Purposeful presents

Features Giving

November 27, 2023

Holiday gifts that give back 

by  Jennings Cool Roddey

The lights are strung, hot cocoa in hand, and Santa will be here soon. As you make your wish lists and checklists, consider gifts that are more than just tokens of affection. Many local businesses sell goods — from jewelry to bourbon — that give back to the community. 

One local business owner who understands that ethos is Erin Breeden, founder of Blue Tide Creative, a ​​public relations, content and branding firm.“I’ve always wanted Blue Tide Creative to have some sort of charitable arm — because you can’t call yourself a Head Mermaid if you don’t give back to the ocean and ecosystem you love so much,” Breeden says. This summer, her firm launched an e-commerce shop selling jewelry, T-shirts and hoodies, with 20% of sales donated to charities focused on conservation, sustainability and ocean protection, the first being the North Carolina Coastal Federation. The current collection, Ocean Gold, is inspired by the large amount of gold particles in the ocean that cannot be mined. Drew Peck, Breeden’s husband, thoughtfully designed the apparel’s graphics with the idea that there is gold in every wave, and handmade the earrings and gift boxes using vintage National Geographic articles. 

“Launching our merchandise line is our way to give back,” Breeden says. 

Braveworks, Bella Tunno, Humane Society

Here are a few other local businesses that give back to worthy causes:

Bella Tunno
The modern, personality-filled baby accessories brand sells safe, practical and clever products with a powerful purpose behind them: to eradicate hunger. For every teether, bib or other product sold, one meal is donated to a child. When goods are sold in the U.S., Bella Tunno partners with Feeding America; when sold outside the country, the organization partners with The Global FoodBanking Network. “The goal is to keep the meals that we are donating as close to where the product is sold,” says Michelle Tunno Buelow, founder of Bella Tunno. “The need exists everywhere. … No county in the U.S. is void of need.” Since its founding in 2005, the organization has donated 10.9 million meals. Bestsellers include the silicone Wonder Bibs and Happy Teethers, which come in various colors with whimsical sayings like “Sweet cheeks,” “Mini man,” and “Itty bitty boss babe.” Products are sold online and in​​ more than 3,000 retailers across the U.S. and Canada, including Charlotte-area stores: Eliza B’s, Paper Skyscraper, The Social Shop, Shower Me With Love, Toy Mania, Moxie Mercantile and Urbane South.

Empowering women and families who have undergone trauma and injustice is the mission behind BraveWorks, a local nonprofit and shop. “We bridge the gap from pain to purpose,” says Beth Bell, executive director. BraveWorks’ program is segmented into four main components: heal, train, connect and compensate. “It is a holistic model where we heal both the head and the heart,” Bell says. “We are teaching skills, but it is much much deeper than that.” Bell and her team teach the women and families in BraveWorks’ program to make accessories, apparel and home goods, providing them with supplemental income. BraveWorks also offers mentoring to help the women achieve their goals, with the intention of graduating within three to six months. Gifts, home decor, jewelry, handbags and apparel made by the artisans at BraveWorks can be purchased online or at its Dilworth store. braveworks.org, 1717 Cleveland Ave. 

Humane Society of Charlotte
For all those animal-loving friends and family members, the Humane Society of Charlotte sells T-shirts, mugs and other swag that goes toward its mission of supporting the animals in their care. Be on the lookout for new styles; the nonprofit mixes up the designs throughout the year, incorporating holiday and seasonal themes so there is something for every animal person.

Moxie Mercantile
Moxie Mercantile is a woman-owned lifestyle boutique selling a mix of vintage and modern goods. With several locations in the Charlotte area, it is a one-stop shop for unique gifts, some of which have a charitable component. The shop sells products from thoughtful brands such as Bella Tunno (see above); Conscious Step, a sock brand that gives back to 17 different charitable organizations; Ink+Alloy, an accessory brand that gives a portion of sales to transforming the lives of orphaned girls through education; and Fawn & Foster, a baby essentials brand that donates 50% of profits to help children in foster care.

Oaklore Distilling
Oaklore Distilling, a distillery, tasting room and bottle shop in Matthews, launched a unique program in early 2022 for Charlotte-area nonprofits with a local impact called The Oaklore Angel Barrel Program (read more about Oaklore on page 32). How it works: Organizations pick a barrel. The distillery covers the cost of its creation, sells the bottles and gives the proceeds back to the organization. “It’s fun because people [from the organization] come in and they get a cool bourbon with the tasting experience,” says co-owner Matt Simpkins. “Then they get to tell their community about it, and their community comes in to support them, and those funds go into the local community.” Oaklore partnered with three organizations in 2023, with three more planned in 2024. The most recent bottle on the shelf benefits Autism Strong, and next up is Claire’s Army, which supports families fighting childhood cancer. “We’ve been trying to keep our head in the right direction, and that means serving the people around us the best we can,” Simpkins says. 11136 Monroe Rd., Matthews 

Turning Point
Occasionally, the most valuable presents come from previously owned items, especially when they contribute to a charitable cause. Turning Point aims to fight abuse and assault through shelter, advocacy, prevention and social change. Through its three Second Chance Boutiques, which are located in Monroe, Indian Trail and Waxhaw, the organization acquires vital funding for its many programs. The stores accept gently used clothing, accessories, home décor, miscellaneous housewares and furniture for resale at an affordable price. Every dollar made at the boutiques returns to the organization, which directly goes back to supporting Turning Point’s mission.

Twenty Two West
Twenty Two West is part of an address where Mary Hamby grew up. But it is also the name of her business, an artisan jewelry and home décor shop and online store. Twenty Two West sells several products that not only look cute but benefit Foster Village Charlotte, a nonprofit that helps foster families and children in the Charlotte area. Four times a year, Hamby and her team also cook meals for 12 foster families. “There are so many reasons why I absolutely love being a part of Foster Village,” Hamby says. “But my favorite is how it allows me to use my art and my love of cooking to come alongside families in my community who are doing such important work and getting to be a part of myself by supporting them.” The store’s It’s Good to Be Home Key Ring is available to purchase online through April 1. The Safety Pin House can be hung in your home, pinned to a purse, hung as an ornament or added to a keyring. Both are reminders that you can help advocate for children to have a safe place to call home, and 100% of sales go to Foster Village Charlotte. twentytwowest.com, 2613 Tuckaseegee Rd.  SP

Featured photograph by Angela Zion Photography. Photographs courtesy Braveworks, Bella Tunno, and Humane Society.

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