Something deep down disagrees with the way I holiday shop. More often than not, it is four, three, sometimes (yikes!) two days before Christmas when I realize I have no presents to exchange with my otherwise generous family. Rushing downtown, I rifle through discount racks, purge sale bins, and end up with silly, unsentimental gifts bought for the sake of buying rather than in the thoughtful spirit.
This holiday season—for which the official shopping begins Friday—rather than overstretching an already stretched wallet, I am embarking on a different gift giving practice: gifting time instead of treasure. The plan is to volunteer-away my gifts, sparing pennies, family and friends’ already over-stocked-with-stuff homes, and my dignity, which is typically compromised while my sister unwraps another week-old box of crumbled holiday cookies and I unearth a new sweater (sorry Chasey!).
In Missoula, there are many willing to help me and anyone interested in shifting gears this holiday season. In exchange for a half or full day of work, the following organizations will provide a certificate bearing the number of hours you donated and the name of your friend or family for whom the donation was made: Montana Food Bank Network, Habitat for Humanity, Home Resources, and MUD. And judging by their enthusiasm, the gift of time is not inferior to money.
“Volunteers are what keep us going,”? says Bob Whitney at Home Resources.
Dave Chrismon at Habitat agrees, adding that even if you are crunched for time this year, January is a good time to start volunteering for next year: “If someone wanted to lay-away hours for the 2006 season, we’d love to hear from them.”?
For those Missoulians with more money than time, the following will gladly make your mom, dad or grandma a member in exchange for a monetary donation: The Montana Natural History Center, Five Valleys Land Trust, The Ecology Project International,The Ecology Center and The Parenting Place.
And finally, for those not quite ready to ditch more traditional gift giving, here are a few places to peruse with locally-made and sustainable options(we are still in an energy crunch despite declining prices at the pump): The Fair Trade Store at the Jeanette Rankin Peace Center; The Good Food Store, Butterfly Herbs and the Missoula Artists’ Shop. The Sustainable Business Council is also brimming with eco-minded shops to foster your present-paring imagination.
Good luck, shop smart and feel free to add to any of the lists above. Knowing the generosity and proliferation of Missoula’s non-profits, these lists are only a start.