Why This Vt. Family Chose to Skip Christmas Gifts

The Koskiniemis of Burlington decided to donate their holiday gift budget to others

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With Christmas less than a week away, some Vermont families are skipping the rush of buying, wrapping, and exchanging gifts—opting instead to donate their holiday budgets to charity.

“That’s what Christmas is about,” said Monica Koskiniemi of Burlington.

Koskiniemi and her husband, parents of two children under three years old, joined three couples in their circle in deciding to skip most presents this year—both between the friends and within their own families.

Instead, they donated their gift budgets to Vermont Catholic Charities.

“We’re surrounded by things—do we really need more things?” Koskiniemi asked.

“This is unusual,” Mary Beth Pinard of Vermont Catholic Charities said of the donations received this season from the Koskiniemis and a few other families, including some with young children. “As head of Catholic Charities, I’m so grateful for stories like that.”

Regardless of recipients’ faith, a special campaign this week from Vermont Catholic Charities will see more than $50,000 go to folks struggling with rent, utilities, and other costs.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you!” beamed recipient Modelina Chiza, who picked up a grocery card and cash card from the South Burlington office of Vermont Catholic Charities Thursday.

Chiza works as a cleaner and has six kids. She said she was deeply grateful for the support.

“All of my family feels happy,” Chiza said, thanking all the donors who contributed to this year’s advent appeal from Vermont Catholic Charities. “I have gifts for my children. I know my children need to be happy.”

Pinard said generous donations to the cause’s year-round work come from across the state in all sizes.

Those gifts that came from families choosing to have nothing under their own trees this Christmas stuck out as particularly meaningful to Pinard and Bishop Christopher Coyne of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington.

“It comes from a place where you recognize throughout the day, throughout the year, all the things that are already there in our lives that we can we grateful for,” Coyne observed of the choice to forego gifts and support a charity instead.

Coyne noted every family should feel free to celebrate the holiday in whatever way they enjoy.

“People in their own way are generous at Christmas,” Coyne told NECN and NBC10 Boston. “Some choose to be generous outside their families and friends, and be generous in responding to those who are in need and on the margins in our society.”

As for the Koskiniemis, they plan to make giving to strangers instead of to each other an annual tradition.

“Every Christmas we could do more of that would be more meaningful,” Monica Koskiniemi said.

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