Arthur Ford, 72, of Somers Point, has been on the Shore Memorial Hospital board of directors for 37 years, and he wouldn't think of buying holiday gifts for the adults in his family.
"Nobody over 4 feet tall gets a present," he joked.
Instead, Ford makes donations in family members' names to the Shore Memorial Health Found-ation, and they do the same for him.
"We hold to it. They're all adults and married, with kids. They don't need another shirt, and I don't need another necktie," said the attorney with Ford, Flower and Hasbrouck in Ocean City.
Harriet Friedman, of Atlantic City, does something similar. Her husband had a heart attack 15 years ago, and used the services of both Shore Memorial Hospital and the AtlantiCare hospitals. She believes they saved his life.
Instead of giving typical gifts over the holidays, she gives money to the Ruth Newman Sha-piro Cancer and Heart Fund, which supports hospitals in Atlantic and Cape May counties.
She has purchased leaves on the RNS Tree of Life donor walls at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center locations in Galloway Township and Atlantic City, in honor of others. Each holiday season, she sends a list of people she wants to remember, along with a check, and RNS sends gift acknowledgement cards to them.
"Last year and this year donations are down, so it's important to keep it going," she said. "People are always appreciative of gifts in their name."
Friedman spends about what she'd spend on gifts, wrapping and cards for everyone. "It adds up to a lot of money," she said, declining to give a figure.
Donor walls can be particularly useful for holiday gifts. They allow donors to memorialize people who have died or to honor those still living, in a public forum. For charitable organizations, they are a popular way of raising funds.
RNS raised about $17,500 from all of its hospital walls in 2009, but that was down from a high of $41,100 in 2008, according to RNS reports. This year's figures are incomplete, but expected to be down again from last year.The Arc of Atlantic County, which provides services to people with developmental disabilities, has a striking, modern donor wall in its reception area, with a large stained-glass shooting star and photos of clients. It's the first thing you see when you enter its building on Delilah Road in Egg Harbor Township.
To get onto the permanent wall, donors had to give at least $2,500 to the Arc's building fund, which raised $250,000. The agency is now debating whether to continue to use it as a recognition vehicle for other initiatives, said Fund Development Director Deborah Jewell. For $250 to $2,500, donors can get a name on a list that changes annually, inscribed on a large plaque at the corner of the installation. That represents larger donors in the annual campaign, which raises $350,000 to $500,000 a year, she said.
Over at Family Service Association on English Creek Avenue in Egg Harbor Township, which provides a variety of mental health and other services to people in southern New Jersey, the donor wall is also in the reception area. The wall was done by volunteers working on a shoestring budget, said Development Manager Nick White.
"We spent maybe $500 on it," he said of the materials for wooden cutouts of tree trunks, painted leaves, and metallic leaves that are engraved and placed over the painted ones, when the space is sold. Leaves there cost $100 to $1,000.
It has already brought in almost $300,000, White said, largely due to a $230,000 gift that came in last month from a family foundation that does not want publicity, "to sustain Family Service over the next 100 years," White said.
The agency just celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2009.
Shore Memorial Hospital has its own donor walls outside the rooftop chapel on the fifth floor. Space on that wall costs $50 and up. There is also the Legacy Park at the corner of Brighton Avenue and Shore Road, where people can purchase inscribed bricks for $250 and up, said Amy Waters, assistant director of annual giving for the Shore Memorial Health Foundation. The foundation raises about $10,000 per year through the walls and a program for patients to recognized outstanding caregivers, called the Guardian Angel fund.
In addition, there is the RNS River of Life donor wall in the new Shore Memorial Cancer Center. The least expensive listing there starts at $100. An individual plaque runs from $500 to $999, and to have a name listed on the river itself starts at $1,000.
"The higher amount (section) is almost full. The river is running out," said Rose Magliocco, 68, of Longport, who is the volunteer in charge of donor walls for RNS.
The Lions Club of Absecon, which provides services to the blind as well as to the general community, has a wall done in both embossed lettering and braille. It has raised about $6,000 since it was installed about five years ago, when the building was new, said Jack Sutcliffe, of Absecon, the volunteer acting administrator who handles the project. It is mainly a memorial wall for Lions Club members, and tiles there cost $250 to $500.
At the Alcove Center for Grieving Children and Families in Northfield, there is a Memory Lane donor wall. People can buy space to engrave on the pathway, or in childhood scenes around the path, starting at $125.
Gilda's Club in Linwood has a Boardwalk-themed donor wall called the Larry Alper Boardwalk Mural, which executive director Sarah Griffiths calls "whimsical and intricate." The Alper family, which formerly owned the Steel Pier in Atlantic City, gave it to the organization in his honor. It costs a minimum of $100 to honor or memorialize someone with a boardwalk plank, and specialized sites are available for larger amounts of money.
"We bought a boardwalk plank in memory of three of our parents we lost to cancer," said Kathy Verdi, 55, of Port Republic.
She said Gilda's helped her family through difficult times when her father, and her mother-in-law, were ill. So every year around the holidays, her family makes a donation to the group.
"We still remember how kind they were," she says of Gilda's staff and volunteers. "It's a reminder of (our parents') happy lives, and a reminder to us to keep an eye out, and stay healthy."
Contact Michelle Brunetti Post:
In addition to the charities listed here, many other organizations and schools have donor walls and programs for giving charitable gifts in honor or memory of someone special.
•Alcove Center for Grieving Children and Families,
•Arc of Atlantic County,
•Cape Regional Medical Center, 609-463-4040; caperegional.com/index.php/
•Family Service Association,
•569-0239, ext. 1160; fsasj.org
•Gilda's Club South Jersey,
•Lions Blind Center,
•Ruth Newman Shapiro Cancer and Heart Fund, 609-487-1190; rnscancerandheartfund.org
•Shore Memorial Health Foundation, 653-3800;
•South Jersey Healthcare,
•Southern Ocean County Hospital, 609-978-3082;