Gag gift exchanges seem to be the new normal for holiday parties, and it’s easy to understand why. You don’t have to spend hours deliberating over the “perfect gift” that shows how much you know your third cousin twice removed. And then said third cousin doesn’t have to pretend that she really needed those new oven mitts.
Gag gift exchanges are fun – and they’re easy on the pocketbook. My family puts a $5 limit on the exchange. Now, I have mastered the skill of Goodwill shopping for my gag gifts. Thrift stores are always great places to look for low-budget exchanges because our stores have so many unique items.
I see gag gifts as falling into two categories – ones that could be re-purposed and ones that are completely useless. The type of gift you buy really depends on your audience, what type of reaction you are looking for, and the mood you’re in. On a recent trip to the Benson Park Plaza Goodwill store, I found a few example of both.
On the more useful side, there is plenty to choose from. Goodwill has odd decorations, interesting pillows, or unusual household tools. Today, I found a Bubbles powerpuff girl pillow that could be re-purposed as a kid’s toy, three kind of cute half-man half-cupcake holders, a dancing chicken dressed as a Christmas tree that would be a unique decoration, and a creepy or cute sitting woman.
Then their are completely useless gag gifts. This category is definitely where my preference lies. I want the reaction from my gift to be something like “Uh… what? Where did you even find this? And why?” (To which I answer, “Yes. Goodwill. Because it’s awesome.”)
There were some great finds at Benson Park this trip. First up, a really creepy and sad seal statue. This seal could haunt your dreams – perfect. Next, a “Groovy Friends” door hanger. These two groovy chicks are just hanging out, playing on their cell phones – awesome. Third, a white toy cowboy hat – necessary. And last, my favorite, a copy of the riveting novel “Camcorder Basics” for those of us stuck in the 90s.
The best part about all of these gifts is the price – everything on this list was less than $3, which is well under my family’s $5 limit. And when you shop at Goodwill, you help people in our community find meaningful employment. People like Michael, who you can read about here.
Before YouthBuild, Michael’s life was not easy. He experienced bouts of homelessness and was a high school dropout.
“My life was horrible,” said Michael. “I was just sitting around wasting time. I couldn’t keep a job.”
It was a radio ad for Goodwill’s YouthBuild program that encouraged him to apply. While he wasn’t completely convinced the program would be a good fit, Michael enrolled anyway. After two weeks of probationary mental toughness exercises, Michael knew YouthBuild was for him. He was finally going to receive the help and support he needed to find a better place in his life.
Shortly afterwards, Michael made some bad decisions. He was convicted of a felony and was incarcerated. For the next two months, Michael sat in his cell, thinking about how he ruined his chance of changing his life. But the YouthBuild staff didn’t give up on him. They helped Michael work through the corrections system, keeping him on track to be released on time. Michael was able to re-enroll in YouthBuild, and in just one month he passed his required GED tests.
According to YouthBuild Manager Norman Barnes, Michael continues to strive for success. “Michael has served as a role model to other Youthbuild participants in the current class. He continues to provide leadership while involved in the follow-up process.”
Currently, Michael is taking classes at Metro Community College and working a full-time job that Goodwill helped him secure. He hopes to become a counselor and work with at-risk youth.
Without Goodwill, Michael doesn’t know where he’d be.
“I wish every person who is struggling like I did could have Goodwill. They made a big impact in my life,” said Michael.