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Bob De Moor wants a goat for Christmas. In fact, he wants a lot of goats for the holidays this year.


"People are reacting to the growing commercialization of Christmas."

—Stan Hankins

Bob De Moor wants a goat for Christmas. In fact, he wants a lot of goats for the holidays this year.

Don't worry, the goats are not for him. Rather, De Moor wants the goats to go to families across the world that need them. De Moor, editor of the Christian Reformed Church of North America (CRCNA) publication "The Banner," is encouraging his readers, family and friends to give gifts that matter this year.

"I really would like to have a Christmas where we all celebrate the goodness of God instead of the material stuff," he said.

CRCNA offers a Christmas Gift Guide where people can purchase gifts - like De Moor's goats - that will benefit economically-disadvantaged families and families affected by disaster around the world. The gift ideas come from the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC) and the other agencies of the Christian Reformed Church.

De Moor's church is not alone in the idea. Numerous other faith-based disaster relief agencies offer similar gift guides for the public. The Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) Web site has a page devoted to alternative Christmas gift ideas. This is the fourth year PDA has offered the guide.

"This year's is more extensive," explained Stan Hankins, PDA's Associate for Domestic Response. "There's been interest from our denomination for these types of gifts, so we try to break down the needs we see."

This year's PDA gift guide includes emergency blankets, health and hygiene kits for children in disasters, various farm animals, and a list of monetary amounts needed to sustain PDA workers out in the field.

Like De Moor, Hankins sees the growing interest in gifts benefiting others. "People are reacting to the growing commercialization of Christmas. The willingness to give is there, we just want to make it easy for people.

"Our households contain more than we could ever need, so this guide is our attempt to meet that desire to give."

Many denominations are gearing their alternative holiday gift guides toward this year's devastating hurricane season. The list from Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) allows the public to donate $250 for a new chainsaw to help with debris removal in Florida. One can also donate $25 to feed a volunteer for a week, or even $100 to support one of MDS' project directors for a week.

Bob Wyble is the new project director for the MDS site in Century, Fla. The small panhandle town was ripped by Hurricane Ivan - and Wyble is seeing the effects of generous donations firsthand.

Focusing on the elderly and the economically disadvantaged, MDS is helping families avoid the recent onslaught of scammers who overcharge for their debris removal services. MDS' main job in Century is cleaning up downed trees and other natural debris - a task that can take a significant amount of time with chainsaws as the only heavy equipment available.

Recently, MDS listed the need for some equipment on its Web site, including a skid loader to help with tree removal. Several significant donations came in which covered the cost of the machine and the trailer. "The work we did last week in four hours would've normally taken us a week without that loader. It's phenomenal," said Wyble.

Wyble is also seeing another fantastic donation from families across the U.S.: volunteer time. Families are taking the holiday break from their jobs and school to travel down to Florida for a mission trip, a gift he is honored to see.

"It's exciting that people are willing to spend Christmas with their families doing something alternative for once. They'll remember it for a long time."

Faith-based disaster responders across the country agreed that a volunteer trip is a great gift idea. Don "Bogie" Jones, disaster response coordinator for the southwest Texas conference of the United Methodist Church, said several recovery sites across the state are still in great need of volunteers - and will be for some time.

"The important thing to note is that it's going to take a long time for many of these places to recover. We're still recovering from storms in 2003 - and some from 2002 as well. There are still great needs here, and a real need for volunteer teams to come down."

If you cannot take a week off anytime soon, consider putting together a flood bucket for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), Jones suggested. The buckets contain cleaning products and are distributed to flood survivors cleaning up their homes. UMCOR's Web site provides directions on how to prepare the buckets, which are a simple and effective way to help those in need.

"Flood buckets are always welcome," added Jones. "They're easy to transport and they're always needed. It's a great thing to do."

The Church World Service (CWS) Tools and Blanket Program offers emergency cleanup kits for donation as well. This year's CWS holiday gift guide also includes blankets, children's emergency kits, and various farming implements.

The UMCOR Web site is the place to go for this year's UMCOR Christmas Relief Wish List. Donations can be made to help feed Haitian children, transport emergency blankets and health kits to where they are needed most, and even help purchase and install new ceilings and walls for storm-damaged homes in the U.S.

Local United Methodist conferences are finding their own personal projects as well. Sandy Rowland, Volunteers in Mission coordinator for the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church, recently traveled to the small hurricane-ravaged town of Arcadia, Fla.

While checking in on families in the town, Rowland said she asked how the children were coping. "One mother said her kids wouldn't have a Christmas this year."

After hearing the same response from many others in Arcadia, Rowland decided to send out an email appeal to her friends and family for funds to help buy gifts for children. The money will be distributed through Arcadia's Trinity United Methodist Church. "It just made me realize that I don't need anything for Christmas," she explained.

"I'm just hoping to bring some joy and smiles to some faces down there, and let them know that someone cares."

For the Church of the Brethren (COB), giving alternative gifts this holiday season is something that should be on everyone's mind. "This is the true meaning of the season. We should respond by giving to others in need and taking the focus off ourselves," said Jane Yount, disaster response coordinator for COB. "It's a spiritual exercise to think of others first."

COB's alternative gift guide includes links on how to make the many useful disaster relief kits offered by Church World Service and tips on how to hold a fundraiser for the agency's Emergency Disaster Fund.

No matter which agency one chooses to donate to this year, all are guaranteeing that the funds and gifts are very helpful - and the donations are already coming in.

De Moor agrees. He just got his first goat.

Holiday Gift Guides

Christian Reformed World Relief Committee

Church of the Brethren

Church World Service Emergency Response Program

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance

United Methodist Committee on Relief

Lutheran Disaster Response

Mennonite Disaster Service

United Church of Christ (click the 'What Will You Give?' link on the left side's menu bar for a PDF document)

Church World Service

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