Giving gifts with a conscience

If you’re stymied over finding a gift for the person who has everything, or doesn’t want another knickknack to dust, consider giving something that benefits other people or spiritual ministries.

Catholics have many options for gifts, from the edible variety to services for people in crisis.

In South Carolina we have great resources for both traditional and unusual gifts.

At Mepkin Abbey you can find chocolates and toffees for someone with a sweet tooth, CDs of music performed by the late Abbot Francis Kline for your musical friends, or Earth Healer Tea for the gardener on your list. A visit to the abbey is a gift in itself, but items can be viewed on the Internet at and ordered by fax or mail.

For literary friends and family members, Pauline Books and Media in Charles-ton, St. Anthony’s Catholic Store in Greenville and St. Francis Catholic Shop in Columbia offer books galore. The stores also have jewelry, art and music.

Many of the diocese’s churches have produced CDs of music performed by their choirs, including St. Joseph in Columbia, St. Paul the Apostle in Spartanburg, and the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Charleston, whose girls’ chorus has released a new CD titled “Mary at the Cross.”

If you feel like investing some real effort in your gift, consider volunteering in honor of your gift recipient. South Carolina has Home Works, Birthright, St. Vincent de Paul societies and church-sponsored thrift shops that need help.

The cooks in the family can always use more recipes. Many of the churches in the state offer cookbooks with local favorites.

Be a good steward locally by donating your time to one of the many social outreach programs affiliated with local churches. Make sure you call first to see what their specific needs are. The outreach programs include:

Echo House in North Charleston, (843) 554-1244.

Franciscan Center on St. Helena Island, (843) 838-3924.

Neighborhood House in Charleston, (843) 723-7784.

Our Lady of Mercy Outreach Services on John’s Island, (843) 559-4109.

Our Lady of the Valley Catholic Center in Gloverville, (803) 593-2623.

Ridgeville Dominican Sisters in Ridgeville, (843) 875-4817.

St. Ann Catholic Outreach Center in Kingstree, (843) 354-9415.

St. Cyprian Outreach Center in Georgetown, (843) 546-1470

Catholic Relief Services offers a variety of gifts that help on a global level.

The CRS Fair Trade Program connects struggling small-scale coffee farmers overseas with Catholic consumers in the United States. When you buy Fair Trade coffee, you guarantee that the small farmers who grew it will get a fair price, and you help to lift them out of poverty Go online to www.CRS, or

Work of Human Hands is a partnership between CRS and SERRV International that brings you high quality, fairly traded handcrafts and gourmet food items from low-income producers all over the world. When you buy gifts from the catalogue, the people who produce them earn a fair price, get access to credit and training, and maintain long-term relationships with SERRV, rooted in the principles of human dignity and economic justice. Go online to

According to CRS, the average American spends $75 for each person on his or her Christmas list. For the same amount of money, you could help expand a school and buy a desk for children in the Dominican Republic, or help train and equip volunteers in South Africa to care for people who are sick or dying of AIDS.

The CRS Project Catalogue contains 56 humanitarian aid and development projects that can be “bought” as gifts on behalf of a loved one. Discover the different ways a gift from the catalogue can make a real difference around the world by going online to www.CRS

A similar project by Food for the Poor Inc. allows gifts of livestock, food, water, clothing and more to the disadvantaged worldwide. Contributions are tax deductible. More information can be found on Food for the Poor’s Web site at

If you’d prefer to see your gift assist someone or something in your own back yard, consider a donation in a loved one’s name to Catholic Charities.

By supporting Catholic Charities USA, you will help sustain  it in its work to assist local Catholic Charities agencies nationwide and provide consulting and technical assistance programs. Catholic Charities provides a unified national voice and important services that help local agencies maximize their resources as they reach out to provide help for people in need and fill them with hope for the future. Go online to

Nearly 1,800 local Catholic Charities agencies and institutions make up the Catholic Charities network, which annually provides more than 7.1 million people — regardless of their religion, race, or background — with vital services including food for the hungry, shelter for the homeless, and emergency financial assistance for “working poor” families. Go online to

Express your appreciation to our military, who unselfishly place themselves in harm’s way to protect the freedom and security we enjoy, by providing prayer books for them. The Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen Foundation has begun a campaign to send the late archbishop’s “War-time Prayer Book,” written in 1943 for soldiers fighting in World War II, to our soldiers. Call (972) 255-6152 or visit

The old standby, the USO, also offers care packages for military women and men. USO volunteers assemble thousands of care packages that provide a touch of home and show our troops they have not been forgotten. The packages are delivered to members of the U.S. Armed Forces deployed around the world. A donation of $25 sponsors a care package that includes, at a minimum, requested items such as pre-paid worldwide phone cards, sunscreen, travel-size toiletries, disposable cameras and a message from the donor thanking them for their service and sacrifice. Go online to

If you want to help the helpless, consider the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging, a lay Catholic organization committed to creating relationships between sponsors in the United States and children and aging persons in 25 developing nations around the world. You can pray, sponsor, make a contribution or volunteer. Through sponsorship you have the opportunity to connect one-to-one with a poor child, aging person or vocation candidate at a mission site. Your sponsorship offers hope in the face of malnutrition, inadequate medical care, poor housing and lack of access to education. Go online to