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Give Something That Means Something

This post written by American Red Cross CEO and President Gail McGovern

This is a picture of my daughter, Annie and me. Now Annie is 21 years old, and in college, and last year for Hanukkah, we lit candles together via Skype. In addition to her presents, I gave her a gift each of the eight nights of Hanukkah from the American Red Cross Holiday Gift Catalog. She was delighted that a blanket, comfort kit, a measles vaccine, and other gifts were given in her name to people in need. And I was delighted to give them because if there’s one thing we don’t need in our house, it’s more stuff.

We buy a lot of stuff during the holidays. A lot of meaningless stuff. Is it just me, or does it bother you, too?

On September 4, I was privileged to travel with President Obama to Paterson, New Jersey, to survey the damage from Hurricane Irene.  On September 16, I visited Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, with Vice President Biden to see the recovery efforts, not only from Irene but Tropical Storm Lee as well.   In both places, I saw debris-littered streets, flood-damaged homes and devastated people.

While I was in Pennsylvania, wildfires were raging in Texas. Those fires destroyed over 1,700 homes. Heartbreaking is the only word I can use to describe it.

All of the people in these disaster-affected areas needed food, shelter, cleaning supplies and someone to share their burdens. The Red Cross Holiday Catalog, which launched this week, gives me an opportunity to buy just those items for people in need.

Through the catalog, I can purchase meals, blankets and hygiene kits for people in our shelters. I can sponsor caregiver training for the families of wounded soldiers. I can buy swimming lessons and vaccinations for children or purchase an emergency radio for a school.

These are meaningful gifts that provide safety, comfort and encouragement to people who just might have lost everything. To me, that’s priceless. These gifts will never just be stuff. They’ll be small messages of hope that can’t be stuffed into drawers or piled on the curb a year from now.

I’m so proud of our Holiday Catalog. I hope you’ll consider slowing down your “stuff buying” this year, too, and flex your credit card for an American Red Cross gift.

This year Annie is studying abroad, and we won’t be able to celebrate the holiday in person again. But we’ll celebrate over Skype, and she’ll be receiving…Well, I don’t want to ruin the surprise. I’m sure you can figure it out.