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Community Initiatives Program

Calgary charities offer gift cards

CBC Calgary
December 11, 2009

Click here to listen to the interview.

Calgary charities are offering gift cards as alternative Christmas presents to counter declining funding.

Just as it is for retailers, Christmas is the most important time of the year for charities, but the slumping economy is putting a big dent in annual donations, said Katherine van Kooy, CEO of the Calgary Chamber of Voluntary Organizations.

"It's definitely been a tough year for fundraising. I think it's been similar for a lot of charities," said Harold Pliszka, who runs Helping Youth Through Educational Scholarships (HYTES).

The group is offering gift cards at flat rates, or for amounts to sponsor students in Africa and South America, from one term of classes at $133 or a full school year for $400.

"We just decided this year to come up with a gift-giving card to help people find something to give that isn't stuff, because a lot of people have way too much stuff," Pliszka explained.

"And this way it can also help raise funds to send students to school in Guatemala, Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia."

Ten Thousand Villages, a store in northwest Calgary that focuses on fair trade products, has been offering gift cards for about five years. The non-profit organization supports artists from low-income countries.

"It's wonderful to see so many alternatives. We welcome that. We don't consider that competition, we think: hooray!" said manager Laura Purdy.

"It has been a tough year for most charities and non-profits that … if you don't have the little bit extra, it's hard to find a little bit extra to give. But at Christmas time, people are usually looking to give something and this is an opportunity to do that."

We believe that it will be Africans who will improve the standards of living for Africans and that education is vital to this process.