Gift Guide 2011: Gifts That Give Back

Dec 16

Honestly, I have never been too much of a gift-focused person–not that there’s anything wrong with that.  I married one of the best gift givers ever, so I’ve certainly come to appreciate the thoughtfulness of a well-given gift.  I think as a child of the ’80s, with all its well-intended excess, I eventually saw the consumerism around Christmas is so often sadly misdirected, so wasteful.  Nonetheless, giving gifts to those you love is such a beautiful symbol of the good gifts that the Lord gives us, and truly the experience of giving someone else something they need/want is unlike anything else.  Also, as Andy Stanely says in “Enemies of the Heart”, “If God has blessed you with more than you need, it’s so that you can share your abundance with those who have need. Embracing that simple truth is the key to ridding your heart of greed….Generous giving will break the grip of greed on your life.
So whether or not you think you have extra, give and give generously”.

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Given the current economic situation, as well as the access to information regarding the deep needs of people all over the world, and being a part of generation (also children of the ’80s) who truly care about giving back, social entrepreneurship and the like, Jay and I have been thinking about some unique ways to continue this special practice of gift-giving at Christmas with new eyes.  Here are some inspirations, albeit kind of last-minute, for gifts that give back…

Since we all truly have more than we need, it’s absolutely hard to go wrong with just making a donation to your favorite charity or the favorite charity of your recipient.  Similarly, there are some fabulous organizations that allow you to give something a bit more tangible to a person in need, in honor of your loved one.  For instance, you can give a goat that will provide income and food for a rural family in Africa through Oxfam or get a bicycle for a girl in Cambodia, allowing her to continue her to make the long and often dangerous journey to school more safely through Worldvision.


Our own church, Bel Air Presbyterian, has a fabulous alternative gift giving catalog, in this same vein, which helps to tangibly support some of our favorite Christian charities in LA, supporting Harvest Home (45-min therapy session for a homeless, pregnant woman living in their shelter), Hope Gardens (children’s clothing for a child fleeing an abusive household with their mother), Imagine LA (new household furnishings for a family struggling out of homelessness), and the Westside Pregnancy Clinic (ultrasound for a unwed mother), to name a few.

Another really cool site is Kiva, which allows you to act as a mini-lender, financing micro-loans for some of the poorest of the poor, allowing them to literally change their lives by funding housing or business loans for them.  What a fabulous gift to receive knowing that an individual is being given a significant, life-changing opportunity of the type that we likely take for granted in our own situations.

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Now, for 12 more traditional gifts that you can physically give to someone HOWEVER purchasing one of these gifts will also give back to a charitable cause in one way or another.  It’s a win win!  Here are 12 of our favorites–though there aren’t even 12 days left–happy shopping!

1) TOMS — This is the company that kind of started this whole “one-for-one” concept.  When you buy a pair of these comfy shoes for yourself (or as a gift), they will give a pair of shoes to a child in need of shoes.  So cool and they now have so many different styles to choose from!

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2) WARBY PARKER — Similar to TOMS, this eyeglasses company will give a pair of glasses to a person in need every time you buy a pair for yourself.  The best part, they have tons of very cute and stylish frames all for $95, which includes the prescription lenses!  I’ve actually never had to wear glasses in my life–I still have 20/20 vision in my good eye–but now, I’m realizing the importance of protecting my eyes, so these might be on my wishlist.  Jay is wearing some glasses from Warby Parker in the previous post.

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3) NIKE’S LIVESTRONG WORKOUT GEAR — Lance Armstrong took his struggle with cancer and used that platform to bring awareness and major money for research to find cures for cancer through his organization Livestrong.  Partnering with Nike, the line of Livestrong products has raised over $80 million to fight cancer.  I love the hat–perfect for my workouts!

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4) LEVI’S EDIBLE SCHOOLYARD T-SHIRTS — This line of 4 shirts designed by different creatives, like Dave Eggers, Sofia Coppola, and my favorite, Alice Waters (who pioneered fresh and delicious California cuisine), supports the charity, Edible Schoolyard, which integrates garden and kitchen education into grade-school curriculum, particularly in lower-income, inner-city schools.

