Twelve days and many ways to share Christmas

Stumped for original gift ideas? Here’s a suggestion: Look to “The Twelve Days of Christmas” for inspiration.

We aren’t recommending you actually buy the extravagant gifts in the Christmas carol. That would set you back $114,651, according to this year’s Christmas Price Index. Besides, who has space for a flock of calling birds and a bevy of swans-a-swimming?

No, we suggest following the example of a young San Luis Obispo couple we heard about last year. The couple decided to perform 12 random acts of kindness in honor of a family member who wasn’t into store-bought gifts. The couple took photos to document their good deeds, and gave those to the recipient. Among their gifts: One pint of blood (his) donated to United Blood Services; five toys donated to Toys for Tots; and 10 inches of hair (hers) donated to Locks of Love.

We loved the idea so much we decided to borrow it ... and to invite readers to do the same.

So, if you’re looking for ways to make a difference this holiday season, pick an item or two or three from our list. Or, come up with your own gifts of goodwill inspired by the Christmas carol. We’d love to hear your ideas. Email us at letters@thetribunenews.com  .

First Day: A partridge in a pear tree

Never mind the partridge. Instead, focus on trees. Give a gift to the entire community by helping with a tree planting campaign, either by volunteering or donating to a nonprofit that sponsors “green” projects in San Luis Obispo County. One Cool Earth, for example, sponsors vegetation plantings, including an annual tree planting at Whale Rock Reservoir. It’s also involved in community gardening and educational programs, and it offers native plants and oak trees grown at school-based nurseries to the public at a low cost. Check it out at http://www.onecoolearth.org or call 805-242-6301.

Second Day: Two turtle doves

Doves are a traditional symbol of peace. Help SLO County families dealing with domestic violence with a donation (or two) to the Women’s Shelter Program of San Luis Obispo County. Go online to http://www.womensshelterslo.org.

Third Day: Three French hens

It’s be kind to animals day. Spend 30 minutes (or more) with your animal companion — be it fish, fowl, cat or dog — or make a donation to a local shelter or rescue group.

Fourth Day: Four calling birds

Donate four phone cards — or other gift cards — to the Prado Day Center for holiday gifting. Or, donate agently used cellphone to a member of the military. Learn more at http://www.cellphonesforsoldiers.com.

Fifth Day: Five golden rings

Make someone’s day golden by volunteering for five hours. Many churches, shelters and nonprofit organizations need help serving meals and cleaning up after holiday events. Or volunteer to read or write a letter for asenior who may not have great eyesight, or help with yard work, grocery shopping or home repairs. You can also check http://www.volunteerslo.org for opportunities.

Sixth Day: Six geese a-laying

Think edibles. Donate six or more much-needed items to the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County. No goose eggs, please, but the shopping list does include canned fruits and vegetables, canned meat and tuna, canned soup, canned beans, peanut butter, dry cereal and rice. It’s easy: green Food Bank barrels are located in supermarkets and groceries throughout the county. Or, consider acash donation: For every $1 donated, the Food Bank can purchase $10 in food for needy families. Go to http://www.slofoodbank.org and click on Hope for the Holidays.

Seventh Day: Seven swans a-swimming

Surf’s up! Celebrate living on the Central Coast with a donation to AmpSurf, a great organization that runs an adaptive surfing program for people with disabilities, including wounded veterans. Participants come from all over the country. Make a one-time donation or consider pledging a recurring donation of $5 per month. To learn more, go to http://ampsurf.org/donate.

Eighth Day: Eight maids a-milking

Donate to Heifer International, a nonprofit dedicated to ending hunger and poverty throughout the world. A $500 donation purchases a heifer; $50 buys a share. Or donate a stove for a village, an irrigation pump, a gardener’s gift basket, or send a girl to school. There are plenty of other opportunities listed online at http://www.heifer.org.

Ninth day: Nine ladies dancing

Clean out your closets and donate gently used dancing clothes — along with more practical items of clothing — to your favorite charity thrift shop.

Go to http://www.myyp.com/San-Luis-Obispo,CA/charity for a list of nonprofits that accept clothing and other donations. If you have kids or teens who have outgrown their clothes, the Children’s Resource Network at http://www.childrensresourcenetwork.org/outreachapparel.htm has several dropoff sites.

Or buy a warm jacket for someone in need. United Way of San Luis Obispo County is accepting donations for the Coats for Christmas program: http://www.unitedwayslo.org.

Tenth day: Ten lords a-leaping

Make a 10-year-old leap for joy with a toy donation. There are several Toys for Tots dropoff bins around the county, or you can take a new toy to any Cal Fire/SLO County fire station. Firefighters are collecting toys through Dec. 22 for children under the care of Child Protective Services. They ask that you make donations as soon as possible to assist volunteers with distribution before Christmas.

Eleventh Day: Eleven Pipers Piping

We’re going to pipe up for nonprofits dedicated to providing a scarce commodity in our county: affordable housing. One example: Habitat for Humanity is seeking donations for building materials. Go to http://www.habitat.org and click on happy holidays to find out how to make a donation in someone’s honor.

Twelfth Day: Twelve drummers drumming

Last but not least, we sing the praises of music and other art education programs. It’s no secret that classroom programs in music and art have been hard hit by budget cuts, leaving nonprofits and private teachers to fill in some gaps. If you have a young person on your Christmas list, consider music, dance or art lessons as a gift. Or, donate to an arts program that serves youths.

One example: Guitars Not Guns provides free guitars and music lessons to SLO County youths between 8 and 18 to help divert them from drugs, alcohol and gangs. If you have a guitar (or 12) gathering dust, the program could put it to use. It also needs cash donations and volunteer teachers. Go to http://guitarsnotguns.org/san_luis_obispo.php to learn more.