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Mom hands daughter lessons on giving

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STEVE CHIOTAKIS: As we approach the holiday season,
this is the time of year when charitable giving traditionally heats up. Could be the contagion of the season, of course, there’s also that tax benefit before the end of the year.

The Great Recession though has taken its toll. And for non-profits looking for something extra in their stocking, I’m afraid it’ll probably be bah humbug. The Chronicle of Philanthropy says 501(c)(3)s are expecting donations to drop 9 percent this year; that’s on top of a 6 percent dip last year. Most of us learn — or don’t — the lesson of giving from our parents.

Nancy Hammond of Richmond, Vt., has been watching her 12-year-old daughter, Elisabeth, put some generosity to work.

Nancy Hammond: When Elisabeth was about three or four years old, we were already having conversations about what things cost. So we set her up with three cups and we labeled them: One was “God or church or charity,” one was for savings and one was for spending.

Around the holidays, we would see people with their red bucks and ringing their bells, and so we talked about the Salvation Army and what kind of help they provided certain members of our community. And one year, she — on her own — decided to take all of her cups and she went up to the bucket and started emptying her entire accumulation of money — the savings, the spending and the charity money all went into the bucket that day. And the Salvation Army lady, she was just waving and giving us a huge smile, and I was just so proud of her that morning.

Elisabeth Hammond: I think it was my seventh birthday, I was doing like a pen pal thing with a girl in Russia. And in one of the information letters, it said that children in Russia need clothes. So when I sent out birthday invitations, I said don’t bring any gifts; bring socks. And that’s what they did.

I don’t have the cups anymore. I just have a bank account. I get an allowance, which is $6. If I see something that I want and it’s sort of expensive, I usually start saving up for it. But then, usually, by the time I’ve saved up for it, I don’t want it anymore.

Nancy: She’s in middle school and a lot of her friends have cell phones and games and all kinds of things and their own personal computers. And her dad and I sit down and talk with her about what do we really need versus what would just be really nice to have. We can have things for ourselves, but we should also be investing in other people’s needs or investment in the world.

Chiotakis: Nancy Hammond and her daughter Elisabeth in Vermont. What are your stories about kids and money? Do you have questions?

Submit them at, you’ll see the link right there.

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