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Fork in the Road: Making the holidays meaningful

The best gifts leave no footprint—and keep on giving and giving
Here are some gift ideas that use few resources and won’t end up in the landfill.

What else is the Christmas holly/daze season if not a time of ritual? Everything from whipping up a Christmas cake from grandma’s old recipe to creating your own new rituals—taking time to contemplate, lighting a special candle, knocking on a lonely neighbour’s door with a slice of that still-warm cake.

I’m betting you don’t really need that black crab cookware set or fifth wooly sweater on your Christmas list just because it has a nicer collar. So without further ado, here are some fresh gift ideas for my annual “gifts that disappear”—things that use few resources from our already beleaguered planet and won’t end up in the landfill.

This year, though, I’m not suggesting any hard goods, even ones you can eat! Instead, let’s go whole-hog—or is that whole-turkey?—for gifts that really keep on giving, and giving…

Most of us have so much, while so many people and worthwhile efforts in Sea to Sky and beyond operate with so little, that I can’t think of a better new ritual than sitting down and thinking about which ones best connect with the people on your list in a meaningful way.

Once you choose, you can make a wee gift card, or some agencies offer e-cards, to tell your lovely giftee they’ve made a delightfully positive difference during this season of hope and kindness. Bonus—your donation, no matter how small, can open people’s eyes and hearts to a new worthwhile cause, and grow the concept of passing it forward by doing the same for the people they want to give to.

Merry wishes for a happy holiday and Christmas, however you spend it.

Sky’s the limit for food needs in Sea to Sky

It feels counterintuitive that a place as seemingly high-end and built for fun and frivolity as Whistler actually has one of B.C.’s fastest-growing food banks. But it’s true. The huge increase in demand for Whistler’s food bank—now with five times more monthly visitors than before the pandemic, plus the subsequent five-fold increase in budget—has been well-described in Pique and CBC News.

According to Food Banks Canada, there’s been a 25-per-cent increase in demand for B.C.’s food banks from last year to this, while the national increase has been about 15 per cent. In short, it’s the most challenging year ever for Canadian food banks.

Pemberton opened its new food bank location this fall, while Squamish has had one for years. Young people, old people, single dads, single moms, families, new Canadians—the need is zooming off the charts as prices for food and rent do the same.

Any donation you make in someone else’s name—or your own!—will give and give again. You can spread the joy directly using each Sea to Sky food bank’s website, or via CBC’s annual B.C. food bank drive (where I’ve volunteered many an hour over the years), and designate whichever one you want.

WAG some tails, waggle some culture

For good reason WAG—Whistler Animals Galore—has been voted Whistler’s favourite non-profit six years in a row. Something about our fine furry friends in need tugs at our heartstrings, and WAG staff and volunteers are so caring, they can’t be beat. This is WAG’s 40th year in operation—can ya believe it!?—so they’re hoping to raise $40,000. Good news: Every dollar donated in December will be matched by WAG’s best friends, Moguls Coffee House and Zog’s Whistler.

You and your giftees can also be best friends—to Whistler’s artists, musicians and all the folks who help build the arts and culture scene here.

Arts Whistler, which holds a special place in my heart, is also celebrating its 40th this year. Buy that culture vulture on your list an Arts Whistler membership, or simply make a donation in their name. Same goes for the Whistler Film Festival—”Canada’s coolest film fest!”—and the Whistler Writers Festival. Whistler wouldn’t be Whistler without any of these brilliant not-for-profit organizations that add a richness to the community way beyond wealth.

Further afield, the needs abound

If you want to spread your giving wings beyond the corridor, there are so many worthwhile organizations doing the hardest of work in the direst of circumstances, you’ll easily find one that beautifully dovetails with your giftees’ values and interests. Here are a few I especially like…

World Bicycle Relief is a great cause that gets much-needed Buffalo bikes into the hands of African girls. It’s championed by longtime friends of Whistler, Bob Wyckham and Stan Greenfield. Along similar lines is Bicycles for Humanity, started years ago by Whistlerites—the late Pat Montani and his wife, Brenda. Both programs deliver much-needed bikes to developing countries around the world.

Another favourite is Orangutan Foundation International Canada. Based in Vancouver and founded by SFU professor and one of my heroes, Biruté Galdikas, OFI operates an effective refuge in Borneo for hundreds of orangutans orphaned or debilitated, often due to those monstrous palm oil plantations I’ve written about.

I only know about OFI because one Christmas years ago I was “given” a young orangutan, Gil, that hubby adopted in my name. Besides the impressive work OFI does, I love their personal touch, including all the photos and cool details I get, like how Gil enjoys eating the sweet inner bark of acacia branches. Today, I was so happy to hear that Gil, who was taken in with a broken arm, is ready to be released into the wild.

Now there’s a gift that’s kept on giving, on so many levels.

Glenda Bartosh is an award-winning journalist who reminds you that the war in Ukraine rages on, and the Ukrainian Humanitarian Appeal is one of the best ways to get much-needed funds there.