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Our new church collects family information from a few different sources, and we picked one. They have asked only for gift cards: from Borders for the three kids so they can get books (be still my heart!) and from Target from the parents so they can get something for their apt. I plan to call the coordinator to see if we really really shouldn't throw in just a token small toy for each of the kids, in addition to the cards. I also am struggling with what size(amount) cards to give. I want to be a lot more extravagant than would be wise with our budget.

I guess I don't think there should be a limit on what recipients can ask for, but--as with my own wish lists when I was a kid--there's always the possibility that the wish won't end up being fulfilled. Since there's an agreement to buy the requested items, folks will skip the requests they can't afford, right? Leaving those kids without presents. Which is unfortunate.


Wow. I can't even imagine the mindset that it takes to write that post you linked, Lisa; the author both denigrates poor children and literally wishes to slap their parents. And then she accuses those people of the tackiness!

Every kid on the planet wants name-brand presents like a Wii or an iPod. Kids don't know that the economy is in the crapper... especially poor kids, who have always had it bad and might not see this year as any different from the year before. They didn't have enough then, and they don't have enough now. Business as usual.

Margaret Garcia-Couoh is clearly the sort of woman who donates to the food drive... but only the dusty, slightly-expired soup cans, and a Food-Club-brand muffin mix she got with a coupon and is not ever going to use anyway. They're poor people, they should be grateful for anything they get. How dare they hope to have a meal with the same fresh, name-brand foods as other people?

Anyway, sorry, Lisa. Didn't mean to take over with the ranting! I should have taken it to her blog but frankly, I expect the comments to be a pile of "Right ON, sister! I know, right? How DARE THEY???!" And then I'll froth at the mouth, and possibly blow a gasket.

So, my household thanks you for letting me vent here.


We did our church's giving tree every year when I was a kid and, y'know, we actually still went to church. I had a lot of fun picking out toys for other kids...I remember I always wanted to get a girl about my age so I could pick the toys and clothes I liked for her. I haven't seen one in years, though perhaps it's just that I'm not looking.

I can't say I'd ever drop more than 100 bucks on a giving tree gift, but I'm not gonna rail against the parents for not telling their kids how poor they are. And it troubles me that people balking at the spendy requests are giving nothing at all. Its like saying, "I want to donate, but I don't want you to ask me." I guess what I'm saying is that by imposing your own ideas of what you think the needy should want, you're separating the classes further. Or something.


I don't know that it's fair to limit what giving tree recipients may ask for, but as Jecca said, it may keep people from choosing that tag, so the person won't receive anything. Or if the kid receives anything other than the big ticket item, they may feel let down. It seems like the adult helping the kids with these requests should help them keep their expectations more realistic to prevent hurt feelings.

A nearby home for children who are between foster care situations has a giving tree, so I always donate to that one because it's an amazing organization. I usually try to pick a kid who has asked for something really practical (like clothes or shoes) and then add a frivolous toy too. Every kid's gotta get something they don't *need* for Christmas!


Also, in the light of day when I'm less frothy, I'll answer the actual question:

My husband's company participates in a coordinated angel tree program. His department (mostly men) always gets together to fulfill the requests, and they really enjoy it. I am not involved there; it's a Work thing and a Man thing.

At home, we do things that are "like angel tree but different". One is Smart Bucks: we buy and collect toys and school supplies that we give to the local chapter of the Boys and Girls Club, which they use in an academic incentive program where kids who can show A's and B's on report cards win coupons that they can use to buy prizes from the Smart Bucks Club toy closet. (This is a year-round effort, but we find it's easier to coax our friends to join in at Christmas.)

And we're also contributing to the Boys & Girls Club Christmas Shop this year. We donate gifts that parents might like -- purses, tools, candles, toiletries and beauty items, etc. -- which the children can then buy for $1-5. Because (believe it or not, Margaret) lots of children want to be able to give a gift to their mom or dad, as well. The kids' shop gets wrapping paper donated as well, so the children can wrap the presents too.

For a person who really wants to do good, there are programs that fit one's values. Finding them might take slightly more work than standing in line at the bank, though.

(Clearly am still cranky about that woman. Sorry!)


I do Family Giving Tree and the company I used to work for also volunteered in their *huge* wrapping warehouse each year. It's sort of fun to wrap presents non-stop for a few hours.

My dad is a mall Santa (because of his real beard and naturally white hair) and some of the things kids ask for are heartbreaking - "food for my mom" is just about the worst he mentioned.

As for asking for super-expensive gifts - some kids might not realize that what they have asked for costs $300. Or that $300 is a lot of money for just about everyone. I see no problem in asking for it. Not that I would choose that tag to fulfill. But it isn't wrong for the kid to want it.


We did a Christmas Jar this year- my mother gave us a big jar last year at Christmas and we put all our change in it, all year long, and then this month decided who to give it to. Part of the whole point of the original jar is that you give the change, no strings attached. If the person you give the jar to wants to spend all the money on crack, that's fine. (I'm pretty sure that exact sentiment wasn't in the book, but still.)


