Celebrating Our 25th Year in 2017!

Gifts of Hope is a ministry sponsored by the Metropolitan Washington DC Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).  We are a family of volunteers, congregations, donors, the Synod, and our 18 beneficiary organizations. In our 25 years we have raised and disbursed over $3,370,000 to our many and varied beneficiary organizations.  These funds have helped the homeless, the hungry, the job-seeker, the young, the elderly, immigrants, refugees, seminary and college students, and those seeking to improve their lives. We also support the work of our companion synods in Namibia, Slovakia, and El Salvador.  Gifts of Hope touches the lives of thousands of people–locally and globally.  Learn more about Gifts of Hope with this brief PowerPoint presentation.

Gifts of Hope is an alternative gift-giving program that serves as an intermediary between donors and organizations serving individuals and families in need locally and internationally. Gifts are available year-round, however, the program’s primary focus is during the holidays, including the liturgical season of Advent.

Through sales at the Synod’s congregations and benefit concerts, Gifts of Hope has raised and dispersed more than $3.37 million to two church camps, three Lutheran student ministries, three international companion synods and ten area social service agencies affiliated with the Metro DC Synod.

Our mission is to maximize funds going to these organizations and to encourage volunteer involvement.

While Gifts of Hope is sponsored by the Metropolitan Washington DC Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), most of our organizations are pan-Lutheran, meaning that they are allied with more than one Lutheran church body, the two largest are the ELCA and Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod.

In 2011 United Lutheran Appeal merged with Gifts of Hope. Both programs were sponsored by the Metropolitan Washington DC Synod and overlapped in the support of the same beneficiary organizations in the Washington, D.C. area. The Synod approved this merger at the May 2010 Synod Assembly.

Historically, the Gifts of Hope organization primarily operated during the Advent season with its annual gift catalog sales at Synod congregations. The United Lutheran Appeal had an annual appeal for donations during the spring. The new organization, retaining the name Gifts of Hope, will continue to offer the designated gift purchases during the Advent season and now offers the opportunity to make donations year-round.

The gift-giving program is open to all people, regardless of their faith or religious affiliation and helps people in need regardless of their own faith or religious affiliation.


Executive Director – Carolyn Sowinski


Carolyn Sowinski, Director

In July, 2011, Carolyn Sowinski became the Director for Gifts of Hope. She and her husband Jim moved Germantown MD in 2010 after living in Bloomington IN for 26 years.

While in Bloomington Carolyn worked for 15 years for Lutheran Campus Ministry at Indiana University; for 26 years she sang in Bloomington Chamber Singers. A native of Minnesota, Carolyn received her undergraduate degree in history from St. Olaf College and her graduate degrees in American History and Library Science from the University of Wisconsin—Madison.

Carolyn and Jim have two adult children, Lynae and Tom, both graduates from Indiana University—Bloomington.

When not working for Gifts of Hope, Carolyn is busy with music and family history. She is a member of The Choral Arts Society of Washington (choralarts.org). In 2008 she developed a new website documenting her family history (mankell.org), tracing her Minnesota roots to ancestors from Norway, Sweden, and Germany. She puts her ‘sleuthing’ skills to use for clients interested in learning more about their family history.