The catalog arrived in Susanne Aylward’s mailbox at an opportune time.

The Greenfield mother of four had been trying to impart a lesson: “I was trying to reinforce for my kids that Christmas isn’t about material things,” she said.

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When a catalog arrived with ideas for gifting in honor of someone, with the actual item going to a person in need around the world, Aylward found herself leafing through the pages. She selected a gift in honor of each of her children — chickens, medicine, school supplies and Bibles.

“It was so difficult to narrow it down,” she wrote in an email to the Daily Reporter. “… There is so much need in the world.”

With selections made to the organization, World Vision, Aylward received cards in about two weeks to present to each child. She hung the cards in their bedrooms.

“The kids actually thought it was pretty cool,” wrote Aylward, a member of Mt. Lebanon United Methodist Church. “There are pictures of the kids on the card, so they feel like they helped other kids.”

A number of organizations offer such opportunities for giving, and some Hancock Countians are finding it a meaningful way to shift focus away from self in a season of gifting.

Greenfield-based World Renewal International publishes a Haiti Gift Catalog. Ten dollars buys a soccer ball; $25, a flock of chickens to provide income for a family; $3,500, a water purification system for a community.

Mike Wilkins, Missions and Outreach Minister at Outlook Christian Church, said there’s been a catalog in the past for a different organization serving Haiti, Haitian Christian Outreach, which Outlook has partnered with in the past. But Hurricane Matthew and other factors hampered a catalog this year, he said. Still, a website displays options for possible gifts, ranging from $35 for a visit to the doctor to $150 for a compressed earth wall to help build of a hospital, church or school.

Kim Clark of Greenfield has in years past selected animal gifts she thought would suit the personalities of her grown children. This year, she’s considering goats, joking, “We’re Cub fans.”

She supports this kind of gifting but emphasizes that needs exist year ’round, not only around Thanksgiving or Christmas, and acknowledges that some might prefer a local gift such as to Love INC or the Hancock County Food Pantry. She also urges gift-givers to do their homework on an organization to make sure most of the money is going to the actual work. From her own research, when it comes to global gifting, she feels comfortable with Heifer International.

She also finds the stories in its catalog — for example, about how livestock gifts generate an income for a family — compelling.

“It doesn’t give a handout as much as educating. … The catalogs are full of stories of how they educate and how that has impacted the entire community,” Clark said. “It takes them out of poverty and gives them an income that expands throughout their community. It just speaks to me.

“I do think it’s fascinating … how a community can be changed or transformed.”

This kind of gifting is a great option for people who don’t need anything, Clark said. Adrienne Johnson of McCordsville thinks so, too.

Like Aylward, Johnson has ordered gifts from World Vision. In the past, gifts given in her family have included a flock of ducks, a goat and helped fund a well built by local laborers.

“The funds, to World Vision at least, go toward ‘teaching a man to fish,’ if you will,” wrote Johnson, administrative assistant and community leader at Harvest Church in Mt. Comfort. “So they don’t send a crew in to do the work; the funds are used to educate (and) provide jobs as in the case of building a well.”

In such gifts, she finds an impact that lasts beyond the season.

“It’s a very nice way to essentially make a donation in honor of someone instead of just buying more stuff that they probably don’t need anyway,” she said. “I’m a fan of these kind of gifts, myself.”

Set your sites

The organizations mentioned in this story who offer charitable gifting ideas, plus others mentioned by people we interviewed, can be reached at these sites:

Compassion International:

Haitian Christian Outreach:

Heifer International:

Kiva loans to international small businesses:

Lutheran World Relief catalog with gifts such as emergency water filters, livestock, seeds, etc.:

Author photo
Anne Smith is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at