10 gifts that give and give and give

I have a confession. You are free to judge me as you will. Here it is: I hate decorating for Christmas. Cringe. Or for any holiday or season, for that matter. Shame. I don't have a good reason for this. Part of it is probably because I am firmly anti-trinket. I don't like doodads, baubles or knicknacks.

I really hope we can still be friends.

That said, you will not see a blog post here documenting the transformation of my home into a winter wonderland. I actually very much enjoy seeing those posts on other blogs and love to see the wintry bliss that my friends and family have been gifted to create. I just didn't get that gene. While you won't find nutcrackers and Santas and nativity scenes in my home, I am absolutely a lover of the holiday season. I adore Christmas music and the smell of pine and cookies and fudge and giving gifts and reading the Christmas story. Love it all. So, during the holidays, I bake, shop and buy pine-scented candles. I don't decorate.

Ok, now that I got that off my chest... I have a gift for you. This Christmas season, I have made it my mission to make the gifts I give something that has meaning beyond the item or day. In my search for gifts that keep on giving, I've put together a list of causes that I think will both steal the show at your Secret Santa exchange and may also change the lives of others next door or around the world. Some you've heard of and others you probably haven't, but their stores are full of treasures from shoes to jewelry to livestock!

If you have other ideas that I've missed in my extensive (not really) research, please respond in the comments section so we can all reap the benefits!

1. TOMS Shoes
We've all heard of TOMS Shoes. For that reason, I almost didn't include it on my list, but it's just such a great cause! And every new style they create is cuter than the last. TOMS Shoes was started in 2006 when founder Blake Mycoskie met children in Argentina and saw a major need for shoes to protect their little feet. He created TOMS, which matches every pair of shoes purchased with a pair of new shoes given to children in need all over the world.

2. Falling Whistles
This is a cause that has me all shook up. I can't tell their story better than they can, so please take a minute (literally) to watch this video explaining this organization dedicated to advocating for child soldiers in the Congo. Then buy a whistle to protest the cruelty, and 100% of profits will go toward rehabilitating child soldiers.

3. Heifer International
If you and your family would prefer to pass on exchanging gifts, but still want to keep the spirit of giving, Heifer International is a great organization that gives families all over the world a chance to become self-sufficient. They give gifts of livestock (funded by donations from viewers like you...) and training to families in an effort to teach them how to generate income and food with the animals they are given. They are then asked to give one of the animal's offspring to another family in need. You can purchase a heifer, a goat, a flock of chicks or a water buffalo (really.), to name a few.

4. Shop the Rainforest
If saving the planet is your thing, then I have a super easy way to do something NOW. The sponsors of this organization donate money for every click generated on the website's homepage. Just go to the link above and click on the 'Click here to give - It's FREE' button. I just clicked and was told that I have just saved 11.4 sq. ft. of rainforest habitat for wildlife. Bam. If you want to do more, you can purchase jewelry, apparel, accessories and more in the site's store. Some of these items are made by people from places like Haiti and Darfur who are trying to earn a living and break the cycle of poverty.

5. Dancing Deer Baking Co.
Maybe eating sweets is your thing. It is most certainly MY thing. Or perhaps you get your jollies by giving sweets (to people like me?). The Dancing Deer Baking Co. uses all-natural ingredients to bake their tasty made-from-scratch treats. And they deliver said baked goods To. Your. House. As if that weren't enough - they have created The Sweet Home Project aimed at helping battle homelessness through scholarships for those struggling in poverty. They donate 35% of the retail price of goods in their Sweet Home goodies and gifts line to The Sweet Home Project year-round.

6. (Product)RED
This is another one of those that we have probably all heard of, but that I want to tell you about anyway! (RED) partners with huge brands like Gap and Converse and creates some really sweet products that you can shop through on their website. Up to 50% of the profits on these products are given to the Global Fund to support HIV and AIDS programs in Africa.

