Thought and thoughtfulness can be a dynamite combination with the giving of "alternative gifts" this Christmas and Hanukkah.
This form of giving is ideal for the armchair shopper, the older person whose mobility may be limited or for someone who needs nifty gifts for friends and relatives who "have everything."
They can be tangible, such as gift certificates to the many fine restaurants in Western New York. Some grocery stores' gift certificates also can apply to in-house pharmacies.
For those who enjoy Western New York's cultural resources, tickets for the Center for the Arts on University at Buffalo's North Campus exciting season of art, music, theater, dance and distinguished speakers may be welcome.
Reopening of Shea's Center for the Performing Arts and Irish Classical Theatre are being eagerly awaited and will offer performances to suit any tastes.
Tickets to Studio Arena, Alleyway, Kavinoky theaters or Lancaster Opera House also are sure to be appreciated, as might tickets to Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra or QRS Recital Series concerts.
Depending on the number of those contributing to a gift certificate, concert or theater tickets and the cost involved, how about adding a limousine ride?
For someone confined at home, paintings can be rented through Albright-Knox Art Gallery. For others, memberships that come in a variety of categories to Albright-Knox or Burchfield-Penney Art Center could give year-round pleasure.
Memberships also are available in the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens Society in individual, special and corporate subscriptions and this year a free poinsettia plant comes with each new holiday membership.
And then there are the intangibles that can be rewards in themselves. A donation in any amount to a charity that reflects a person's special interest can be gratifying all the way around.
There are many organizations serving people and places throughout the world, helping adults and children in crisis and in need.
Alternative Gifts International is an "umbrella" of 27 relief and development organizations, some with religious affiliations, that benefits third-world countries and food pantries and shelters in our own country.
Established in 1980 by Harriet C. Prichard in Pasadena, Calif., the organization includes such groups as Mennonite Central Committee, American Friends Service Committee, World Relief, Medical Assistance Program and Nature Conservancy. "Adopt a Reef" in Indonesia and for $5 to $50 you can help to preserve up to 50 square meters.
The Women's Village Banking project administered by Catholic Relief Services helps small groups of women in Guatemala operate cottage industries. Bibles for Chinese Christians, school supplies for children in India and job training for low-income women in the United States are only a few of the causes benefiting from this program. A holiday card with each purchase is inscribed with the donor's name, ready to mail to the family member or friend in whose name each gift is given.
Locally, gifts for Alternative Gifts International will be accepted at Trinity Old Lutheran Church, 3445 Sheridan Drive, Eggertsville, Sunday and Dec. 6, 13, 20 and 24 from 9:30 to 12:30. Cindy Beery is chairwoman. Or, contact Alternative Gifts International at (800) 842-2243 or www.altgifts.org.
Along the same lines, World Vision distributes International Gifts of Joy and Hope. Providing nutritious food, clean water and self-sustainability are some of the objectives of this organization.
For $20, you can buy immunizations for a child in Zambia or feed a family in Liberia. For $35, five children can be vaccinated against polio.
There are 10 shelters for the homeless in the U.S. that the organization supports. A donation of $11 can provide one night's shelter for a single person and $20 for a family. And for $4,000 a nursery with a million seedlings and all necessary tools can be set up in Ethiopia.
Since 1950, this Christian and relief organization has had projects in 94 countries and may be contacted at P.O. Box 9716, Federal Way, Wash. 98063-9716, by telephoning (253) 815-1000 or at www.worldvision.org.
A gift card bearing your name will be sent to the friend or relation in whose name the gift is given.
Many health-related organizations have local chapter offices and emphasize in their fund-raising activities that much of the money they raise stays in this area.
The American Lung Association of Western New York, for instance, conducts smoking cessation clinics, smoking prevention programs for children and asthma education and management.
The March of Dimes Western New York Chapter contributes to blood screening for newborns, bone marrow transplants, rubella vaccinations, public and professional education programs and services in community organizations such as Roswell Park Cancer Institute and Children's Hospital.
Just a few of the other organizations with offices in Western New York are the Leukemia Society, American Cancer Society and American Heart Association.
There are veterans' organizations, especially for the paralyzed and disabled that are seeking help, and local organizations that provide services for the autistic and the physically and mentally disabled.
The Buffalo News Neediest Fund sees to it that children have gifts under the Christmas tree and that there is food on the table. The Food Bank of Western New York supports the food pantries that feed thousands thoughout our area.
Buffalo's City Mission and Friends of Night People help to feed and shelter men, women and children in our community. Haven House aids abused women and their children and Boys & Girls Clubs of Buffalo conducts sports and other programs for inner-city children and youths.
Children with life-threatening illnesses can have their dreams come true through the Make-A-Wish Foundation of America. The foundation and Things Remembered commissioned designer Gloria Duchin to create "Wish Upon a Star," an engraved pewter ornament featuring three bears swinging on a crescent moon. It is $11.99 and is being sold at Things Remembered stores throughout the area.
Even if you are not able to care for a pet, you may be thrilled if someone makes a donation to the local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in rememberance of a beloved dog or cat who has brightened your life.
Animals and precious lands can be saved through the Adirondack Council at PO Box D-2, Church St., Elizabethtown, N.Y., World Wildflife Fund at 1250 24th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20037 and National Parks and Conservation Association at 1776 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20036, just to mention a few.
Get the idea?