Jess vs. plastic sacrifice

Ah, the holidays. Or as I like to think of them, that magical time of year when we all exchange Target gift cards. Going down a list and checking it twice is as old as Santa Claus. And giving gifts is a wonderful way to show someone you care and are thinking about them.

Ah, the holidays. Or as I like to think of them, that magical time of year when we all exchange Target gift cards.

Going down a list and checking it twice is as old as Santa Claus. And giving gifts is a wonderful way to show someone you care and are thinking about them.

In fact, we have our annual Shop Small gift guide inside this issue, and our About Holiday Guide Gift Guide special edition came out November 18. Both are designed to help you find thoughtful, unusual and unexpected gifts for loved ones.

But gift cards are the worst, especially that giant kiosk of them that looms over you at the grocery store. You know how I know about that wall of gift cards? Because I stop at it every year to pick up a few last-minute, extremely well thought out and thoughtful pieces of plastic money for my family and friends. Because somehow, despite my best intentions, gift giving becomes more a transaction than a heartwarming tradition.

I don’t think I’m alone.

I know some of you are saying, “They asked for a gift card,” and “They would rather pick it out themselves,” and “I don’t know what size she wears or what style he likes.” I get it. Shopping for holiday gifts is tedious, and the rush of traffic and swirl of the crowds don’t help much. Especially if you have a large family.

Sometimes a gift card is a good gift; the only gift that someone will truly put to good use. And sometimes it’s a crutch.

Imagine with me, if you will, what would happen if you and your family made the plastic sacrifice … Start by listing all of the usual suspects who pop up on your holiday list. I’ve jotted mine down on the next page (actual names, not changed to protect the innocent). Then include amount of money you generally would spend on their gift (card) and the types of gifts they usually would find under the tree (inside an envelope), come December 25.

Now, think about the good that would come from that money if instead you put it to work to help the men, women and children in our community who are in need by donating it—even a portion of it, even a little bit—because every dollar helps.

Every single dollar.

In this season of giving, imagine the difference you can make by asking your family to sacrifice a gift card.

If we make the plastic sacrifice together, thousands of dollars can go to people in our community who are truly and deeply in need.

Best wishes to you and yours this holiday!

$100 target gift card for dad John
Usual Gift: My dad is a tough nut to crack, gift wise. One year, I got him John Wayne’s autograph (to frankly very little fanfare, despite the effort). Another year it was a picture book of the two of us (he teared up!). One year I even got him brown socks and sweatpants—the thing he’s actually asked for every year since I was a kid. New Gift: His gift is always a bit of a moving target, so what if instead I donated in his name to United Way of Greater Stark County, the organization that funds a range of different nonprofit agencies because Stark County’s needs are a bit of a moving target, too.

$100 kate spade gift card for mom Georgia
Usual Gift: Generally a nice new handbag or jewelry tops her list. And I’m sure I don’t even want to know how much of that stuff has made it to the donation pile over the years. New Gift: This year, I could cut out the middleman and donate her gift to Goodwill Industries of Greater Cleveland & East Central Ohio, helping them to provide people with life-changing skills that lead to good jobs.

$75 Dining gift card to sister Lauren
Usual Gift: With a new baby and all the trimmings that come with him, my sister and her husband don’t always have the budget for a great dinner out, just the two of them. That’s where I usually swoop in with my “date night” package. New Gift: Instead we could help people who don’t have enough to eat at all, through a donation to Stark County Hunger Taskforce. Just $1 dollar donated yields seven pounds of food to help feed the estimated 15.9 percent of our neighbors who don’t know where their next meal will come from.

$50 Cabela’s gift card to brother-in-law Chris
Usual Gift: He likes to try to kill deer in the woods behind my childhood home. With a bow and arrow. And it is a spectacle I have been complicit in, in the past, thanks to an annual gift card from Cabela’s at Christmas. New Gift: Perhaps instead we could give back to our furry friends, with a donation to Second Chance for Animals.

For nephew Caleb
The cutest boy in the world is turning 1 year old two days before Christmas, and I’m spoiling the living daylights out of him. Don’t judge me. But I could also take a tag from the Child & Adolescent Behavioral Health gift tree at Belden Village Mall to help another family wake up to the sound of sheer childhood joy ringing through the house on Christmas morning.

$50 macy’s gift card for Aunt Jami & Uncle Mark
Usual Gift: I always wind up gifting my aunt and uncle something home related, like a nice, seasonally scented candle and holder. Something to help them spritz up the table for the holidays. New Gift: This year, their gift could actually help one of those who are most in need get a new lease on life, with a donation to YWCA Canton, helping homeless individuals and families by providing emergency shelter, food, clothing—and hope.

$50 GameStop gift Card to cousin Alec
Usual Gift: My cousin just graduated from high school this year. I’m sure he needs some books for college, but wants the latest Call of Duty. New Gift: Instead, we could give him what’s behind door number three: a donation in his name to the SAM Center, an organization that works to make the lives of service members, veterans and their widows better.

$100 bed bath and beyond gift card for in-laws Roman & Joanne
Usual Gift: Recently retired from his post as the electrical inspector for the city of Canton, it is almost always a safe bet to get my father-in-law a Home Depot gift card. But now that he and my mother-in-law have more time together around the house, a gift card to get some fun new cooking gadgetry was on the list this year. New Gift: My in-laws often donate food to Refuge of Hope. We could continue that tradition by sending a donation in their name to help Refuge serve up hot meals every single day.

$50 for brother-in-law Dave
Usual Gift: My brother-in-law Dave loves weird, dorky fantasy books. We find it’s best to let him pick these things out himself via Amazon. Plus, you literally can get everything on Amazon. It’s like buying someone groceries for Christmas. New Gift: We can help a new generation discover a love of reading by supporting One Book, One Community Stark County, an outreach program to encourage literacy and discussion around an annual book.

$200 for husband Doug
Usual Gift: Obviously, continued marriage to me is the ultimate gift each and every holiday. But I generally also put a little something extra under the tree for the hubs. He imposed a $200 limit this Christmas a few weeks before this column took shape. This year, I was going to gift him blackjack credit at the JACK Casino Cleveland, plus dinner out at The Greenhouse Tavern. New Gift: There is an opioid epidemic ravaging our community, so I would gift him support to Stark County Mental Health & Addiction Recovery to help combat the addiction issues plaguing Stark County.