Blog: Think Inside The Box!

Holiday gift-giving ideas. Volunteering for worthy causes. Caution about charitable organizations.

Let's assume you do not have the financial resources of Los Angeles
billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong
but would like to give some meaningful holiday gifts.  For example, what do
you give post-millennials
who hate everything except Justin Bieber? Please do not donate to an organization of your choice, then
send out cards telling friends or relatives that you've made a contribution
in their name (unless it celebrates
the life a deceased family member or friend).  It shows a lapse in good
judgment and borders on being rude. 
Before you give one dollar to any charity check them out on www.charitynavigator.org
Read the amount of revenue they collect as well as their expenses.  You
be shocked to learn the CEO, administrator or celebrity attached to the
organization is using most of the
funds collected.  Often you'll find that a paltry sum is being used to find
a solution or cure.

There are several options available that will help spread good cheer. 
Think about helping serve holiday
meals at missions around the area.  You might want to contact your church
or temple regarding special
times when congregants can participate in donating time to a worthy cause. 
Operation Gratitude operates
out of Van Nuys Armory and they always need volunteers to help package
holiday boxes for our
troops stationed overseas.  You can email: OpGratVolunteer1@yahoo.com to ask
about dates and times.
You will need their permission to join the massive effort -- they need to
monitor the number of people.
Senior retirement homes, children's orphanages and special needs hospitals
such as Rancho Los Amigos
welcome volunteers during holidays. 
Teenagers can learn a new skill and receive school credit for their time
spent helping others in rehabilitation. 
Many Angelenos fondly recall KABC- Channel 7 weatherman, Dr. George
Fischbeck's annual pilgrimage to
Porterville State Hospital.  He faithfully traveled to the Sierra Nevada
foothills loaded with gifts and toys for
the residents. Viewers were treated to clips of Dr. George holding happy
children on top of ponies -- for so
many kids it was their first ride.  His visits brought tears of joy to the
eyes of most of his viewers.  If you'd like
to visit or volunteer call: (559) 782-2222 or 2286.  Para Los Ninos was
begun on the streets of Skid Row in
downtown Los Angeles. It is a non-profit organization which helps children
in at-risk neighborhoods.  They are
grateful for donations, but also welcome mentors.  You can attend their
Fiesta on December 9, 2012 or call
(213) 250-4800 for more information about how to be of service to this
excellent program.

It's important for children to learn that there's much more to life than
the hi-tech gadgets, games and
texting to which they seem addicted.  Consider giving kids a membership to
the Children's Museum, Tree
People (membership@treepeople.org ), the
Aquarium of the Pacific (aquariumofpacific@lbaop.org), or

self-enrichment classes in languages, art, dance, vocal or musical
instrument training or self-defense.  
Lessons in sports can open new vistas for children too -- golf or tennis
are favorites which can be played
over your lifetime..

If you are an avid Bridge player, spend time teaching youngsters how to
master this excellent game. 
The same goes for Chess.  For kids who like bikes, ask your local bike shop
owner if your child can
learn the basics of bike repair. There is a good school in Colorado which
now prepares people for
certification to become professional.  You might also consider teaching a
child rappelling, skiing or skating,
expert instuction in any of these is a great idea for becoming more active
(for the entire family) while
providing safe practice.

Barnes and Nobel (Bookstar located at 12136 Ventura Boulevard, Studio City,
CA 91604) began a
holiday book donation program a few years ago in conjunction with
Children's Hospital.  Today I chose
a copy of "A Wrinkle in Time", paid for it and signed a book plate.  My
purchase will be delivered to
Children's Hospital and given to a patient.  I prefer to donate anonymously
but Barnes and Noble has
its own set of rules.  Their program is wonderful and you can buy as many
books as you wish to donate.
I recently spoke with the uncle of a two-year old leukemia patient
undergoing treatment at Children's
Hospital who praised the brilliant work they do on behalf of their young

