Our Lady of Mercy Alternative Christmas Gifts
The Advent and Christmas seasons invite us to prepare for the coming of Jesus’ rebirth into our lives. Responding to this invitation requires a quiet heart and openness to His message to us. Unfortunately, the frantic pace of the preparations for the secular celebration of the holiday often overshadows our desire to spend our energies focusing on “the real reason for the season.”
The Alternative Gift Catalogue was created to help reclaim the true meaning of Christmas. Instead of spending too much time or money buying gifts for people who already have everything they need or want, perhaps we can honor friends and family by making a donation or buying a gift from outreach ministries who serve the Christ among us who are poor and in needy. Eight of the ministries have a connection to Our Lady of Mercy in some way. Two additional suggestions, CRS and Heifer International, offer unique gifts that both honor your recipient and help others around the world to attain a better life.
Perhaps after reading through these organizations, you may wish to talk to family and friends about a way to respond. Circumstances may prohibit a monetary donation; perhaps time given in service is what God is asking of you. Of course, there are other outreach ministries that would appreciate whatever contribution you may wish to make; the list here is certainly not exhaustive and meant to serve as a suggestion for your consideration. By donating your time or treasure as a gift, you honor not only those remembered by your gift, but also Jesus, who had a special love for those who were poor and in need.
Catholic Relief Services “Work of Human Hands Catalogue” features unique, handcrafted items made by artisans across the globe. CRS partners with SERRV, a non-profit organization that helps poor and marginalized artisans build a better future through selling their items under fair trade conditions. The catalogue features items in home décor, kitchen, food, clothing, jewelry, toys, and holiday categories, and each item has a personal story behind it. If you love finding gifts that are out of the ordinary, this is the catalogue for you! Shop online and read SERRV artisan stories at www.serrv.org/crs_handcraft?c=crs or call for a catalogue at 1-800-422-5915.
Heifer International’s “The Most Important Gift Catalogue in the World” will help you honor your family, friends, or business associates with gifts that help struggling families around the world lift themselves out of poverty. Heifer’s mission is to work with communities to end hunger and poverty as well as care for the earth. Your gift of animals, such as chicks, geese, pigs, goats, and heifers, provides nutritious food, and clothing, while the extra income gives the recipient the financial means to provide education for their children, medical care, and decent shelter. In addition to the gift of the animal, families receive education and training to improve nutrition and generate income in sustainable ways. Heifer’s “Passing on the Gift” program allows the recipients to give the offspring of their animal to other families, thus increasing the quality of life to others in their village. Besides donating animals, gifts to promote women's empowerment, support sustainable farming, and providing basic needes are now available, as well. Be the first in your neighborhood to give the gift of a goat (or some other animal!) by visiting Heifer’s online catalogue at www.heifer.org or call 1-855-9HUNGER (1-855-948-6637) for a paper catalogue.
Langley Park Parish Partnership was begun in August, 2008 when Our Lady of Mercy joined St. Elizabeth in Rockville, St. Camillus in Silver Spring, and its mission church, the Spanish Catholic Community of Langley Park (CC-LP) in a parish partnership. This partnership is committed to developing a relationship among our parishes based on sharing our Catholic traditions and spirituality, the special and varied talents of our communities, and the blessings we can offer in service outreach to those in need. The Partnership offers opportunities for service in a food pantry, teaching English and other professional skills, coordinating the celebration of bi-lingual liturgical services, and working with the youth of CC-LP. For more details on how to help with Partnership activities, call Kim Fiorentino at 301-230-6567 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mercy Health Clinic is a free, not for profit, non-sectarian, community based volunteer organization which provides quality medical care to uninsured, low-income residents of Montgomery County. The idea of the clinic was conceived in the late 1990s by Our Lady of Mercy’s Social Concerns Committee, whose members saw that the needs of many uninsured adults in the upcounty area were not being addressed. Since then it has grown from a small, 3-room facility in Germantown to its present location in Gaithersburg. The clinic provides primary and specialty medical care for major chronic medical conditions. Lab tests, x-rays, medicines, imaging studies and certain cancer screenings and specialty clinics are also available through a network of clinic partnerships. Mercy Clinic is unique among the county’s safety net clinics in that it relies on volunteer physicians to provide services for its patients. Medical providers, registrars, eligibility teams, data entry people all volunteer their services; many nurses and interpreters also serve in this capacity. Bi-lingual speakers fluent in Spanish are in great need at this time. To learn about volunteering opportunities call the Volunteer Coordinator Stuart Portilo at 240-773-0305 or email him at email@example.com; to make a monetary donation, call the Development Coordinator at 240-773-0334, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Potomac Community Resources, Inc. (PCR), founded in 1994 by Our Lady of Mercy parishioners, now serves over four hundred teens and adults with developmental differences and their families. PCR provide over 30 innovative therapeutic, social, recreational, and respite care programs throughout Montgomery County. PCR’s operational efficiency and good governance have led the Catalogue for Philanthropy to recognize PCR as one of the best small charities in the Washington area. Donate online at www.pcr-inc.org or call 301-365-0561 to discuss donation options. Adults and teens over 15 are welcome to volunteer for a wide range of PCR activities held during the day, evenings, and weekends. No previous experience is required; volunteer time as schedule allows. For more information visit the Volunteer link at www.pcr-inc.org or call Program Coordinator Melissa Wyman at 301-365-0561.