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5) ISABELLA REUSABLE WATER BOTTLE — This company makes these very high-quality, stainless steel water bottles (BPA and toxin free), in my favorite shade of blue, no less!  $10 from every bottle funds a drinking well, providing safe water to people who do not have access to clean water.

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6) SWEET HOME COOKIE SET — Certainly some of the best gifts are edible ones, Dancing Deer Baking Company sells these sets of delicious-looking gingerbread and dark chocolate cookies–two of my favorites, for sure–with 35% of the price going to homeless mothers and children, funding their eduction and housing.

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7) STAINLESS STEEL HENCKELS KNIFE SET — A beautiful set of 8 steak knives, from Henckels, which are fabulous quality, through the Food Network online store.  With every purchase, Henckels contributes to Share Our Strength, a delicious charity that we’ve been to events for in LA, which combats childhood hunger in the U.S.

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8 ) POP & LOLLI REUSABLE WALL DECALS — We are a little biased to this fabulous company, as we’ve mentioned them a few times, because it was created by some of our dearest friends.  After leaving her dream job as a Disney imagineer to raise her family, Mia wanted to do something creative from home, while at the same time being able to produce ongoing and tangible help to her native South Africa.  Through her and her husband Francois’ tireless efforts, Pop & Lolli has become an international success!  Their associated charity, Chic to Change, has most recently been able to make major, necessary improvements to a specific poverty-stricken school, Illenge High, in Vosloorus, South Africa, including providing electricity, heat, doors, a roof, a security fence, as well as specific, hygienic tools for the students there.  I know it was a life-changing experience for our friends as they were able to travel back to this school and see the meaningful work that they have been able to be a part of.  (By the way, the precious child model in the picture is Baby James!)

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9) BODO CABLE KNIT THROW BLANKET — Bodo Blankets is a home-grown, Georgia-based company employing the “one to one” concept.  Buy one of their cozy-looking throw blankets for yourself, and they’ll give one to someone in need.  I love the cream cable knit version, so perfect for the holidays.

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10) LOVE 41 CHUNKY BULLET SHELL NECKLACE — This lovely, Christian-based company gives 100% of its profits to orphans, widows, and street kids.  Their jewelry, in particular, is very chic, particularly if you like statement-making pieces.  I love this necklace especially.  It is made from bullet shells collected by HIV positive Ethiopian women, totally the “swords to ploughshares” idea from Isaiah.  The profits from this piece go to the healthcare and education of these women and their children.

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 11) ROSA LOVES T-SHIRT — This was one of the first companies that we came across several years ago that combined modern, artistic creativity with a charitable cause.  Rosa Loves creates limited edition T-shirts specifically designed to raise funds for a very specific cause related to an individual person somewhere in the world.  The unique graphics are printed on the front, outside of the shirt, while the story of the person for whom the shirt is created is printed on the inside front, by your heart.  This was the inspiration for the “Katherine Lived” shirts that were created several years ago.

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12) STARBUCKS RED CARD — I have expressed my deep love and affection for the “black gold”.  For better or worse, there is a Starbucks located about a block from our front door, so needless to say, we are there with some regularity–OK, basically every day.  Anyway, if you’re going to be going anyway, load yourself or your loved one up with the RED card, a gift card, just like the others, nothing extra to pay, except that every time you use it, Starbucks will contribute to the Global Fund to help people living with AIDS in Africa.  They call it the “Lazarus Effect” since you can literally give new life to a person otherwise sentenced to death from AIDS by providing them with medicine that costs 40 cents a day.  So amazing how the Lord can take so little and create such a big result with it.

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Truly every little bit, every minor choice makes a difference.  Imagine if we all directed just a little bit (or even a lot) of our time and resources to helping others, even while helping ourselves.  I am so thankful to be able to be a kind of intermediary with this, translating the comfort and blessings I have received in my suffering and passing it along, paying it forward in a way, by directing people towards something they might not otherwise have known about.  So cool to think of a random girl in California who had a stroke somehow helping an impoverished woman in Africa by way of a click on a website.  Perhaps that’s getting just a little closer to the original intent of giving gifts at Christmas.

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