Members of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Medford on High Street are helping two charities this holiday season, one roll of spare change at a time.
Last Sunday, the church launched its third-annual holiday charity drive, dubbed "It's Not Your Birthday," challenging members to reduce their holiday spending and give the savings to the church, which will distribute all proceeds to On the Rise, a Cambridge-based nonprofit for homeless women, and the Unitarian Universalist Urban Ministry's summer camp for inner city youth.
Rev. Hank Peirce, the church's minister, said that while some members have written checks, families have also donated a lot of loose change.
"People brought in peanut butter jars [full of change]," Peirce said. "Kids brought in their piggy banks. I've really been touched."
Peirce said he started the drive three years ago after hearing about a similar effort at another church, adding that the charity reminds members of "how easy it is to fall into the consumer aspect of Christmas."
According to an informal poll that Peirce conducted three years ago, some members had fallen hard. He asked them how much they spent during the holidays, and responses ranged from $25 to $10,000 in some cases.
"Part of this discussion is a chance to think about spending our money in a way that's more productive," Peirce said, adding that the children in the church vote for the charities each year.
Peirce also hopes the drive will help members focus on the birth of Jesus at Christmas - hence the program's official name - and the accompanying message of charity and kindness.
"As Unitarian Universalists, we're not necessarily Christian," Peirce said. "But certain teachings of Jesus have always been at the forefront of our faith throughout history."
The church has raised over $2,500 so far and will accept donations through the the end of the year, according to Peirce. The church raised over $3,000 in 2008 and about $4,500 in 2007, he said.
"We've got this giant blue tub [filled with change]," Peirce said. "I was amazed at how much change that was in there."