Guiding Children to Associate Holiday Season with Giving: 10 Ways to Give in Austin

Leave it to Wikipedia to present a great page on the origin of Santa including early Christian and pagan origins and his evolution in America, along with old and new rituals, criticism, etc.  According to, “It is said that [St. Nicholas] gave away all of his inherited wealth and traveled the countryside helping the poor and sick.”

Somehow, in recent history at least, children have come to associate Christmas with receiving a shitload of presents.  Period.  They may also love the magic of holiday lights and music and, perhaps even gain an appreciation for the story of Jesus’ birth.  But mostly, it appears to be about the presents.

Honestly, I’m still undecided how the heck to explain Santa yet because I don’t like the idea of lying to them. But I also don’t want to be the hum-bug Scrooge Mama of our neighborhood either.  I’ll keep you posted since time is ticking and I’ve got a 3 year-old fully ready for whatever story we present. More than anything else, I am clear on wanting my girls to remember Christmas as a really special time of year with family and friends in which we give to others that have needs greater than ours.

Here’s my short list of giving opportunities in Austin over the holidays.  There are many, many opportunities to sponsor a child or a family.  We did so last year and were able to deliver presents to the family ourselves, which I think is particularly valuable for children to fully experience the act of giving.

1) Capital Area Food Bank

2) Safe Place for victims of domestic or sexual abuse. Due to the understandable strict policy on privacy, sponsors can not meet the families they sponsor. Due to our strict privacy and confidentiality policies, you cannot meet the family you are sponsoring.  You can fill out online application to become a sponsor. They will receive your gifts at the SafePlace Resource Center December 7-11 (12pm – 6pm), December 12 (12pm-3pm), and December 14-16 (3pm-6pm).

3) Coats for Kids –  Sponsored by Jack Brown dry cleaners and the Junior League of Austin. Drop off new or gently used coats and they are donated to low-income children.

Distribution Day 2009: Saturday, December 5th from 8:00 AM – 3:00 PM

Distribution Site: Palmer Events Center, 900 Barton Springs

4) Austin Children’s Center, Project Santa

5) Life Works, Sponsor A Youth for the Holidays

6) Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children (CASA), Holiday Toy Drive. Details available on the Wish List page link provided here.

7) Blue Santa: Select “Toy Drop-Off Sites”

8) Salvation Army: Select “Angel Tree Program” directly under the child’s picture in the middle of the screen.

9) Brown Santa: Select “Donations” on the left column.

10) Christmas Bureau of Austin & Travis County. This is my personal favorite simply b/c of the opportunity to reach out to people directly to provide an uncooked holiday meal (gift cards to HEB are great) and toys/clothes for the children.

You can sponsor a family three ways:

  1. Visit the office at 7301 Burnet Road #108 (Burnet Rd/Greenlawn Pkwy. Tuesday Morning is the anchor tenant) and select a family;
  2. Call the office at 453-3950 and a volunteer will select a family for you; or
  3. Register as a sponsor online. Any individual or group interested in sponsoring a family will be able to register themselves as a sponsor, and search through the families still needing sponsors by zip code, family size, language spoken, or a combination of the three.

Once you have decided on a family or families to sponsor, call453-3950 with the family number(s), and the Christmas Bureau will immediately assign you as the sponsor for those families. At that time, you can click on “Families I’m Sponsoring” to see the detailed contact information in order to arrange for delivery of the food and gifts.

There are currently over 1800 families requesting holiday sponsorship in Austin!

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3 Responses to “Guiding Children to Associate Holiday Season with Giving: 10 Ways to Give in Austin”

  1. Dawnie says:

    Way to go, Monica. We all need reminders. I wish everyone (INCLUDING OUR KIDS) would just learn to give Christmas away. I want Christmas for them to be more about experiences. Then they will each get 3 presents – b/c that’s how many Jesus got. And they won’t be huge!

    Vann and Reagan’s time spent at the local food bank throughout the year has taught them so much. But there’s still so much more we can do. Thanks for pumping me up, chuck. Love you!

  2. McClain says:

    great suggestions! I am still considering the message I want for Bill and I to convey about Christmas. I want to maintain the magical aspect of Santa BUT I do not want to encourage greediness….which is what we all see during this time. The association between consumerism and Christmas is overpowering at times.

  3. Sonya Feher says:

    I share your Santa dilemma. We’ll talk about the figure of Santa. I’m just not sure what we’ll say yet. We’re definitely skipping the lie and the “he knows when you’ve been bad or good” manipulation. Thanks for the great list on local giving!

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