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Bruce Elfant

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Notebook Archives



Constable's Notebook - December 2011

For the next few weeks we will be bombarded by television, radio, newspapers and the Internet with gift ideas that, as evidenced by the return lines after the holidays, are not always wanted or appreciated. While the holidays have different meanings for various faiths, one common thread is the idea of giving. I have some gift suggestions that would be greatly appreciated by those who receive them.

The first category is financial donations. If a loved one or friend has recently passed away, an appropriate way to honor their memory and help organizations working to prevent future deaths might be to make a donation in his or her name to organizations looking for cures like the American Cancer Society, Juvenile Diabetes Association or AIDS Services of Austin.

The second category is donating items to benefit those who otherwise would receive nothing during the holidays. According to the Community Action Network, 20% of Travis County residents now live below the poverty line ($10,830 per year for an individual person and $22,050 of a family of four). Many lack food, clothing and shelter yet still hope to be able to give something to their children during the holidays. The Capitol Area Food Bank, KVUE's Coats for Kids, Foundation for the Homeless, and many more organizations provide basic needs. Blue and Brown Santa, many places of worship and other groups accept donations of clothes and toys for needy children.

The third category is donating time. For many, this is the hardest to do but for those who are able, it can be the most rewarding form of giving. As a mentor or a Big Brother or Sister, you might be the only positive role model in a child's life. Helping to build homes with Habitat for Humanity is an incredibly meaningful gift to recipients. Travis County district judges hear more than 2,000 cases for children with issues of abuse or neglect each year. These children need CASA volunteers (child advocates) as well as foster and adoptive parents. Many people of my faith also volunteer to help at hospitals and other places on Christmas Day so others can be home with their families.

When we make donations, we want to know that our contributions actually go to the stated purpose and that administrative costs are at an acceptable level for a charitable organization. The Wise Giving Alliance, operated by the Better Business Bureau, provides information about charitable organizations and tips for making informed charitable decisions. The Charitable Trusts division of the Attorney General’s office also provides charitable giving tips, maintains a list of charities registered with the State of Texas, and investigates complaints filed against charitable organizations.

Financial or donated gifts and gifts of time will not gather dust, break or be returned. They will offer help, hope and opportunity for those in our community who have not been blessed with health, wealth, or stable family lives. These gifts would be given in the true spirit of the holiday season and would be appreciated even more than the trendiest tie, toy or gadget.

Lisa and I hope you and your family have a joyous and safe holiday season.



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