"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
November 5, 2014
Gifts that Keep on Giving
by Carolyn Nicolaysen

We have talked about Ebola and hopefully it has inspired you to be more prepared and to acknowledge there are many things that could require us to care for our own needs for days or weeks or months.

We do not know what the future holds, but if we follow the counsel of prophets we can be prepared so we need not fear. Now is the time to get moving forward and just as importantly to share what we have learned with those we love. Will they listen? In many cases they will not, but don’t let that discourage you. When the trial comes you will not want to be sitting home watching others suffer and wishing you had shared.

The season for gift-giving is almost upon us. Not only do the holidays test our imagination and budget, but they can also stretch our inspiration. Begin planning now.

With so many changes in the world economy, weather patterns, medical emergencies, terrorism and societal changes in general, there is so much more to consider other than the usual ties, toys and perfume.

Just in case your friends and family could benefit from a little more emergency preparedness and self-reliance, here are some ideas to help you remember them with creative gift ideas that are fun and practical.

Gift Idea #1: The Theme Gift.

Let those thieves know who's boss. There has been a rise in home burglaries. Why not help your family or friends prepare their home so they won't be easy targets.

Consider: an alarm system, locks for windows and sliding doors, timers for lights and radios, motion detector lighting, prepaid phone to be kept in a safe room, deadbolt lock for a safe room or to replace inferior ones on outside doors, and window coverings to prevent a thief from scouting what you own.

Light: “You light up my life” or quote John 12:35 ─ “Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.” Include glow sticks, flashlights, maybe a flashlight and radio combo, candles in glass jars for power outages, or solar lights that can be charged during the day and brought in at night during a power outage.

Eat, drink, and be merry: Eat: give MRE meals, emergency food bars, or a case of a favorite food. Drink: water pouches for 72-hour kits, water purifier or water storage container. Be merry: a travel game for 72-hour kits or comfort food like brownie mix. Comfort food makes me merry!

Commuter survival: Orange safety vest, large safety glow sticks, work gloves, food and water.

Food storage starter kit: A case or cans of food from each of the food groups Or a started kit for the LDS Bishop’s storehouse.

The weather outside is frightful: Space blankets, rain poncho, hand-warmers, glow sticks, flashlight, battery-powered radio, hot cocoa and hot cider mix.

Garden Kit: Purchase a garden bucket, add some packets of seeds, a trowel, a planting guide and a gift certificate good for your help with next spring’s garden planting. Add the book The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett for family reading.

Gift Idea #2 Gift Certificates free or almost free for you

Canning Kit: Give a case of new canning jars, either new or used with new lids, include a few of your favorite canning recipes and a gift certificate for a lug of fruit from your local orchard or your own tree next summer or a day of canning help. If you have your own fruit trees, this gift is free except for the lids.

Canning Season Order Form: Create a gift certificate that is an order form for next canning season. Label the top of the certificate “Redeemable from Summer 2015 Crop” Directions: “Choose one from each section” Then create sections for items you normally can.

For example, “Fruit” choose from pears, applesauce or peaches. You could include a jam and jelly section, vegetable section, and a “Just for Fun” section, which could include such things as pickles and spaghetti sauce. Next summer deliver their selections all canned and ready for the shelves of their General Store.

Disaster Preparedness Kit: Send for, or download, information concerning natural disasters known to occur in your area, or the recipient’s area. This information should also include counsel on what to do to be prepared for such emergencies.

Wrap it in a gift bag and add a gift certificate from a provider of 72-hour kits and preparedness items or collect items from around your home such as a backpack, whistle, flashlight, and roll of TP to begin their kit. You will not only have “warned your neighbor,” but will have provided them with a way to act on the knowledge they have gained.

Family Home Evening: Give a gift certificate and an invitations to join your family on specific dates for FHE. When your guests arrive teach them preparedness skills. Make dinner and dessert in a Dutch oven or make foil dinners, teach them about evacuation and give them information to study.

Gift Idea #3: The Survival Kit. Great for anyone but especially college students and newlyweds.

  1. Cookies and dinners in a jar.  You’ve seen these and they are great for students with little time to fix meals.  Layer cookie ingredients or the ingredients for soup in a quart canning jar.  Attach the direction for preparing the foods.  Pack 6 jars of cookie mixes and 6 jars of a variety of soup mixes in a canning jar box. Check out the book Dinner is in the Jar by Kathy Clark.

  2. Dinner basket. Purchase a large laundry basket and fill it with a copy of your favorite, or your student’s favorite recipe.  Purchase all the ingredients to make that recipe 5 times.  Taco soup would be a great example since most of the ingredients are canned. Check out the book 100 Day Pantry by Jan Jackson.

  3. Private cache. Purchase a case of a favorite food.  This is also great for young children.  It helps them realize just how much is really needed for a year’s supply and teaches them your commitment to having a year’s supply of food.  Brownies or Mac & Cheese are perfect here.

  4. Auto survival. Every student who drives a long distance to school should have an emergency car kit. Sadly, college students have frozen returning from Christmas holidays, when cars break down in severe cold temperatures.

    So in addition to coats and blankets carried separately during winter, kits should include: glow sticks for light if you need to remain in the car for an extended period, water packets, food bars, mylar blanket for warmth in winter or to cool a car during the summer, flashlight, poncho (preferably yellow for better visability when walking), first aid kit, whistle, and towelettes for after changing a tire or putting on snow chains.

    This should be in a backpack or fanny pack, to keep hands free.  This is important as in an emergency you want hands free for balance, especially in the snow or when dealing with debris.

