My favorite gift to buy is that for a stranger

Out of purchasing Christmas gifts for our four kids, three grandkids, puppy, girlfriends, mailman, cleaning lady and our Molino Singleton family, truly my favorite gifts to buy are for strangers. Certainly no one in my family needs more stuff. My kids don’t even live at home any longer, yet you wouldn’t know it from the huge quantity of clothes left behind in their rooms.

Yet underpriviledged people actually are in need of new stuff. Although my family and I are completely blessed to afford new shoes, coats, clothing, underwear, socks, beauty products, cell phones, top-of-the-line sneakers, Ravens gear, gifty gadgets and  stupid stuff on our Christmas lists, multitudes of others are not so fortunate nor can easily order online using a ‘1-click’ manuever.

If I am able to assist strangers in experiencing a merrier Christmas, and help take some of the pressure off of the limited-budget moms and dads, I am all for it. Because my husband and I were able to give our young children very merry Christmases, is the exact reason I want to pay it forward.

Shopping for “adopted kids” armed with vague lists (provided by social workers) of favorite colors, sizes (sometimes), and desired toys, I meticulously choose their Christmas gifts. Even though I do not know the children, nor provided with their names, I want the gifts to be right. I want recipient #E-12 to feel happy as I imagine his eyes widening while he unwraps the Hot Wheels on Christmas morning. I want recipient #E-27 to like the pink pants and shirt adorned with a cute kitty face; and hope it fits her. And the basketball and football intended for the unknown teen I adopted? I imagine him outside dribbling and throwing with his buddies after the wrapping paper is quickly torn off.

Do you remember that sinking feeling as a child unwrapping an item you didn’t want or not receiving that one special gift from Santa, 100 percent certain he would deliver it to your house from his sleigh? (Kids don’t understand the behind-the-scenes of Christmas gift buying – they think elves make everything!)

The last few years I have adopted a handful of homeless children living in Baltimore County shelters through a small but mighty organization called Empower4Life in Parkville, Md. (Their founder and executive director, Jennifer Barrett Cox, is a parishioner of St. Mark, Fallston, with her husband and children; she grew up in St. Joseph’s Church, Fullerton.)

After I selected three children on her Adopt-A-Child list, she sent a second mass email announcing they added 70 additional children. Cox reports a record number of 218 children currently living in five homeless shelters her organization serves; worse is this number is expected to rise. She is very determined each one of them receives a gift plus a new outfit.

Upsetting enough these children must wake up on Christmas morning in a homeless shelter without a house to call home; but then … not to have gifts to unwrap??? BIG sad face.

Empower4Life is only one of countless Baltimore-area organizations – Catholic or otherwise – who seek gift-givers. I strongly encourage you to select one in your area which “calls” to you and pulls on your heart (you will know the reason!) to help a child or senior feel more loved on December 25.

This Christmas season, as your family and mine add unnecessary “stuff” to the pile collecting in our closets, dressers, and cabinets, let us remember there are good and hardworking families in our community who are not as blessed to afford new things. Adopt one or more today!


Following is a partial list of nonprofit organizations in the Baltimore area that asks for Christmas gifts and/or supplies and money. Please note some require the gifts to be purchased and dropped off early to mid-December; therefore, allow yourself ample time for the process. On their behalf, thank you for your generosity.


For more on Advent in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, click here

Suzanna Molino Singleton

Suzanna Molino Singleton

Suzanna Molino Singleton is a native Baltimorean and parishioner of St. Leo Church in Little Italy. A former staff correspondent for the Catholic Review, she launched her "Snippets of Faith" blog for the Catholic Review in June 2018. Suzanna is the creator of a weekly e-column, SNIPPETS Inspiration (since 2006), and the author of seven books, including Baltimore’s Little Italy: Heritage and History of The Neighborhood. Email Suzanna at