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Charitable Holidays: Charitable gift giving guide

Oh the holidays are here and so is the time to get all those gifts taken care of!

But before you reach for the holiday themed sweater, basket of scented bath goodies or marginally ugly tie, think about if those might wind up re-gifted in a tacky Yankee swap, or sitting in a closet for the next two years. Maybe this is the year to make your hard earned dollars go farther with a charitable donation in honor or your loved one, or an item purchased through a charity. Your gift can be just as personal as that novelty golf club cover or casserole dish. When you make your donation, be sure to include information that the gift is "In Honor of..." or "IHO..." with your recipient's address.

For the Bookworm: Donate to the Hartford Public Library or Literacy Volunteers of Greater Hartford. Or, donate to First Book where $50 will provide 25 books to children who don't have other resources for books.

For the Cook and Foodlover: Donate to a local food bank like Foodshare or CT Foodbank. Nationally and internationally, donate to Feeding America or UNICEF or Rachel Ray's NPO, Yum-o! that works to teach families how to cook and develop healthy relationships with food, as well as feeding the hungry. Yum-o! also sells cooking products whose proceeds support the organization.

For the Animal Lover: Donate to your local animal shelter, the ASPCA, the World Wildlife Fund. Or, if you know that they would approve, adopt an abandoned animal for them!

For the Sports Lover: Donate to The First Tee of Connecticut--an organization that uses golf to teach kids life skills and sportsmanship. Or, donate to the National Alliance for Youth Sports or donate to their college Alma Mater athletic program in their honor.

For the Environmentalist: We have all that obsessive recycler in our lives. Donate to the Nature Conservancy, Carbonfund, Greenpeace, or the Connecticut Audubon Society. Or, adopt a tree through Heifer International.

For just about anyone: You can give just about any kind of animal from chicks to heifers to bunnies to water buffalos in someone's honor through Heifer International. These items go to those in need around the world to help folks earn a living. I bet most everyone on your list has never gotten a flock of geese for the holidays! At Oxfam America, you can also buy things no one on your gift list has ever gotten--like mosquito nets, manure, a can of worms, and a water pump. Things like supplies to plant a vegetable garden, school supplies, books for kids, soap and disease prevention kits and much more are also available--items so important to the folks Oxfam serves. Any of these will bring an amused and happy smile anyone on their list--unless they have a heart of ice!

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