  5. Healthy semester kit. Remember college diets and late semester colds and flu?  Prepare a healthy semester kit by including vitamins, cold remedies or preventatives, like zinc, tissues, robe, slippers, and chicken soup.

  6. Pandemic or medical emergency survival kit.  Okay, so this doesn’t sound fun. Nevertheless, pandemics often thrive when people are clustered indoors, as they are in winter.

    Include towelettes, small biohazard bags, hand sanitizers, medical masks, medical gloves, instructions for preparing for a medical emergency (these can be found on the Center for Disease Control website or at (pandemicflu.gov), and finally, a favorite family DVD.  After all when the flu hits everyone will need a distraction. Remember this is not an Ebola kit. Anyone with Ebola should be treated in a hospital not at home.

  7. Pet survival kit. Got Pets?  Include a leash, small food and water dishes, ID tag for their collar with the name and phone number of the family’s out of state contact, water and a couple of meat MREs.  MREs are good long after the 5-year shelf life, however they can experience a change in taste.  MREs that are due to “expire” can often be found at bargain prices and serve well as emergency pet supplies. 

Add to Survival Kits:

Water bottle. You can purchase terrific water bottles for purifying water at the great price from the church. They are great to keep in the car, at work or in emergency kits and they are a great price. Any source of water will now be safe to drink.

Solar phone charger. Great to have when the power is out or when you need to evacuate and are away from home and access to a charger may be impossible.

Pre-paid cell phone. Add these to your car kits, purse, emergency kits and office desk drawer. I know it seems we all have our cell phone glued to our bodies, but in a rush to evacuate there may not be time to collect your phone or even your wallet.

ResQMe key chain. There may be other tools of this type that are equally as good but this device will allow you to escape a damaged or inking car by enabling you to easily break the window or cut a jammed seat belt.

Maps. Purchase local maps and regional maps. Mark several routes to exit the area in case of an emergency.  

The family shirt. Or whatever… something that identifies you as part of a family unit is an important way to improve your chances for being reunited quickly in a Katrina-scale disaster.

Purchase a solid color t-shirt for each member of the family.  Shirt sizes for children should be at least one size larger than they are now wearing.  Include a set of fabric crayons or markers or paint and instructions to create a family shirt.  Or make them yourself.

These shirts will then be placed in their 72-hour kits and worn when the family needs to evacuate.  Each shirt should have the same picture on them but not a name.  Have each member contribute something to the design.

Shirts should be a bright color to make them easier to spot in a crowd and more memorable.  I remember the frustration during Katrina when family members were looking for their children.  Everyone had seen a pretty little girl with curly hair but there were hundreds of pretty little girls with curly hair. 

If your family is all wearing the same distinctive shirt it is much more likely that someone will remember seeing your child.  Even better, you might get a member of the media to say “This child is wearing a shirt just like this one.” 

You can also use the same tactic with bandanas and baseball caps.  Just remember to make them all the same and distinctive from those you can purchase. 

Gift Idea #4: Spiritual Preparedness

Oil for your lamp. Don’t forget spiritual preparedness.  Give a set of scriptures or a small inspirational book to be kept in a 72-hour kit or in the car for times when you are stuck waiting for a road closure or children. The military style scriptures are a possibility.

Scripture-a-day. Compile favorite scriptures from family members and create a scripture for each day of the year or even a month. 

Order a subscription to the Liahona magazine for a family member or friend who served a foreign language mission.  Some languages are published each month and some only once a year, but all are wonderful to receive. Of course, The Ensign, New Era, Friend, and Church News are excellent gifts for family who are not taking advantage of these resources. 

Gift Idea #5: Financial Preparedness 

Savings bonds are a great gift for anyone and especially for young children.  They are tax-exempt when used for post high school education. 

Cash for a rainy day. What will we do for cash, if the power is down, along with the internet connections to your local ATM? It takes discipline, but some well-hidden cash is an important part of preparedness planning. And of course, for college students, rolls of quarters are always appreciated. Likewise for students, a gift certificate to a local grocery store. 

Savings accounts. Why not set up a savings account for a grandchild?  They will love going with you to the bank and it will make them feel very grown up and responsible.  Help them understand that the money is for college or a mission.  You can add to the account as they grow.  We have a piggy bank at our home and when our grandchildren visit and help with chores, we place money in the banks.  You could use their savings account in the same way. 

Recently we have begun giving collectable silver dollars as gifts to our children and grandchildren as a way to being investing.

So, these are a few ideas for the gift of preparedness. With a measure of imagination and inspiration, anyone can make preparedness fun and personal. And in an emergency scenario, being prepared is so much more fun than the alternative!

Join Carolyn on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TotallyReady or contact her at Carolyn@TotallyReady.com


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About Carolyn Nicolaysen

Carolyn Nicolaysen grew up in New Jersey and joined the Church while attending Central College in Pella, Iowa. With a degree in Home Economics, she later worked as a high school teacher, and served as an elected trustee of her local school board. Carolyn has taught personal and family preparedness to all who will listen. Having lived in areas that were threatened by winter storms, hurricanes and tornadoes, and now living in an earthquake prone area, she has developed a passion for preparedness. Carolyn started her own business, TotallyReady, when she saw the need for higher quality emergency information that could truly sustain families in a disaster.

Carolyn is FEMA trained and is an Amateur Radio first responder. She serves as Relief Society president of her California ward.

Carolyn is the author of three ebooks, Mother Hubbard, What She's Doing Now (food storage for the 21st century), Prep Not Panic (preparing for a pandemic of medical emergency) and That Won't Happen to Me (a discussion of disaster preparations). She has also authored a glove box book, Totally Ready for the Road and writes a monthly newsletter and the Totally Ready facebook page.

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