This is the first in a week-long series we’ll be offering on gifts. We’ll focus on charity and local shopping with a new article (or two) every day this week.

by Paula M. Riley

Jami Dolby (left) and Sue Thomas prepare food for delivery at Meals on Wheels, Chestnut Hill. (Photo by Shannon SImcox)

With so much gift giving during this holiday season, it is easy to become overwhelmed and lose sight of the “reason for the season.” This year, when you create your list, consider making a donation to a local non-profit organization in the gift recipient’s name.

Donations to organizations allow you to personalize your gift in the same way you would pick the perfect scarf, book or necklace. By reflecting upon your gift recipient’s passions and interests, you can choose an organization whose mission and purpose best support these passions.

Chestnut Hill Meals on Wheels, in its 35th year of operation, provides two fresh, nutritious meals each weekday to homebound individuals throughout Chestnut Hill, Mt. Airy, Wyndmoor, Erdenheim, Flourtown and Oreland. Meals are delivered by caring volunteers, many of whom stay to chat with the clients at each visit, sometimes bringing their young children along. Meals on Wheels clients very much look forward to this daily interaction.

Your gift of $50 provides 10 meals for one week, a $150 gift promises meals for three weeks and $500 provides meals for ten weeks! All donations are tax deductible and donors will automatically receive a receipt for tax purposes. If your donation is a gift, simply provide the name and address of the recipient with your donation, a card will be sent to the recipient informing them that a gift has been made in their name.

The gardeners in your life may want to help Our Mother of Consolation Parish School re-cultivate its School Horticulture Club. Last winter’s severe snowstorms destroyed the school’s greenhouse. The Chestnut Hill Community Fund awarded a generous grant of $4,000, but another $1,500 is needed to rebuild the greenhouse with a heating system and durable materials able to withstand winter so that OMC students can resume lessons on plant growth and development.

Prior to the demise of the greenhouse, the students had produced more than 300 vegetable plants. Last fall more than 250 flowering cyclamen plants were grown for distribution to the homebound in the Chestnut Hill area as part of the OMC Society of Saint Vincent de Paul’s regular visitations. Contributions are tax deductible and a documentation letter will be provided.

A gift of membership not only supports the selected organization, it affords your recipients the chance to enjoy activities associated with the organization all year long. Consider it the gift that keeps on giving.

A membership in the Morris Arboretum is guaranteed to offer seasonal fun and discovery all year long and help maintain 92 acres in Chestnut Hill. Membership provides unrestricted funds to Morris Arboretum that supports virtually every aspect of its operations – staff salaries, public programs and even utilities are just a few examples. Visit The Shop at Morris Arboretum to purchase a gift of membership there, among many other wonderful and unusual holiday gift choices.

Grace Asperin tends to the Green Roof on Morris Arboretum’s new Horticulture Center at Bloomfield Farm. (Photo by Paul Meyer )

American philosopher, educator and editor Mortimer Alder once said, “The purpose of learning is growth, and our minds, unlike our bodies, can continue growing as long as we live.” Staff and instructors atthe Mt. Airy Learning Tree have witnessed this growth for more than 30 years.

The Mt. Airy Learning Tree (MALT) offers more than 300 classes, three terms a year. Classes such as “Learn to Swim,” for both children and adults, can be a truly life-altering, confidence-building experience. MALT strives to keep quality high and course fees low to achieve the greatest accessibility.

It nurtures and supports not only other nonprofits and businesses in our neighborhood but also many artists and entrepreneurs. A gift to MALT at this time will benefit its “Make This Our Home” capital campaign to ensure that its costs are fixed and its model of neighbors teaching neighbors will endure.

You don’t need to have a terminally ill child or even be a parent to know how important it is to help families during life’s greatest crisis. The George Fund at Keystone Hospice provides care and support to terminally ill children and their families.

Pediatric nurse visits, creative arts therapy, durable medical equipment and prescription medications all allow children to stay in the comfort of their own homes. The Fund was established in honor of George Hedges Pappert who died in 2008 just eight days before his fifth birthday and 18 months after being diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor.

Anyone who has watched a loved one suffer from a terminal disease knows how difficult each and every day can be. Donations to the fund will offer young children, their siblings and parents a moment or two of the peace that this holiday season promises.

Find contact information for these organizations below.
Meals on Wheels:  215-233-5555
Morris Arboretum: 215-247-5777 x151
Our Mother of Consolation School: Bruce Hagy, Principal,, 215-247-1060
The George Fund, Keystone Hospice:  215-836-2440.