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THIS GUEST OPINION PIECE BY: Jessica Machado is a freelance writer and former contributor to the Fall River Herald News. She is also a former radio host at WSAR and political blogger.
As the Christmas season kicks off, communities across the SouthCoast will begin to find ways to help make this Christmas a better one for struggling families. Hundreds of families received turkeys and food this past Thanksgiving thanks to the dozens of groups asking for donations. Many non-profit organizations and other groups will be hosting toy drives to make sure our youngest residents have presents to open on Christmas Day.
Throughout my life I have both been a recipient as well as a donor to these types of programs, blessed to have had help when times were tough and even more blessed to give back when times were good.
Yet perhaps only now that my youngest of four children is 12 years old do I realize the forgotten group of the most in need. There is no shortage of community toy drives but these drives often say they are for ages 12 and under. For those willing to donate, I know how easy it is to walk into Walmart and buy 10 $10 toys and drop them off feeling like you did your part. It is a fact: it is easy and it is cheap to make a five-year-old happy. Crayons, Play-Doh, Matchbox cars, blocks, books – unbelievably easy gifts to buy that make a big impact on a small child.
But what about that 12-year-old girl, working her way through middle school and the most challenging of years, and receiving no Christmas gifts? What about the 13-year-old boy who is still a child at heart? Why no gifts for the 15-year-old who is too young to work but already wishes he had a job to afford headphones? All these children will be heading back into school after Christmas break with nothing new to wear or share.
These are still children in many ways and what makes me the most sad is that they, more than any 5-or-7-year-old, will feel the sting of no gifts for Christmas. They will feel the poverty of Christmas morning with nothing to open. I cannot imagine the feeling of seeing social media posts on Christmas Day as a teen without gifts to open. Some of these teens will perhaps even have younger siblings who will get those donated toys while they sit empty-handed.
The teenage years are so emotional and are already difficult to navigate through. Feeling left out this time of year can make those emotions so much worse.
I asked my own children for gift ideas to buy for peers in need and we came up with this list:
Amazon gift card
Dunkin’ or Starbucks gift card
LED strip lights
Bath and Body Works lotions and sprays
Hair gel or body spray
Champion or Nike hoodie (Burlington and TJ Maxx have some for under $20)
Headphones or earbuds
Snacks and candy
Gift certificate to get a haircut
Gift certificate to get nails done
Patriots or Red Sox hat or hoodie (Walmart has a great selection)
Refresh on school essentials like pens and pencils
Gift card for the movies
Popular posters for bedroom walls (include tape or pins to hang)
Portable speaker (Big Lots and Family Dollar have awesome light-up ones for under $20)
V bucks or other gaming gift cards
Bed in a Bag comforter and sheet set
Make-up essentials like lip gloss, mascara, brushes and nail polish (and remover)
Tablet (there are some great ones for around $50 on Amazon if you would like to splurge)
I encourage you to reach out to your local middle and high school and ask them if they can privately offer you the ages and gender of a few teens in need and this year, instead of donating to the same younger children, donate to the ones that grew up but are still in need. Every single city or town has families with teens in need this holiday season, even if you don't know who they are. They are there.
CHECK THEM OUT: 100 years of Christmas toys, gifts and fads
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