St. Joseph's House, located in the Forest Glen neighborhood of Silver Spring, is dedicated to serving school-aged children with multiple and severe disabilities and their families. St. John the Evangelist parishioner Dan LaHood offers home-based care before- and after-school, respite care two weekends a month, and emergency 24-hour care up to two weeks. Children receive nutritious meals and medical care is provided for each child. The children are also able to acquire skills through a Work Training Program. Visit the "Contact Us" link at www.saintjosephhouse.net or call 301-681-5784. You can send financial contributions to St. Joseph's House, 1505 Cody Drive, Silver Spring, MD 20902.
SCAMP (Summer Camp at Mercy Parish), another outreach started by Our Lady of Mercy parishioners, is now in its twenty-fifth year of providing a fun week of supervised activities for underprivileged children ages 5-9 from parishes in SE Washington. During five days in June, the children take part in field trips, swimming opportunities, arts and crafts, games and computer activities and form special friendships with their volunteer high school counselors. Donations to SCAMP help defray the cost of bus transportation, activities, materials, and food. Contributions to SCAMP can be made to Our Lady of Mercy; indicate “SCAMP” on your envelope or check. For information on the camp’s needs, call Sister Pat Mensing at 301-365-1415 or email her at email@example.com
SOME (So Others Might Eat) is in its 44th year of ministering to those who are homeless and poor in Washington. Our Lady of Mercy has been contributing to SOME’s Provide a Meal Program for over 25 years and continues to serve in this outreach by providing funding for meals, delivering baked goods, and helping to serve the noon meal on the second Sunday of each month throughout the year. Visit SOME’s website, www.some.org, to find a variety of gift and volunteers opportunities, ranging from direct service to preparing Shoebox gifts or ordering from SOME’s wish list on Amazon.com to make monetary donations and reading how your gift of $5 or more can make a difference. SOME will send cards telling the recipient about your gift in their name. If you have any questions, visit SOME's website: www.some.org. If you are interested in learning more about the Sunday volunteer experience, please call Ralph Ours at 301-943-0364 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shady Grove Pregnancy Center in Gaithersburg is in the business of saving the lives of the unborn. The Center offers five programs which support its mission to assist women who are in distress due to an unplanned pregnancy. The Pregnancy Program helps women to examine options from a life-affirming point of view; the Sonogram Program offers limited obstetrical ultrasounds. Parenting programs prepare first-time mothers and fathers for parenthood. The Material Assistance Program provides cribs, car seats, diapers and strollers as well as formula, maternity wear, and baby clothes. The Spanish Program provides services to the growing Latino community. Call Mary Ann Feder at 301-963-6223 (Tues-Thurs) for information about volunteering or making donations.
St. Martin’s Food Pantry in Gaithersburg distributes non-perishable food items to needy families every Monday throughout the year. The current recession has made this ministry more important than ever to an increasing number of people. Our Lady of Mercy delivers donated items on the first and second Sundays of the month. Parishioners also collect bread and other pastry items at local supermarkets and bring the donations on Monday mornings. St. Martin’s is always grateful for monetary donations to purchase food that supplements the Monday distributions. If you are interested in helping with monthly deliveries, call Kim Ford at 301-452-4759 or email her at email@example.com. If you would like to help with the bread deliveries, call Anne Blum at 301-838-0061.To make a monetary donation, call Pantry Coordinator Chuck Smith at 301-208-1858.