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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

A Guide to Giving Over the Holidays

Crass commercialism or an attempt to introduce a little Christmas cheer into a Russian December? Whatever one's opinion, flashing signs and blow-up Santas in Moscow's shop windows remind us that this is not just the season to be jolly -- it's the season to spend big.

But for those with more philanthropic leanings, there are a host of alternatives by which people with a bit extra to give can inject Christmas cheer into the lives of some of Russia's many disadvantaged people.

"There are so many charitable causes for people to give to," said Nancy Galloway, director of the Moscow office of United Way International (tel. 251-8921). "If people want to donate money, they may consider our program that gives a cash bonus of about 150,000 rubles to each of the 40 nurses who work in the childrens' cancer center."

Galloway also suggests Sisters of Charity, an organization established by Mother Theresa, as a worthy recipient of Christmas assistance. The charity operates a refuge and a wound clinic for homeless people in Moscow.

This year they will hold five Christmas parties from Dec. 25 to 29 for homeless people. Galloway said four or five volunteers are needed to help staff the kitchen and clean up. Anyone wishing to volunteer should contact Sister Bibiana, 163-4461.

A home for 40 women over the age of 70 operated by the All Saints Orthodox Parish (tel. 264-5003) near Kitai-Gorod is also in need of assistance. "They are planning a Christmas party for these ladies," said Galloway. "Money to help with food would be really welcome."

For those who would prefer to give tangible gifts instead of money, Galloway also has some ideas.

"The Moscow Protestant Chaplaincy (tel. 143-3562) feeds about 1,000 people a day at a city stolovaya. In this instance, something to take home would be a more appropriate Christmas gift. These people can't allow themselves the luxury of flowers or chocolates," said Galloway.

The St. Seraphim Brotherhood, a Russian-American Orthodox charitable organization, feeds 200 homeless people, many of them children, and gives them clothes at Kazanski station twice a week.

They are always looking for volunteers to help pass out food and clothing and of course, any donations -- especially of clothing, soap and bulk food -- from individuals, companies or restaurants are always welcome. They are anxious for donations of coats and boots. Call Antoinette Robertson at 956-4135.

The Salvation Army soldiers work quietly in Moscow, feeding 1,200 disadvantaged people a day, including 400 homeless people from Moscow's Kursky and Pavletsky train stations. Anyone who can help should call Sandra Reid at 259-7214.

With only 14 volunteers hailing from the U.S., Britain, and Sweden Love's Bridge (tel. 323-7051) is a small charity.

"We are a group of volunteers that gives our time and effort to help orphanages and other institutions in Moscow," said Jessica Rothman, 21, a volunteer for the organization. In celebration of Christmas, Love's Bridge has organized musical performances in 15 orphanages. They also teach classes and collect humanitarian aid from Western companies and business people in Russia. They have been busy in the run-up to Christmas.

"Mars has donated 1,000 Mars Bars. Coca Cola has donated 2,000 cans of Coke and Wrigleys has given 2,000 packs of chewing gum," said Rothman. "After this, I think we are going to need the 2,000 toothbrushes, toothpaste and soap donated by Colgate."

Another worthy cause is the International School of Opportunity headed by New Yorker Arthur Stracinski. For more information on the school, which is trying to teach English to Russian orphans, charitable souls should get on the computer and crawl to the school's web-site at

Finally, Action for Russia's Children, or ARC, which supports many charitable causes in Moscow, has a wide range of possibilities for would-be givers at Christmas time.

Sarah Philps, ARC child welfare coordinator, said any gifts that could be given to children with whom the organization works at various Moscow orphanages, hospitals and schools, would be very welcome.

Philps said chocolates, toys and musical instruments are popular. Those interested in finding out more should contact Wendy Stockley at 201-5301.