A Simple Gift

BY Kristen Nieto & Carole Wirszyla

Giving gifts at Christmas is supposed to be a respected gesture of generosity and selflessness. In this day and age however it often seems like an expected obligation for family and casual acquaintances alike. Plenty of people (perhaps even you) put their shopping in overdrive and pull out their hair while fighting to fill their lengthy Santa’s wish lists. And those on the receiving end (perhaps even you) often roll their eyes imagine their household clutter spiraling out of control or wonder how much the gift will fetch them on eBay.

There is an alternative.

This Christmas why not give a gift that will change the world your community or the life of someone you love?

On a Global Scale

The best $25 you can spend

Alternative Gifts International is an agency that sends life-giving gifts to people in crisis and endangered environments on a global scale. In someone’s honor for $25 you can purchase physiotherapy equipment to benefit Vietnamese orphans with cerebral palsy or grow and sustain 25 trees in Haiti. Ten dollars provides medication for five Darfur refugees buys a stove for a Haitian family or can be sent to AGI’s “Where Needed Most” category for global programs that received the least amount of funding. To view all the gift-giving categories visit its Web site at www.alternativegifts.org.

Tree huggers

Another global nonprofit organization is Trees for Life. Trees for Life not only plants fruit trees in developing countries but also educates local villagers about deforestation and protecting the environment. You can have trees planted and sustained in someone’s name and that person will receive a certificate from Trees for Life indicating how many trees were planted in his or her honor and who the gift was from. For more information visit www.treesforlife.org.

Change the World

There are many more nonprofit organizations if you are interested in global gift-giving. Changing the Present is a Web site that lists hundreds of global nonprofits with some of the gifts they offer. To browse visit www.changingthepresent.org. Other organizations include Heifer International at www.heifer.org Feminist Majority Foundation at www.feminist.org and WaterAid America at www.wateraid.org/us.

Give locally

Giving back to our coastal community is another alternative that merits serious consideration this holiday season. Think you might miss that warm and fuzzy feeling you get from giving Auntie Mame yet another pair of wool mittens? Think again.

Membership Has its Privilages

You can purchase a one-year membership for Airlie Gardens for those you love. Your special gift recipient will get free admission to the gardens and its concerts advance notice for special events and more. All proceeds from membership purchases benefit the gardens and its educational programs. For more information or to purchase a membership visit Airlie Gardens at www.airliegardens.org.

Bricked In

Immortalize someone you care about in brick. For $100 the Harbor Island Garden Club will engrave your loved one’s name and a small message on a brick. Three weeks later the brick will be laid in the Harbor Way Gardens. All proceeds benefit the Harbor Way Gardens. For more information call Peggy Gentry at (910) 256-8845.

Turtle Tracking

Want to give someone a new Christmas friend this year? Why not adopt an endangered sea turtle in his or her name? All proceeds go to the Caribbean Conservation Corporation’s (CCC) program to save sea turtles and your honoree will receive a certificate with the adopted turtle’s picture and name. You can also adopt a turtle with a satellite tracker and follow your turtle’s migrations and movements through CCC’s Web site. Some of the turtles travel great distances to arrive here in Wrightsville Beach. For more information call 800-678-7853 or visit www.cccturtle.org.

Gift in a Nutshell(er)

Or how about giving the gift of ending world hunger? The Full Belly Project a Wilmington-based nonprofit organization makes and distributes the Universal Nut Sheller. You can purchase supplies to make a sheller in your loved one’s name and he or she will receive a certificate showing that a sheller has been made in this person’s honor. To participate or make other donations call the Full Belly Project at (910) 452-0975 or visit www.fullbellyproject.org. 

Scholarly Giving

Contributing to a scholarship at the University of North Carolina Wilmington might be the ideal gift for you to give this year. According to David Smith of University Advancement UNCW’s need areas are merit scholarships for entering freshmen and diversity scholarships to support ethnic variety. Donors get to choose which scholarship and what type of student they want to benefit. Providing someone with the opportunity to advance his or her education will make that person’s future and your holiday season brighter. Contact UNCW Advancement at (910) 962-3751 or visit www.uncw.edu/uniadv for more information.