Whatever your decision about the above mentioned holiday gifts, get or
create a certificate or coupon
and enclose related literature, put it in a box and wrap it with holiday
gift wrap. You won't be sorry when
you begin to think inside the box for a change.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Bob Blanchard December 01, 2012 at 02:57 PM
Boy, is Irene on target again. I used to work for a group of charitable health organizations and they would not let another organization join if their expenses exceeded 25% of their revenue. Those that did with some worthy sounding names were just self serving organizations providing high paying jobs for the execs and staff. I also worked for a millionaire boss who was very generous to many causes, but he had a policy of never giving money to a group through a fund raising group, but would only give it directly to the charity. That way his donation wasn't diluted by the commission charged by the fund raiser. We all work hard for what we have and Irene is absolutely correct in urging that you make sure your generousity is being put to it's best use. One way as she points out it to volunteer your time. That way you can see first hand the good your kindness if doing.
Ilona Saari December 01, 2012 at 04:06 PM
When our surrogate daughter was young, we would adopt a family at the local women's shelter here in No.Hollywood/Burbank and find out what the child/ren needed or wanted by reading the kids letters to SAnta, then we go to the mall and find the presents, wrap and deliver them to the kids "from Santa." Tho, our daughter's family was poor, as well, she learned how much better off she was than many others. Her contribution was reading the 'Dear Santa" letters to pick a family, helping me shop and going w// me to deliver the gifts to the shelter.
Ilona Saari December 01, 2012 at 04:07 PM
PS - Great suggestions, Irene. We stopped exchanging gifts years ago and do some of the things you suggested instead.
Irene DeBlasio December 01, 2012 at 05:32 PM
@BobBlanchard Years ago I had a Sunday morning ritual: I'd go to Western Bagel on Ventura Boulevard at Coldwater Canyon. There was a group of "regulars" who always ordered the same thing. We would sip our coffee, chat exchanging news about our families, work, etc., and leave. One Sunday, to everyone's shock and amazement, the clerk handed me a coffee and told me that "someone had already paid". The Angel had paid for about 20 of us. "Cool," said the group of regulars. We were like a group of cheshire cats -- grinning and looking at each other secretly wondering who had bestowed this unusual offering on us? We were not a needy nor underprivileged group. There were some who were commanding huge salaries. Whoever our Santa Claus was, he sure gave us a good idea. As we walked to our cars each of us had decided to keep the message alive. We made a committment to spread the cheer by doing a small task which will make those around us learn the secret -- that they will be uplifted by giving to others. Thank you, always, for being a fan. You are a gift to me.
Irene DeBlasio December 01, 2012 at 05:45 PM
@IlonaSaari I'm sure that you give plenty to your surrogate daughter -- your wedding story was lovely and said it all. I can tell that you and Richard are the kind of people who would cook, serve or volunteer your time for a worthy cause. What we tend to overlook sometimes is that fact that we need to help other hard-working people like ourselves. We can't always do the right thing for people who have nothing. Let's continue to keep the spirit alive by simply helping those around us to become more generous and caring. One of my friends will secretly pay for lunch for a family at McDonald's when she has a little extra cash. Addendum: Don't bother buying coffee for others at Starbuck's -- the self-absorbed "screenwriters" will not notice, not care and not acknowledge that anyone cares. (SHhhhh, genius at work.) LOL Thanks, Ilona -- you rock! xoxoxo
Ilona Saari December 01, 2012 at 06:04 PM
As both Richard and I are screenwriters, we notice and acknowledge when/if someone buys us a cup of coffee <g> -- And we've annomonsly paid for stranger's coffee or burger -- my favorite 'gift' to regular folks is paying for someone behind me at a toll booth.
Barbara Krause December 01, 2012 at 06:44 PM
Well done article...I have done the toll booth payment which was known as pass it on....my father and I loved doing this. To those who donate to charitable organizations I think it is a wonderful idea and have always been cautious about which non profits to choose.
Irene DeBlasio December 01, 2012 at 06:45 PM
@IlonaSaari I know, I know...but I seriously doubt that you and Richard hang out at Starbuck's all day, hogging a whole table with your laptops, cell phones, messenger bags and stuff in order to be inspired. I may be wrong but I'm guessings that you enjoy working in the comfort of your own home. I also guess that you spend money on anonymous giving. Ah, the toll booth charity -- how we Noo Yawkers loved to treat the people following us through the toll booth! Too bad we don't have the opportunity to do that here in So Cal. I'm thinking we need to start paying people to stop driving. LOL