The fact that kids feel it's OK to ask for $400 items on an Angel Tree shows how deluded we all are about how other people live. People seem to think that living "middle class" means swanning around Pottery Barn rooms, Mom in Seven jeans with $200 highlights and Disney once a year. That's how a middle class family feels pressured (entitled?) to live by the images of "everyday Americans" media. Of course that's ridiculous, the math does not work at all, but a whole lot of people bought a whole lot of crap they thought they needed to be average folks. Witness the current financial clusterf*ck. So if you're a kid looking for an Angel gift from some anonymous "Average American" donor there's NO DOUBT you're going to ask for a Wii. Because Richie's got a garage full of them already, right?

So yes, I saw an Angel Tree full of xboxes and wiis and yes, it annoyed me. Not because the kids were audacious enough to ask for expensive crap, but because it is just another example of how completely out of touch we are as a nation with what we can afford.


Oh, I should mention that the Angel Tree I saw had all ornaments from kids 15 and over, and all wanted xbox/wii/ipod. Maybe the younger kids were plucked off before I got there?

At any rate, kids 15 and over know the deal on both how much these items cost and who is actually buying them, I think. Again, I don't blame them but I do think it's a larger problem.


One of my former employers did a "family tree" at the office for an orphanage in NC. I just grabbed two angels off the tree on my way to lunch. At lunch, I happened to read what was requested and it made me cry. What 8 and 10 year old girls would want underwear and bras for Christmas?! But sadly, this is what they asked for. I haven't seen a giving tree in years though, like Emmy.

I feel that if a child wants a Wii, no matter their income, should ask for it. Kids really have no concept of money when it comes to Christmas. Plus why should only wealthy kids dream big?! I think many of the grumpy adults forget what they asked for as kids.


There is a giving tree at my daughter's preschool, but all of the wishes were out of my price range - bikes, karaoke systems, things like that. (I am guessing that the tags with lower-ticket items were scooped up by parents in the morning class.) It doesn't bother me, I just wish I could help out more. We did the giving tree at the mall instead, though, and bought a baseball glove and ball for an 8yo boy. The kids enjoyed picking it out. I'd totally forgotten about the online giving tree - thats really cool.


Every year we buy a couple toys -- a couple for a toy drive that my office does, a couple for Toys for Tots. A few years ago we participated in an adopt-a-family kind of program at Christmas through my husband's work. What was a little strange was that it was for four adults living in one household and one child. They needed a lot of household items -- dishes, towels, etc. -- and also asked for clothes for the adults and the kid with sizes of everyone. I felt kind of weird about a household of adults getting all that stuff. Four adults and you can't get towels? But, since I had no way of knowing what the story is, I just put it out of my mind and enjoyed picking stuff out. We also made sure to include gift receipts so that they could return the stuff and get stuff more in their taste or food or whatever. Because, honestly, asking for handouts has got to be rough and I hope that our small contribution helped them to get on their feet or just feel better about life. And, hey, maybe make the kid feel like part of a very average family.



I think the grumpiness is an effect of wanting these kids to dream small - not only to keep them in their "place", but also to not have to feel like she's disappointing them by not meeting their expectations.
When kids have dreams that are unrealistic it's pretty heartbreaking, and some people can't deal with that in a mature fashion.


Millie helps sponsor a giving tree at her school every year. Usually, the requests are for toys. This year is quite a bit different. Lots of requests for stuff like baby bottles, toilet paper and roach spray. Now THAT'S heartbreaking.


My guess would be that no small part of the anger that people are displaying at the big-ticket and brand-name requests is anger that's displaced from their own lives. Life has become financially much harder for many people who didn't expect it; people who thought that they were comfortably off are no longer feeling so. If you're having problems affording things in your own life, it's hard to see someone else asking for something you perceive to be unaffordable.


I work with children of all income levels. I have to say I absolutely understand all sides of the story. On the one hand, the poor kids know they're poor, and why not let them have something that's new, and theirs, once in a while? We push consumption on these guys and then get cranky when they buy it - whose fault is that? On the other hand, there is a subset of people who just assume that the big-ticket items will come to them. I'm thinking about a kid my organization has done so much to help, up to and including daily rides to and from his home. The organization is buying his family Christmas gifts again this year, as it has for several years running. When asked what he wanted this year, he asked for an iPod, even though he got one last year. His take on it was, he wanted a cooler one, so he gave his to his mom, knowing he can ask for (and will get) a new one this year. I get the sense that a lot of the kids in that subgroup have parents who don't deal with money realistically themselves (buying expensive items on credit when making rent is difficult, for instance) and that's a major reason why the kids have an unrealistic view of finances. If you don't understand how money works, and you see people all around you with expensive things, then it's only natural to think those things come easily and are reasonable to request. I don't think we've done this family any favors by fulfilling their requests year after year, by the way. I'd rather give the kids a cash card, have them make a list of their wants and needs, and then shop with them to show them how money works and how far it goes (or doesn't go). Then perhaps the kid could get one present that's an outright gift at the end. I decided this year to participate in a senior citizen giving tree just so I wouldn't have to deal with some of these very issues.

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