“Giving for Growth” with Gifts for Life from Episcopal Relief & Development

October 4, 2011

“Giving for Growth” is the theme of this year’s Gifts for Life catalog – filled with ways to delight those on your holiday gift list and help communities worldwide to flourish.

First-time givers will notice that the catalog is divided into sections for easy browsing: cows and goats are in the Animals and Agriculture section, and solar energy systems are under Green Gifts. Supporters familiar with the Gifts for Life catalog will see that a new section has been introduced, with gifts to “Inspire your Community.” This section includes heartfelt stories and group giving ideas to inspire communities to share God’s great abundance – be it a Sunday School class, a book club, or even a family.

“The ‘Inspire your Community’ section includes some wonderful stories from congregations in the US that have pooled their resources to make a difference through Gifts for Life,” said Brian Sellers Petersen, Director for Church Engagement at Episcopal Relief & Development. “We also wanted to remind congregations of the natural tie-in between Gifts for Life and the Abundant Life Garden Project children’s curriculum, which helps children become aware of the needs of the world and how even they can make a difference.”

The Abundant Life Garden Project curriculum is available for free in downloadable modules, from the Christian Formation page of Episcopal Relief & Development’s website.

Episcopal congregations will receive two versions of the Gifts for Life catalog. The version sent in October will be accompanied by a special Gifts for Life poster which can be displayed in the narthex or fellowship hall, and an insert calling attention to Episcopal Relief & Development’s range of free Christian Formation resources. In November, a special holiday edition of the catalog will be mailed with Episcopal Relief & Development’s new Advent Calendar poster.

The Advent Calendar is a new initiative, featuring artwork from the Abundant Life Garden Project, which was drawn by the Rev. Jay Sidebotham, member of the Board of Directors of Episcopal Relief & Development and Rector of The Church of the Holy Spirit in Lake Forest, Illinois. The calendar also incorporates stories and videos from the work Episcopal Relief & Development supports worldwide. The Advent Calendar webpage will include links to the prayers and stories for each week in Advent, and also connect visitors to Gifts for Life, where they can give the gift of the day to a community in need.

“We’re really pleased to introduce our new Advent Calendar,” said Judy Sawler, Episcopal Relief & Development’s Manager for Direct Response Marketing. “Each day of Advent, people will get to read about or watch a video on a particular aspect of our work. We’ve got some great stories, and some brand new videos of projects like beekeeping in Kenya and water systems in Nicaragua. Once people have heard the stories and gotten to know more about the communities we empower to overcome poverty, we hope they’ll want to help by donating through Gifts for Life.”

A popular initiative continuing this year is the “High-Impact Gift” – a designation applied to certain items in the catalog that can help an entire community to grow and flourish. For example, the gift of a community garden, which will provide land, training, tools and seeds for the creation of a small-scale farm, can improve diet and nutrition for a large number of families. Good nutrition helps children to grow stronger and do better in school, giving the whole community a better chance at a brighter future.

Whenever a donation is made through Gifts for Life, the giver has an opportunity to designate the gift in honor of a friend or loved one, and choose how that person will be notified. One option is for an attractive printed card – one for each gift purchased – to be sent to the giver so he or she may personalize it and send it to the intended recipient. Another option, especially handy for “green” or last-minute shoppers, is an e-card, which can be customized online with a personal message and then emailed to one or more recipients. Episcopal Relief & Development’s Donor Services staff are standing by to assist with Gifts for Life purchases, via email at info@episcopalrelief.org, or by phone at 1.855.312.HEAL (4325).

“We’re constantly striving to build stronger connections between Episcopal Relief & Development and congregations around the country,” said Rob Radtke, President of the organization. “Gifts for Life is one of the most fun and engaging ways we do this. We especially encourage churches and church groups to consider integrating Gifts for Life into activities like Bible studies and Sunday School. Gifts for Life provides a great way for people to learn about global needs, and respond to Christ’s call to feed the hungry, heal the sick and welcome the stranger.”

Episcopal Relief & Development is the international relief and development agency of the Episcopal Church and an independent 501(c)(3) organization. The agency takes its mandate from Jesus’ words found in Matthew 25. Its programs work towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Episcopal Relief & Development works closely with the worldwide Church and ecumenical partners to help rebuild after disasters and to empower local communities to find lasting solutions that fight poverty, hunger and disease, including HIV/AIDS and malaria.