESL - $25 will enable an adult to participate for a quarter's study at Farm Labor Homes or Walla Walla Community College, either to improve their use of the English language, or to advance in their general education toward a high school equivalency certificate. These scholarships are available from Friends of Farm Labor Homes, c/o Cindy Gregoire, Treasurer FFLH, 2904 Old Milton Highway, Walla Walla, WA 99362. Scholarship contributions may also be made to the community college.

Scholarship for a garden plot at the Community Garden at Rees and Sumach - $30. Recipients will be asked to pay $10 toward their plots to help value the opportunity to garden and produce food for their family and perhaps their neighbors. Contact: Rees & Sumach Community Garden, PO Box 1222, Walla Walla, WA 99362, email rees.sumach@charter.net or call 522-0399.

Diapers for a child are always welcome and can be delivered to the YWCA, Catholic Charities or Helpline. We suggest you consider the bio-degradable ones, which are available at several grocery stores in the area.

Another suggestion for yourself or someone else is the solar-powered emergency radio (and cellphone recharger) available from the local Red Cross, 175 S. Park, for $30. There are many other ideas in its web store that would be valuable in emergency situations.

This list is our suggestions, most of which involve very little packaging or use of natural resources.

If you have a favorite charity to which you would like to donate in honor of someone, that's another fine idea.

The opportunity to be helpful and supportive for those less fortunate in our community is always with us, and you may find the greatest gift you have given is to yourself in knowing that you have made a difference in someone's life.

Sarita McCaw is a member of Faith Communities for Sustainability and is an elder at First Presbyterian Church in Walla Walla. The Faith Communities for Sustainability website is www.wwfaithcom.org.

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