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Montana Holiday Gifts Reach Around the World

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 By Deborah Smith/Eric Mack, Public News Service - MT, Contact
December 4, 2006

Helena, MT - The average Montana family is expected to spend at least $440 on holiday gifts this year, according to The Conference Board, and for shoppers stuck for gift ideas, some charities have a few suggestions. Matthew de Galan with the international humanitarian aid group Mercy Corps says they've seen a trend towards making donations in someone's name, in order to make the season more meaningful. He describes his organization's "Mercy Kits" as one convenient way to give direct help to people around the world.

"These gifts provide something really important long after the holiday season has passed, like nutritious food to children in Africa, or money for a loan to help a woman start a small business in Afghanistan."

Reverend Jessica Crist, of the Montana Association of Churches, offers a religious reminder about charity during the holidays.

"Helping one's neighbor or helping the poor is not an option. It's something that our religious traditions require us to do."

De Galan says Mercy Kit sales online have increased every year as people search for unique gifts, either for folks who say they "have everything," to those who say they want nothing. The kits range in price from as little as $20 up to $1,000, and the money is used to fund Mercy Corps' humanitarian efforts, from building infrastructure in areas devastated by natural disasters, to encouraging microbusinesses in developing countries. More information is available online, at www.mercycorps.org/mercykits.

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