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Giving can be Your Greatest Gift
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By Nancy McSloy

With another Christmas season fast approaching I have been pondering on what I can do to help others. Given our economic conditions, this Christmas may be one that many people will be grateful for some extra help.

After much pondering and research, I have found so many wonderful things that individuals and groups are doing within our community. I have started challenging friends and family to get involved with at least one project and to enjoy the warm, rewarding feeling of lending a hand.

In 2011 when I put the Christmas tree up at work, I put lights on it and rather than decorating it, I suggested that we call it the "mitten tree". Word of our "Cold Hands, Warm Hearts" campaign quickly spread and by Christmas we had about 300 pairs of mittens, many hats, scarves and a case of coats to be distributed to less fortunate children through a local group "Keeping Kids Warm". 2012 was a repeat of 2011 and this year I suggested to my new employer that we do the same.

When Rev. Mike Shaw started driving through the streets of London, stopping and chatting with people who appeared to be in need and asking if he could be of assistance, he came up with the idea of offering a Christmas backpack. The first year he filled one back-pack, while the second year with the help of the congregation at Trinity United Church, he filled and distributed five backpacks and the tradition continues. Each back-pack is filled with a wool hat, scarf, mitts or gloves, socks, Band-Aids, rain poncho, toiletries, cash, grocery cards and a Bible. For more information please contact revmike@start.ca .

A local organization that I am a member of usually does a gift exchange at our Christmas Dinner Meeting. This year we have been asked instead to bring donations of non-perishable food items to be donated to the London Food Bank. Several events that I have attended throughout the Christmas season have asked for non-perishable food items rather than an admission fee.

In 1891 Salvation Army Captain Joseph McFee wanted to give a free Christmas dinner to San Francisco's poor but didn't have the money to pay for the food. Remembering his days as a sailor in Liverpool, England, McFee recalled seeing a large pot, called "Simpson's Pot", into which charitable donations were thrown by passers-by. He got permission to put a similar pot at a popular ferry landing in San Francisco and it was a great success. Since then the idea spread throughout the US, into Canada and around the world. Don't forget the kettles when you are out in the hustle bustle of Christmas shoppers. Money from the kettles helps to pay for goods to help those in need. The Army believes everyone deserves a good Christmas. Members work very hard organizing the kettle campaigns, gathering toys and food, preparing hampers and cooking and serving Christmas dinners. I am sure that they would welcome help with open arms.

What you choose to do can be something as simple as offering a ride to someone who would like to go to church on Christmas Eve but does not have transportation. Inviting someone who would be alone on Christmas to share the day with your family can be very rewarding. Check with your neighbourhood churches or community groups for Christmas projects that you could help out with. A donation need not be monetary; a few hours of your time will be very much appreciated. These are just a few ideas, but there are so many more good things going on within the community. Giving can be the greatest gift to you!