Looking for a different gift this season? Donate to a good cause

Presents that are meant to benefit others can be found, along with many other gift suggestions, in t

Looking for the perfect holiday gift for someone who has everything?

How about dry erase markers, a bale of hay or a pillow?

If those don’t sound like things a special person on your list would love, that’s OK: They’re actually presents meant to benefit others.

They can be found, along with many other gift suggestions, in the Alternative Gift Project catalog, an endeavor of the Unitarian Universalist Society of Schenectady.

The program, which is open to the public, offers a means to give presents that can better the community and the world.

“The idea is to try to channel some of the generous giving of the season in a different way,” said Lara Turney, the program’s coordinator.

Many local groups

The Alternative Gift Project catalog contains information on 14 nonprofit organizations, the majority of which are local. Along with a description of each organization’s work are three suggested monetary donations and a description of what each dollar amount will buy.

Donors receive a holiday card complete with information about the organization to which they contributed. The card, personalized for whomever the donation is intended to honor, is given in lieu of a traditional gift.

It’s a great alternative to the unneeded and/or unwanted items that often wind up under the Christmas tree, said John Good, chairman of the UUSS’s social action council.

“It’s thinking beyond a ‘me mentality’ more to an ‘us mentality,’ ” he said.

A donation of between $1 and $10 will buy dry erase markers and snacks for A Different Way of Reading, a Schenectady-based organization that offers a free after-school program that helps kids with dyslexia improve their reading skills.

A $5 donation can buy a bale of hay for a horse involved in the Saratoga Therapeutic Equestrian Program, which provides therapeutic riding and other programs to children and adults with special needs.

Ten dollars can provide a pillow for a woman staying in the Schenectady YWCA’s domestic violence shelter.

Other organizations featured in the Alternative Gift Project catalog are Capital District Community Gardens, which organizes community gardens, provides access to healthy food and offers educational programs; Fisher House Foundation, which provides a free place for families to stay while a loved one is hospitalized for a combat-related injury, illness or disease; and Joseph’s House, an organization that offers emergency shelter, permanent housing, support services and guidance to Troy’s homeless population.

Also included in the catalog are Lincoln Reading Mentors, a volunteer group affiliated with Lincoln Elementary School in Schenectady that provides one-on-one reading encouragement and more; The Capital Region Miracle League, which offers free athletic and social opportunities to special needs children, adults and their families; and Parsons Child and Family Center’s Early Head Start program, which provides low-income Schenectady families with health, child development, education and socialization services.

Other nonprofits in the catalog are the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York, which collects and distributes food to charitable agencies that feed disadvantaged people in 23 counties; Schenectady Day Nursery, which provides affordable day care to Schenectady’s poorest families; and Things of My Very Own, a local organization that provides impoverished children who are victims of abuse or neglect with crisis intervention services.

Thinking globally

Gift-givers wishing to reach out in a more global manner also have options in the Alternative Gift Project catalog.

Donations can be made to the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, which is providing relief aid to the portion of the Philippines affected by Typhoon Haiyan.

Donations are also being accepted for Safe Passage, a nonprofit organization that provides children living in Guatemala’s slums with education and hope.

According to Turney, 100 percent of every donation goes to the organization of the donor’s choice.

“Giving these types of gifts is a wonderful way to support organizations doing good and to honor people in your life,” she said.

Reach Gazette reporter Kelly de la Rocha at 395-3040 or [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @KellydelaRocha.

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