Reach Out

For 15 years the Reaching Hearts women’s outreach a Christ-centered nondenominational women’s nonprofit organization has been reaching out to women and their families in the poor needy neighborhoods in our community. It provides turkey and all the trimmings for women to take home and prepare for their families at its annual Thanksgiving Outreach and provides needed items such as soap and toothpaste to women in prison throughout North and South Carolina at Christmas. To give an important needed and heartfelt gift in someone’s name contact Brenda Matthews at (910) 792-0997.

All in the family

Christmas is for most of us a holiday to share with friends and family. To give heartfelt alternative gifts your loved ones will appreciate and enjoy Buy Nothing Christmas has wonderful ideas. Buy Nothing Christmas is an organization that influences people to give Yuletide joy without purchasing commercial items therefore taking the greed and stress out of gift giving. Coupons offering helpful services for free such as babysitting for new parents doing yard work for someone with a bad back cleaning the house and cooking dinner for an elderly neighbor are all examples of alternative gifts you can give those closest to you. Or you can surprise your family by using your talents to create homemade presents writing a collection of poems or offering to teach a family class in your special field of expertise.

Hands-on giving

Some gifts don’t fit in a box. They don’t cost a dime but are among the most important gifts you can give. This holiday season give your time to help others

No Place Like Home

Provide a local family with a lifelong present: a home. Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity is always looking for volunteers to build homes work at the HomeStore or become a mentor to a future home-owning family. No experience is necessary as Habitat will teach you all you need to know. For more information about volunteering visit www.capefearhabitat.org or call (910) 762-4744..

Reading Out Loud

An everlasting community contribution is the gift of literacy. About 24 percent of adults in the Cape Fear area cannot read above the fifth-grade level. It is the Cape Fear Literacy Council’s (CFLC) goal to teach every functionally illiterate adult in the community to read. Linda Patton executive director for the CFLC says “There are so many needs in the world but it has to be said that after shelter and food being able to read is the next most important thing needed to survive.” If you would like to give the gift of your time CFLC provides the training and materials necessary for you to volunteer as a tutor. To change not only the life of the student but your life as well contact the Cape Fear Literacy Council at (910) 251-0911 or visit www.cjliteracy.org.

Dream a Little Dream

Perhaps the most special gift you can give this holiday season is yourself. DREAMS of Wilmington offers high-quality free art classes for underprivileged youths ages 8-17. The classes allow children to develop self-confidence responsibility and personal expression while offering them something safe and productive to do after school. Donations are always welcome but volunteering can be just as rewarding for the tutor as it is for the student. Emily Prabhaker program coordinator says that the beauty of DREAMS is that the instructors working with the students get to watch the kids evolve and develop in ways not always apparent in regular after-school programs. Contact DREAMS of Wilmington at (910) 772-1501 or visit www.dreamswilmington.org for more information.


This holiday season you can adopt a soldier from Company A Second Battalion 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the Army division at Fort Bragg. The Town of Wrightsville Beach will put you in touch with the Adopt-A-Soldier project coordinator Jean Van Velsor and every month you will send your soldier a letter and a care package. This heartfelt commitment on your part helps soldiers who may not have the emotional support of family in the United States. For more information call the Town of Wrightsville Beach at (910) 256-7900.

Stamp out hunger

With age our nutritional needs change. This Christmas give the homebound seniors in our area a chance to remain healthy and independent as long as possible by donating and/or volunteering for Meals on Wheels Association of America (MOWAA). Meals on Wheels is dedicated to providing nutritional meals and services to those who are elderly homebound disabled or at risk. Volunteering for MOWAA has a huge impact on the community. For more information call Meals on Wheels at (910) 798-6412 or visit www.mealcall.org.