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Leave it to my friend Nancy to throw a holiday party that focuses on others instead of herself. Several nights ago she gathered together women from different areas of her life and had us brainstorm about ways to help a family less fortunate than our own. We came up with several ideas, and helped chip in to help Nancy organize a flower basket with gift cards to help brighten the holidays for a family who’s experiencing rough times. It was wonderful to get to know these women, and it wasn’t surprising that Nancy would be able to gather people together who would be excited about this.

That’s just one of several novel ways I’ve found to give this holiday season. I found another when I walked into the Montrose Vons today and saw a display of holiday food bags. Vons filled each bag with food items that would be useful to families at the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank. The receipt for the items is on the outside of the bag. I put the bag in my cart, found the other items I needed at the store, and when I checked out the cashier scanned the receipt on the bag. After I paid, I put the bag in a specially-designated box that was already full of bags purchased by previous customers. It didn’t cost much, but it was nice to know I was purchasing what was really needed.

Of course, one of my favorite ways to give is through the LCPC Christmas Market’s online “store” at I’m biased, as I created the site, but I truly think it’s a fun and efficient way to show people both near and far how much we care for them. You can “purchase” a freezing weather survival kit for a homeless person, a crib for a Kenyan AIDS orphan, business training for a Ugandan micro-entrepreneur working his or her way out of poverty, and much more. You can print out a card and give in honor of someone. I like to choose things that I think will mean something to my friends, and give extra in their name.

Then there are little things we can do. I have a pile of $5 McDonald’s gift cards I keep in my car to give to homeless people who are on the corners in Pasadena. I couldn’t afford this if I saw many more homeless people as I travel around town, and I know that it’s optimal that I give my money to the shelters that can be more fair and efficient in disbursing funds, but my heart goes out to anyone who’s reduced to begging on a corner and at least I know that they’ll use a McDonald’s card to purchase food.