Give Hope & Joy this Holiday Season

Vector. Present with red bow. Merry Christmas!

Christmastime is often called “the most wonderful time of the year” and I couldn’t agree more. I LOVE Christmas – the traditions, time with family and friends, gift giving, cooking, eating, singing holiday favorites, church on Christmas Eve and more. Plus, as anyone who visits my house in December will tell you, I love decorating for Christmas. And, I love that the world seems filled with hope and joy for a few weeks.

Now, there is another side of this time of year that has gotten a bit out of control – the commercial side. As has been the case in recent years, stores will once again be opening earlier than ever in hopes of luring us away from our Thanksgiving feasts, family, friends and football to shop, shop, shop. We will also be bombarded with commercials and “news” reports telling us what the “must-have” products are this year, which seem to get more expensive annually. And, unfortunately, the balances on credit cards will increase – often leading to payments that last longer than the gifts.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not opposed to the commercial side of the holidays. I love giving gifts to those I love – I get a thrill out of finding just the right thing, big or small, and presenting it to them. And, yes, I love getting gifts too. But, I do think it has gone too far, as the hope and joy seem to have been replaced by greed and selfishness.

That’s why this year I am taking a different approach and hope you might too. I am still going to give gifts, but I am going to try to do good and give some hope at the same time. I will do it by supporting companies with a conscience, those that use their profits to improve our world.

Here are my top seven picks for this year.

  • Better World Books – books are always a great gift and for every book purchased through Better World Books one is donated to someone around the world. Funding is also given for programs geared towards improving literacy.
  • Krochet Kids International – looking for some great products to keep your loved ones warm, then check out this great company.  They offer handmade hats, scarfs and winter accessories that come with signature of the workers in the label. The company hires women in Uganda and Peru and empowers them through job training, education, and mentorships so that they can move on and start their own endeavors within their communities.
  • LemLem – started by supermodel and actress Liya Kebede, this clothing line was created to “inspire economic independence in Ethiopia and to preserve the art of weaving.” All items are handmade with fabric from Ethiopia, which empowers women through employment and continuing weaving traditions.
  • One World Futbol Project – these super durable soccer balls will never go flat and when you purchase one, they send another to a child living in a refugee camp, war torn or improvised community. That’s a score for everyone!
  • Sara Beltran Bracelet For Project Paz – help the women in your life make a fashion statement with these great bracelets. 100% of proceeds go to the FECHAC Foundation to support its Expanding Children’s Development Program (ADN). The goal of ADN in Ciudad Juarez is to expand and strengthen children’s development with complimentary educational activities and extended after-school hours.
  • Toms Marketplace – a great resource that lists a variety of socially conscious companies including their backgrounds and a way to purchase directly from the marketplace. While your there, buy a pair of Toms shoes – for every pair you buy, someone in need gets a pair of their own.
  • Warby Parker – amazing eyeglasses and sunglasses that are on-trend and sell for only $99. With every pair of glasses purchased they provide funding or glasses to Vision Spring, which then provides glasses to those in need and training to entrepreneurs worldwide to go and sell low-cost glasses in their communities.

If you are in the market for an over-the-top gift, head to Charity Buzz. This site is a favorite of mine, as they auction off amazing one-of-a-kind experiences and luxuries that benefit great charities. In addition to their normal lineup of extraordinary items, they have launched “12 Days of Giving,” which includes items such as lunch and a round of golf with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, all access passes to the 56th Annual GRAMMY® Awards and an absolutely gorgeous 13.85 carat yellow diamond ring. Even if these gifts aren’t within your budget, they sure are fun to check out!

Another great way to find gifts this year is to buy directly from nonprofits. There are many that sell merchandise as a means of raising money; from greeting cards and stuffed animals to apparel and accessories you’ll likely find something you like. Still others provide great opportunities to make donations on behalf of individuals, something I personally love.  You can find out about my top six picks at Great Nonprofits.

I hope this holiday season is wonderful for you and your family and that you will use the power of your wallet to help those who are less fortunate and join me in spreading a little hope and joy.

Happy holidays!

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A special thanks to Amanda Howard for her wonderful contributions to this article.