Teaching Kids About Holiday Giving With Stonyfield

My kids like Christmas. They have warm, secure lives in two decent homes and are fed well. They are fortunate. They know that I donate to various organizations (some combination of Planned Parenthood, local public radio, the Greater Boston Food Bank, Rosie’s Place, Home for Little Wanderers), plus we’ve been known to make care packages for people in the nearby homeless camp (socks, cookies, a little money, toothbrushes and toothpaste).

This year, I opted into a “pay it forward” campaign with Stonyfield; they sent me a $50 Visa gift card, and I got to decide where and how to spend it.

With the Stonyfield card, I talked to the kids about how we could “pay it forward.” Should we contribute to something global, such as Heifer International or Save the Children? To a national social justice organization, such as the Southern Poverty Law Center? Something more local, like the Greater Boston Food Bank? Something even closer to home, such as the Food for Free’s Cambridge Weekend Backpack Program, which recently suffered devastating budget cuts?

I explained each organization and what it does. Max chose the Cambridge Weekend Backpack Program. I think the idea of kids being hungry and not having enough food on the weekend was most relatable for him (he’s knows he is well fed and has all the snacks he wants and needs, but considering that some kids don’t have anything to eat on weekends struck a chord with him).

Before I could make the donation, an “Urgent!” email came from our school PTO. Every year our school has a Giving Tree with tags marked with item, size, and price, so that everyone our town who celebrates Christmas can have gifts under the tree. You take a tag, buy the specific item, and leave it in a box under the tree. This  year, at deadline time, there were still a few unclaimed tags. I read aloud the options to my children: sneakers and shoes in various kid sizes, a toy helicopter, a toy jet, a jacket.

Oh, whoa. Every kid should have adequate footwear and cold-weather gear and a dream toy. I told my kids about the tags. I suggested we consider giving to this, too. The boys decided on the size 12 boy’s sneakers, which were $40, and we all decided we would use the other $10 for the backpack program in Cambridge (which, thankfully, has received a lot of donations since the announcement of the budget cuts).

Thanks, Stonyfield, for the opportunity to “pay it forward” this year. And I love that my kids got to consider different options for spending and choose the ones they could relate to.

Happy late December, all! And happy holidays, too, if you have a holiday to celebrate soon!


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