The Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches has a great idea for this holiday gift-giving season that was made all the more important by this past week’s dismal state budget and employment reports.
The appeal from the faith community comes as lawmakers and government officials at state and local levels look at cutting social services to cope with budget deficits, and as unemployment, bankruptcy and foreclosure proceedings continue to mount.
The council has three holiday cards it will send to people on your gift list, or for you to pass along or present in person, as a substitute for that tie or scarf you were planning to give someone. In return, you make a donation to the Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches to support its social ministry programs this season.
Granted, most people have gift items intended for loved ones that are part of household planning in which the holiday season becomes an important time for stocking the pantry or closet. But many gifts aren’t necessities; rather, they are simply expressions of love and affection.
The Rev. Gary Reierson, president of GMCC, addresses this latter type of gift giving in his letter to churches and friends of the social ministry programs. “What if we took that money and gave our friends and family the gift of impact – the gift of doing something to help!” he writes.
“Little by little, person by person, we can make a dent in this economic mess,” he said.
That mess includes 26,000 Minnesota job losses since March and state projections of 53,000 more lost jobs through next year – raising the possibility of an 8 percent unemployment rate in Minnesota. Contributions to nonprofit organizations and service agencies are off as people cope with loss or incomes and shrinking investment portfolios. The hurt is being felt everywhere, and becoming more painful.
The GMCC cards highlight three programs: HandyWorks, Minnesota FoodShare and Discover Parent Groups. They also acknowledge that you’ve made a contribution to programs in these categories in the card recipient’s name.
The first program – HandyWorks – helps Minneapolis seniors remain independent and stay in their homes by providing needed household chores. The Minnesota FoodShare program helps stock food shelves throughout the state – a task becoming more difficult this year as the weak economy hampers donations when demand for food shelf services grows. The Discover Parent Groups helps Twin Cities parents who have lost their jobs and need help finding new work.
“Even if you don’t give to GMCC, please give to the Salvation Army, Goodwill/Easter Seals, or your local food shelf,” Reierson pleads. “There are so many more people in our community who need help now and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get better for a while.”
It sure doesn’t. The idea of “gifts of impact” in our own communities makes sense when we feel almost helpless in arresting the economic downward spiral affecting our nation.
For some of these same reasons, Minnesota 2020 is promoting targeted purchases this year through its Made in Minnesota Gift Guide. In this case, the intent is to turn a portion of our holiday purchases into community and state economic support by “purchases of impact.” Buying locally made products and buying from local retailers keeps money circulating in the community and supports jobs.
Every dollar kept at home and put to work in our communities does help. Our communities and state need all the help they can get.