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Putting The Giving Back in Thanksgiving

GRAPHIC: Black Friday, the kickoff of holiday shopping, encroaches on Thanksgiving this year, with major retailers starting their sales on Thursday. One antidote to galloping consumerism is #Giving Tuesday.
GRAPHIC: Black Friday, the kickoff of holiday shopping, encroaches on Thanksgiving this year, with major retailers starting their sales on Thursday. One antidote to galloping consumerism is #Giving Tuesday.
November 27, 2013

GREENWICH, Conn. - Black Friday is starting on Thursday this year, with major retailers moving up the kickoff of their holiday sales to Thanksgiving Day. In response, last year the #GivingTuesday movement sprang up, aimed at making the Tuesday after Black Friday and Cyber Monday a day of giving.

Volunteers on Call is one of what's grown to more than 5,000 partners in Giving Tuesday, which seems to be losing the "hashtag" prefix that helped it explode on social media 12 months ago. The Greenwich group's executive director, Juliana Collamer, said she is dismayed to see big retailers opening on the holiday.

"So many people in this country have misgivings about that," she said. "Thanksgiving should be about giving thanks and giving back. It shouldn't be about 'When do the sales start and how much bang can I get for my buck?' "

Retailers rely on the period between Black Friday and Christmas for a major portion of their annual sales. Giving Tuesday argues for a pause to consider sharing over shopping.

"Every year, we hear a lot of people complaining about - they think things are too consumer-focused," said Henry Timms, interim director at New York's 92nd Street Y, who is credited with coming up with Giving Tuesday. "What we hope is that Giving Tuesday gives them a chance to really put that complaint to good use and think, 'How can I give something back?' "

Collamer said her group got the town's First Selectman to formally declare Dec. 3 Giving Tuesday in Greenwich.

"We're going to be launching a suit drive on Dec. 3," she said, "and with the suit drive we're going to collect suits for homeless individuals who are looking to interview and need something to wear."

This year, Timms said, Giving Tuesday is putting a spin on the fad of taking "selfies," photos of themselves that people share on social media. He called it the "UNselfie."

"So," he said, "the 'UNselfie' takes that idea and says, 'Actually, share a picture of something more important. Share a picture of you doing something useful for others, Share a picture of a cause that matters deeply to you. Do something unselfish around Giving Tuesday.' "

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - CT