Philanthropy Friday: Shop with a Conscience Today!

giftsthatgiveimageNov2014I’m not a person who shops on Black Friday. The mere thought of crowds of people fighting over the latest big thing everyone has to have makes me sick to my stomach.

In fact, the holiday season makes me question whether presents are truly necessary. Since the boys and I have downsized, we barely have enough room for what we already have, which is fine with me because it has given us the chance to cut out the excess.

We truly don’t need a whole lot. For that, I am thankful.

While others are shopping, I am contemplating how I will celebrate the giving season in a manner that lives up to the intention. (On a side note, I’d love to hear your alternative ways to send out holiday greeting cards, as this is on my mind right now.)

Eventually, though, I will purchase a gift or two. I will concentrate on my boys and the kiddos in my life that call me Auntie (not Antie), blood-related or otherwise.

I’ve been talking about #GivingTuesday and gifts that give back for the past couple of weeks. Today, I share with you my continually updated list of Gifts That Give Back. It’s a list that I manage through FavePages (formerly SkinnyScoop). It also has a permanent spot on my newly created page, Gifts That Give Back (clever title, right?).

If you are shopping today, consider a purchase that also benefits a cause you care about. All of the suggestions below give back in some way.

I also encourage you to read my post on GOOD from last year: Five Simple Ways to Shop With a Conscience This Holiday

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving. I’ll be celebrating my Black Friday baby, Biz, who turns 6 today!

Each Friday, the another jennifer blog shares stories of those who incorporate philanthropy into their everyday lives – personally and professionally – in a creative and unique way. If you have a story you’d like to share, please contact Jennifer. Read past stories here

The Powerful Impact a Teacher Can Make #IKEASoftToysEdu #CleverGirls


I remember asking Mrs. Stock, my high school English teacher, if I could read Jazz by Toni Morrison. The book had just come out. I had been reading books like Beloved, Sula, Their Eyes Were Watching God (by Zora Neale Hurston) and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (by Maya Angelou). I had an affinity for black female authors. Their words were strong and the subjects compelling. It was the first time I could put myself into the mind of a slave or an otherwise oppressed woman. I was sixteen years old, and I was riveted.

Mrs. Stock was hesitant when I asked to read the book because she wasn’t sure if the content was appropriate for me, not to mention the fact that she hadn’t read the book herself. I remember her explaining her concern and how I countered by telling her I could handle the book and the writing of a report. She agreed. I read the book and wrote a pretty darn good report, if I remember correctly.


A very small glimpse of my bookshelf.

That small vote of confidence made a huge difference in my life. And is part of the reason I am a writer today. The words that I read back then molded my love for writing. Something as simple as giving me the go ahead to read what my heart and mind yearned for showed me that I did not have to limit myself.

I mentioned to my friend the other day that my boys have yet to have a teacher that I haven’t loved. I have already seen the profound impact each one of them has had, in the smallest of ways, on my kids.

We often hear more about the bad experiences with teachers than the good ones. Those moments, the positive ones where a child is empowered in a new and exciting way, can stick with that child for a lifetime.

Soft Toy Image (Why) 2015_3

How’s that stat for a little perspective?

There are times I have stopped to think about where I would be without teachers like Mrs. Stock, or without the education I am fortunate to have had throughout my life.

Education can transform lives and is the most impactful way to help children escape poverty. Education had a direct impact on health and well-being. It also gives children the knowledge, skills and confidence they need to shape a better future for themselves. When a child begins, and stays in school, she not only changes the course of her own life, but that of future generations.

With that said, I’ve got another gift that gives back for you to consider this holiday season.

The Soft Toys for Education Campaign is a global initiative and involves the entire range of IKEA soft toys and children’s books. For every soft toy or children’s book purchased at IKEA from November 9 2014 until January 3 2015, the IKEA Foundation will donate $1.00 to Save the Children and UNICEF.  The money is donated to projects focusing on providing children in low and middle income countries a quality education in Europe, Africa and Asia.

More than 11 million children have been impacted through 99 projects in 46 countries since the Soft Toys for Education Campaign started in 2003. Each year, IKEA customers who buy a soft toy make a contribution to the vision of a world where each and every child can go to school. It is a good investment for children living in poverty, and it creates opportunities that impacts generations to come. The donations will help UNICEF and Save the Children train teachers in child-friendly teaching methods, improve child protection systems, supply educational materials in the schools, help rebuild schools, provide better water and toilet facilities, and increase school attendance rates.

The total amount donated so far is $90.4 million.

I’m a big fan of IKEA, along with the work of Save the Children and UNICEF. You really can’t go wrong with a soft toy purchase for the holidays.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Philanthropy Friday: The #GivingTuesday Thirty-One Hope Kit (+ a giveaway!)

Each Friday, the another jennifer blog shares stories of those who incorporate philanthropy into their everyday lives – personally and professionally – in a creative and unique way. If you have a story you’d like to share, please contact Jennifer. Read past stories here.

Disclosure: I received a Thirty-One Hope Kit as a gift from Thirty-One Gifts to aid in the writing of this post. I will be donating the kit to a woman in substance abuse treatment who needs it more than I do. All thoughts and opinions expressed, as per usual, are my own.

Thirty-One Hope KitAs we head full force into the holiday season, I will be sharing more opportunities to make a true impact in your giving. Earlier this week, I mentioned that Hallie Tamez, WaterAid America’s Associate Director of Major Gifts, will  be carrying a 40-pound jerry can filled with water across Manhattan in solidarity with the women and girls across the globe who have no choice but to do this every day. She’s doing it today (November 21) in hopes to raise fund for WaterAid on #GivingTuesday.

World Vision and Thirty-One Gifts have also teamed up for the 3rd annual #GivingTuesday on Dec. 2, 2014. The two organizations are working together to send out personal hygiene supplies to women in need.

For the first 3,100 donations made to World Vision on #GivingTuesday, Thirty-One Gifts will donate a Hope Kit tote filled with hygiene supplies to a woman or girl in need in the U.S.

World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the root causes of poverty and injustice. The organization works in nearly 100 countries around the world, and serves all people, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or gender. You can find out more about World Vision on their website, Facebook page or Twitter.

The Hope Kit is a Thirty-One Gift’s Cosmetic Bag filled with essential hygiene supplies such as a toothbrush, shampoo, hairbrush, soap and a special note of encouragement. I received one of the bags and can tell you it is of far higher quality than any cosmetic bag I have ever owned. Filled with the everyday toiletries that we often take for granted, I particularly like the handwritten note from the person who packed the bag. My note said:

I hope this kit brings you encouragement in your time of need. My thoughts are with you for a better tomorrow.

I will be donating my Hope Kit to Crossroads, a behavioral health organization in Maine that I’ve worked with for about 8 years. They have two residential programs and toiletries are often needed by clients.

The Handle-It Cosmetic Bag comes in Paisley Day, Black Chevron or Plum Chevron. Thanks to Thirty-One, one lucky reader will have the chance to win a cosmetic bag, in her choice of color, with “hope” embroidered on the front. You can enter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

On #GivingTuesday every donation made to World Vision will make twice the impact by combatting poverty in one of the 100 countries where World Vision works. The donations on #GivingTuesday can be made by phone (1-888-511-6588) or online to World Vision on Giving Tuesday.

How will you celebrate #GivingTuesday? What will you do with your cosmetic bag? 

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