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Valuable gifts that don't cost a thing

A wrapped gift

TEXT OF STORY

Tess Vigeland: Finished your holiday shopping yet? This is supposed to be a big discount weekend as retailers desperately try to lure you to the mall. They're desperate because it seems lots of folks are scaling back the annual gift orgy. Some are doing more than that. They're not buying gifts at all. They're getting into the holiday spirit, without going into debt. Jenee Darden reports.


Jenee Darden: Thousands of needy people are lined up at a Salvation Army Center in South Los Angeles. Volunteer director Amina Patterson is getting her team ready to hand out holiday baskets. This year Patterson's family is doing Christmas a little different. There will be a tree, just no gifts underneath it.

Amina Patterson: I think that with all that's going on in society and the fact we have been very blessed we should bless some people on Christmas rather than sitting at home in our beautiful home and opening gifts.

Patterson and her husband decided their family would feed the hungry instead of giving presents. That also means no gifts for their two children.

Patterson: They have bikes, they have three game systems at home and we just said enough.

Patterson's kids are helping with volunteer registration. Her daughter Alladia is nine. Son Amir is 12. He says the news of no gifts caught him off guard.

Amir Patterson: Well when she first said it to me she said it with a smile so I kinda thought yeah funny mom you're joking around with me. So then she said no I'm serious and then she explained it to me and what we would be doing and I was like, that's pretty cool.

Another cool thing ? the amount of money they'll save. Patterson says she usually spends about $3 grand for Christmas gifts. Of course, a free and festive holiday means getting creative. We're talking homemade presents. But can a gift from the heart really top a Nintendo Wii.

Karen Hudson: I don't think it's the idea of not giving gifts. It's the kind of gifts that you're giving.

Karen Hudson is an advice columnist for the Los Angeles Wave. She says a valuable gift doesn't have to cost a fortune. Hudson is thinking outside the box for her mother's present.

Hudson: I'm retyping her phone book in big letters and putting it in a 3-ring binder and giving it to her.

Hairstylist Marva Carmichael stopped buying Christmas gifts in 1977. That's the year her Pastor suggested another way to celebrate the holiday.

Marva Carmichael: We figured since Jesus is not here what better way to give gifts to Jesus then to help others. Why would I give my kids gifts? They have everything. My sisters have everything.

So she gives the gift of time. Helping kids whose parents are incarcerated. Another message she took from that sermon ? serving others can be a service to your wallet.

Carmichael: That's one of the things the Pastor would say, if you start celebrating Christmas this way think of all the money you'll save.

Tell that to Chenita Woods, a nursing assistant in San Diego. Her family decided no Christmas dinner this year. And they canceled their traditional hundred-dollar gift exchange.

Chenita Woods: One of my daughters was having a real hard time financially. So I said to take the pressure off her let's forget it this year. We can go without, you know, doing something. Actually I was going to get all of my kids a pack of underwear, you know something. Everybody was going to get a little 4 or 5 dollar gift you know.

Luckily Santa came a little early for her daughter.

Woods: She found out recently that she's getting a big bonus and so she was back into the Christmas spirit.

The Woods family is still cutting back for Christmas. Dinner is back on. But the gift exchange limit is down to 25 bucks.

In Los Angeles, I'm Jenee Darden for Marketplace Money.

Log in to post3 Comments

I agree with Angela from Texas. Who are these people?! I consider myself to be a very creative person, but what happened to the ideas? Ok great, Mrs. Patterson is going to have her kids participate in volunteer registration after previously spending 3k? I hope they learn the lesson that you're trying to teach.

This story could have used a few more "useful" suggestions. We all know the value of volunteering, particularly at the holidays. The title implied (to me) that there would more suggestions, like the re-typing of an address book in large print, that would be free or inexpensive gifts that someone could really appreciate. I really like the idea, and I may well steal it. I was just hoping to see more really good ideas and less "oh we decided that the 3 grand we spend each year might be a little much." Seriously, who are these people and what planet do they live on?

Another NPR blah piece. It used to be (before the over-reliance on DVR's) NPR radio people knew how to tell a REAL story. Now your stuff is really BORING, except for the interviews. Sad to say ALL of NPR has adopted the sound bite (DVR) format, wherein the reporter provides a "topic sentence" and then cuts to some "expert", who more or less parrots the preceding "topic sentence" and so it goes with favorite words being "says", "again---expert" etc. A great big UGH for this BORING format. You used to do MUCH better. My advice "Get rid of your DVR'S! And return to telling stories!

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