7. World of Good
If you're looking for some Fair Trade and super cute gifts, you MUST check out this site, which is a partner of eBay. A lot of the products are made by local artisans around the world and your purchases help them make a living and get out of poverty.

Shop with giftsthatgive.com and 20% of your purchase is donated back to the non-profit, school, or private foundation of your choice. They have all kinds of products, from jewelry to home decor.

9. Starfish Project
The Starfish Project is aimed at providing income, education and support to women who have come out of exploitation and abuse. The jewelry listed on the website is hand-crafted by the women in Starfish Project's shelter, who are paid a salary that keeps them off the streets and in healthy community. 100% of the profits on the items go toward supporting the women. This jewelry is really funky and cool, and a lot of it is $20 or less!

10. Apparent Project
The Apparent Project is another jewelry-making project that supports local artisans in Haiti working to beat poverty that is obviously abundant in the still-recovering country. Most use recycled paper, cardboard and beads to create really unique necklaces and bracelets. Right now, you can host jewelry parties to sell the jewelry on behalf of the artisans. Their online store is coming soon!

I hope this makes your Christmas shopping more fun and rewarding this year, friends. I can't wait to hear about your fun buys!


  1. I LOVE this! So many great ideas!

  2. These are wonderful ideas! This year, my family decided to skip giving each other presents (what could we possibly need?!) and donate gifts to the enormous homeless population in Albuquerque. We are going to have a goodie-bag making day during which we eat delicious treats while assembling the gifts (mostly personal hygiene items, hats, gloves, blankets, etc.). Then, on Christmas Eve we will deliver them to one of the shelters.

    I love this because we are spreading love to those who are most in need, but also because it gives me what I most want-- time with my family. Win-win! :)

    Love you, Chel!

  3. Thanks for making this world a better place, Chel. Every day, you inspire me...

  4. Heifer International (HI) is an organization that claims to work against world hunger by donating animals to families in developing countries. Its catalog deceptively portrays beautiful children holding cute animals in seemingly humane circumstances. The marketing brochure for HI does not show the animals being transported, their living and slaughter conditions, or the erosion, pollution and water use caused by the introduction of these animals and their offspring.

    By definition, animals raised for food are exploited in a variety of ways. The animals shipped to developing countries are often subject to; water and food shortages, cruel procedures without painkillers, lack of veterinary care resulting in extended suffering as a result of illness or injury.

    A large percentage of the families receiving animals from HI are struggling to provide for themselves and cannot ensure adequate living conditions, nutrition, and medical care for animals they have been given. HI provides some initial veterinary training to individuals and the initial vaccines. But, long term care for these animals and their offspring is up to the individuals.

    To make matters worse, animal agriculture causes much more harm to the environment than plant-based agriculture. The fragile land in many of the regions HI is sending the animals cannot support animal agriculture. Although they say they encourage cut and carry feeding of the animals to avoid erosion, the reality is often quite different.

    The consumption of animal products has been shown in reputable studies to contribute significantly to life-threatening diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and a variety of cancers. Regions that have adopted a diet with more animal products see an increase in these diseases. The remote communities supposedly served by HI have no way of dealing with the health consequences of joining the high-cholesterol world.

    While it may seem humane and sustainable to provide just one or two dairy cows here or there, the long term consequences are an increased desire for animal products in local cultures leading to an increase in production. These communities may be able to absorb the additional water use of one or two cows, what happens when there are hundreds or thousands of dairy cows, each consuming 27 to 50 gallons of fresh water and producing tons of excrement? The heavy cost to animals, the environment and local economies is not figured into HI's business practices.

  5. @Anonymous: Thank you for your candid comments. I am very interested in reading more about this topic, as I always want to be educated on the things I post on my blog. Do you have other resources that I can read about this subject? If accusations of inhumane treatment and harmful practices are true, I would most certainly remove Heifer International from my list. I don't see a source to which your comments are attributed, however. Please let me know! Thank you!


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