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Gifts that make a difference

We all feel it. It is in the 24/7 television commercials, bright blinking lights and piles of gifts we are expected to produce each year. The tug of commercialism during the holidays threatens to overshadow the true meaning of the season — whichever holiday you may celebrate.

What if you could find a balance; actually do good while celebrating? By shopping from organizations that help others, you can make a difference while giving unique gifts at the same time. It's a win, win, win situation!

Some organizations to consider are: — Toms Shoes gives a pair of shoes to a child in need for each pair you buy. And they are cute! — They offer limited edition T-shirts that help orphans in Africa. For each shirt you buy, they give a school uniform to a child in need. — This website gives one dollar to charity for every five you spend. You get to choose the organization that gets the donation. — This nonprofit helps women of Uganda by selling their handmade beads and shea butter products. — One of the world's largest fair trade organizations, and a founding member of the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO), Ten Thousand Villages strives to improve the livelihood of tens of thousands of disadvantaged artisans in 38 countries. — Why not give a water buffalo? O.K., your friend doesn't get the beast, but someone in a country that needs it does, and your friend gets a card explaining what you did in his or her honor — and relief that a water buffalo isn't about to arrive in the mail. — Find charities in your own backyard or around the world. JustGive's database contains nearly 1.8 million charities. How can you choose where to make your donation? The JustGive Guide includes 1,000 charities that have met stringent public requirements. The charities are grouped into 19 categories to make your search easier and faster.

You also can help an artist, crafter or farmer by buying locally made or locally grown products. You can help a local service person (like a hairdresser) by getting gift certificates from their shop. The season for giving can mean much more when you are giving to those in need.

December 2011