Ilona Saari December 01, 2012 at 06:52 PM
Actually, Richard spends ours in Starbucks - he loves it. It's his office away from his home office in our library and it gets him out of the house. It's also what so many writers did in coffee houses in NY... ;o)
Ilona Saari December 01, 2012 at 06:52 PM
oops - "hours" in Starbucks. <g>
Irene DeBlasio December 01, 2012 at 11:28 PM
@BarbataKrause Hi Barbara! I like your avatar -- the shades and hat are fun. I suppose most of us grew up in places with toll roads and have participated in "pass it on". I was amazed when I first moved to LA that there weren't any because of the freeway system. As for charitable donations I was stunned to find out that one particular charity I made an annual contribution to raised over $5 million a year yet on $48,000 of that went to scientific research. The bulk of the money raised went to "expenses". Now I search the charity on charitynavigator.org to find out how it ranks, what amount of revenue is raised, how much the CEO or celebrity gets and what their expenses are. Many thanks for your comment.
Irene DeBlasio December 01, 2012 at 11:43 PM
@IlonaSaari My husband Ed was a freelance writer when we lived in Manhattan. I took two buses to get my job at the Hearst Building at 57th and 8th -- when I returned home in the early evening he'd very often still be in his bathrobe hunched over his Royal Standard Manual typewriter finishing a story for Photoplay or Modern Screen. (I envied the fact that he could make a living working at home.) When we moved to SoCal he got a job at Universal. He'd leave at the crack of dawn and get home in the evening. Forty years later, when he retired, I put up a refrigerator magnet with a sign, "I married you for better or worse, but not for lunch." Yes, writers need to get out of the house and experience life. I find it almost comical that Ed has never been inside a Starbuck's and doesn't drink coffee.
Ilona Saari December 02, 2012 at 03:55 PM
I'm w/ Ed... tho I do have a cup in the morning, I like working at home in my own office - and sometimes I don't get dressed til after lunch. ;o)
Irene DeBlasio December 02, 2012 at 04:27 PM
@IlonaSaari Now I'm convinced that you and I were separated at birth! After my one cup of coffee in the morning, I enjoy going into my office at home. I love the peace and quiet as well as the view (western sky). Besides, don't tell anyone, I flunked Starbuck's screenwriting course...
Ilona Saari December 02, 2012 at 04:36 PM
LOL - Thankfully, my husband didn't flunk...
Irene DeBlasio December 02, 2012 at 05:29 PM
@IlonaSaari Can we buy tickets to a theatrical release with Richard's credit on it? Ed looks forward to residuals -- still rolling in from all the old television shows.
Ilona Saari December 02, 2012 at 05:46 PM
;o) -- love residuals, but sadly, we don't get too many since too many of the shows Richard (and I) worked on don't rerun (magazine show, news shows and documentaries) -
Ilona Saari December 02, 2012 at 05:47 PM
... and some of our screenplays are still in "development hell" ;o(... Now, his plays are another matter... ;o)
Irene DeBlasio December 02, 2012 at 08:11 PM
@IlonaSaari Tell us all about the plays...we love to go to the theater. My friend, Shirley Kaplan, and I went to every experimental production in New York during the 1960s and very often ended up on stage ad-libbing our way through. For some unexplained reason the director would yell out, "The two ladies in the back row, please step up on stage." Great fun back then. Everything is so serious now -- all this politically correct BS has taken its toll. Keep us posted about Richard's plays.
Ilona Saari December 03, 2012 at 12:29 AM
He had a few plays done in off-Broadway, one "Diamonds" was directed by Hal Prince. Nothing recent here in LA, tho his play "Credo" was last seen at a staged reading w/ Jean Smart and her husband, Richard Gilliland.at the Odessey theater.
Irene DeBlasio December 05, 2012 at 12:26 AM
OPERATION GRATITUDE CELEBRATES 900,000th CARE PACKAGE and PRESENTATION OF 800,000th PACKAGE GIFT: AN ORANGE COUNTY CHOPPER Van Nuys, CA -- Operation Gratitude, the non-profit, volunteer-based Military and Veteran support organization, will have dual cause for celebration when the Milestone 900,000th Care Package rolls off the assembly line, and the special gift from the 800,000th Care Package (sent in June, 2012) is delivered to a returning Soldier on Saturday, December 15, 2012 at the National Guard Armory in Van Nuys, CA. Hundreds of volunteers will be joined by members of the Military, politicians, notable personalities, Motorcycle enthusiasts and representatives from several of the organization's Corporate Friends and Sponsors, to assemble care packages and to honor 800,000th Care Package recipient Spc. Samuel Mancilla, recently returned from Afghanistan, as he receives his custom-built Orange County Choppers' motorcycle donated in partnership with SJO Foundation for Hope and Torque Sports & Performance. Pink's hotdogs will be sold on the premises during lunch. If you would like to volunteer email: OpGratVolunteer1@yahoo.com


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