Meaningful Giving in Olympia

gifting with meaning
Preparing gifts for others is a meaningful way to celebrate the season.


By Mary Ellen Psaltis

hanson motors sponsorI visited Santa at Macy’s in New York City. He might have been the real one. Santa asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I told him that having great health and safe travels for all my family would be perfect. His eyes twinkled. “Yes, that’s a good idea,” he replied. I wished him safe travels as well. We shared smiles. It’s fun to give and receive presents, but for me, it’s important that meaning is part of the equation.

food bank school garden
One of the program sponsored by the Thurston County Food Bank is creating school gardens.

The holiday season is an excellent time to ponder your personal inclinations towards giving and then act on them. For example, my mailbox is full of requests from organizations that help abused dogs, starving children and disabled veterans. I get phone calls, too. These requests are year-round, but need is felt more greatly at the holidays. As I look closer to home, I see people on the street and read about the needs of our local Food Bank. Again, I have no doubt there is great, year-round need. Finally, I think about my giving and celebrating with my friends and my family.

Here are a few of my giving strategies:

Phone and mail solicitations (usually not local organizations) – I minimize my donations here because I don’t know how much money goes to the actual services or what the programs really do. However, if I really like the enclosed ‘gift,’ I will send something.

Regional/Local Giving – This works much better for me.

When I donate to the Thurston County Food Bank, I know it’s feeding people nearby. When I give toothbrushes to the Union Gospel Mission Dental Clinic, I know they benefit teeth here.

united way shelter shower
The United Way of Thurston County’s Women Leadership Council organizes an annual Shelter Shower.

Throughout school, I was a Girl Scout beginning as a Brownie then continuing as a Junior, Cadet and finally a Senior. Scouting activities played an integral role in my youth allowing me to acquire camping skills, create relationships, canoe on many rivers and have a lot of fun. When I support the Girl Scouts of Western Washington, it makes a difference locally, regionally, and even globally. It’s personal for me.

Thurston County can boast of numerous private/non-profit organizations that care for the well-being of our residents. United Way, for one, supports multiple programs that promote healthier choices and behaviors, encourage financial and residential stability and prepare children and youth to be resilient, to learn and to succeed. Here is a summary from the United Way:

Making a contribution towards our Community Care Fund is the best way to do the most good with a single contribution. United Way tracks the results of donations to the Community Care Fund so donors are assured of accountability and results, measured in changed lives and a healthier community. In 2014-15, the Community Care Fund and Community Investment Partnership was able to support 34 local nonprofits in the community.” For a list of these organizations, click here.

gifting with meaning
Preparing gifts for others is a meaningful way to celebrate the season.

You can also make specific donations. I have a tender heart for animals. Sometimes I buy a big bag of corn-free/dye-free cat food and drop it off at the Animal Shelter. Maybe you like animals, too. The Shelter has its own Amazon Wish List page for you to do shopping for them at your own house.

Do you watch Public Television KTCS Channel 9 or listen to KUOW or KPLU? They would be thrilled with a financial gift. As with many organizations, you can give a one-time gift or sign up for a regular (painless) monthly amount deducted from your checking account or charged to your credit card. Certain giving levels allow you to also get a thank you gift.

A personal note:

As I have gotten older I find myself placing higher value on time and experiences than “stuff.” I’d rather meet a friend for tea and a chat than to exchange gifts on the fly. We invited our neighbors to go to Harlequin’s Stardust mostly because they are lots of fun, but also because they pick up our mail when we are out of town. I would rather Skype with a long-distance friend than receive a gift in the mail.

Sharing lunch with a friend is a special gift.
Sharing lunch with a friend is a special gift.

Our three children like presents, and their giving to each other has evolved over the years. At first it was wrapped gifts. Now they each make a donation in the name of their siblings to a cause they choose. They are helping to rescue horses and save rainforests. How cool is that!?

Yes, sometimes I find the perfect gift for someone – at least in my mind. I know it is something they really wanted or had dreamed about. Finding such presents is emotionally rewarding, and I could go on to tell you about all the fabulous shops, artisans and artists we have where you could find such treasures! But, it is also rewarding to support people and organizations that work for the betterment of our community.

It is my firm belief that giving supports excellent heart health. Giving away part of my treasures (like time, talent and money) affirms that I have more than enough for myself, so I can spread my wealth around. It feels good. It’s not the amount that matter, it’s the doing that matter.

Meaningful giving is a personal matter. Certainly holiday giving is a joyous expression of love and abundance. May your season be overflowing with goodness.

For more information on local non-profit giving, click here.


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