Gifts are in the cards for updated SHIM holiday program - SHIM

Something is always happening at SHIM

Gifts are in the cards for updated SHIM holiday program

The SHIM Center in Bethel Park

The SHIM Center in Bethel Park is a drop-off point for gift cards and monetary donations, as are all Brentwood Bank locations.

The Almanac – Gift cards often get a bad rap for being impersonal by letting the giver take the easy way out.

Don’t tell that to Jim Guffey.

The executive director of Bethel Park-based South Hills Interfaith Movement wants to see stacks of the cards coming in to his organization, in turn to be presented to people in need.

That’s the basis for Angel Emporium 2.0, the new and, Guffey hopes, improved version of the holiday program that SHIM has run for decades.

“What we asked people to do was go out and make purchases of modest gifts that would cover the range of the entire family,” Guffey said.

From among the items collected, children selected gifts for their parents, and vice versa. As economic conditions have worsened, SHIM is helping more people: some 600 families, or 2,000 individuals, at its food pantries in Bethel Park, Baldwin Borough and Whitehall.

“You have a limited window to get all these gifts in, get the gifts sorted, get the people in, and so what we’ve found is, logistically, it was becoming more and more challenging,” Guffey said.

The solution, as he’ll be the first to admit, is based on the KDKA Turkey Fund, which has evolved into a system of providing gift cards for redemption at supermarkets.

“A lot of people were showing up with turkeys,” he said about donors. “And then you have an inventory issue. And then, how am I getting these out to people? Same context here.”

The reasoning behind Angel Emporium 2.0, though, goes beyond inventory and logistics.

“Our primary purpose is, first and foremost, to meet basic needs: food, clothing, making sure people have homes and that the utilities are turned on,” Guffey explained. “Then it’s a pathway to self-sufficiency.”

To help meet that goal, especially with regard to holiday spending, SHIM is hosting mini-seminars for adults during the holiday parties and distributions to be held at each of its locations, covering topics such as how to shop safely online and how to create a holiday budget and stick to it.

“At the end of the day, January still comes,” Guffey said. “And if the kitchen cupboards are bare, how have we truly helped families?”

While their parents are learning about finances, children will have the opportunity to work on crafts as presents.

“They wouldn’t be hanging in the museum of art,” Guffey observed, “but they’re the best gifts because the kids made them.”

Partnering with SHIM for Angel Emporium 2.0 is Brentwood Bank, which will accept gift cards and monetary donations at all branches. Donations also can be made at the SHIM Center, 5301 Park Ave., Bethel Park.

“We’re asking folks to do this now,” Guffey said. “What we want to do is get all the gift cards in as soon as possible. We want to get the gifts cards out to those we’re serving so that they have the opportunity to take advantage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.”

For more information, visit

Story by: Harry Funk

To read the full story, click here.

Translate »