My 2020 Gifts that Give Back Guide for the holidays

2020 Gifts that Give Back Guide

For the past six years, I have curated an ever-growing list of amazing Gifts that Give Back. My guide has become so popular that I have devoted an entire page on my blog that is updated frequently and features these wonderful organizations and the causes they support. Whether it be fighting hunger, gender inequality or providing educational or income opportunities, there are a ton of ways you can use your buying power as a consumer to do good and make a difference in someone’s life.

This giving season is by far like none most of us have ever experienced. Despite all the hardship and challenges during this unprecedented time, this year consumers have a unique opportunity to make a lasting impact on the world at a time when it’s most needed. Let’s come together to support one another in the fight against COVID-19, and make this holiday season, a giving season. Wishing you and your family health, strength, and hope during this challenging time. 

Happy Shopping! And if you like this post, please share. Together, our collective buying can help change the world and make a difference. Also, be sure to check out my earlier post on Gifts that Give Back to Support the Fight Against COVID-19. There are so many amazing companies out there doing good.

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My 2020 Gifts that Give Back Guide for the holidays

 

Gifts that Give Back SOCIAL GOOD
Northernair Lodge, Ely MN

When COVID hits your home

It started as a cough. At first, we thought nothing of it except that it was our 15-year old son’s normal fall cold. He gets a bad cold every single year and it always starts with a cough and then a stuffy nose. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary except that this cold was about a month earlier.

Besides the cough, our son was fine and continued to get up to do his online school. Over the weekend, we hosted our usual small “bubble” of friends at our house, one of my daughter’s friends and our neighbor, the small group who we have been hanging out with since the pandemic began. We told them about Max’s cough but honestly thought nothing of it. We live in a city of a million people and out of everyone we knew, only one person in our circle of friends had tested positive for COVID. It still felt like something we only read about every day in the newspaper but that hadn’t truly reached us.

Like most of my family and friends, we have spent the past eight months following all the Covid rules and living a pretty boring, isolated life. We wear masks everywhere (thankfully it is a state mandate), my husband works from home, we don’t go out to eat indoors at a restaurant, have not flown anywhere, don’t go to the gym or do anything considered risky. We have hardly socialized with friends except for outside, socially distanced. Since March, we have basically lived a very sheltered, limited life and have only allowed our small bubble inside our home. The only risk we took was allowing both of our teenage kids to play outdoor sports. I had felt as a parent that so much has been taken away from them, and sports was the one thing they had left. The risk was small since they were outdoors but it was there.

Despite all the precautions we took, somehow Covid made it to our house, and when I got the call from our doctor that my son tested positive, I was completely shocked and terrified.

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Oberg Mountain Lookout onto Oberg Lake

The Top Four Fall Hikes along Minnesota’s North Shore to View the Fall Colors

Fall is a glorious time to be outside in Minnesota and there is no better way to explore the stunning fall foliage than during a hike along Minnesota’s North Shore. Less than four hours away from the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, it is easy to make a weekend trip to the North Shore where you will find countless trails at your fingertips to explore the pristine beauty and nature along the 310-miles long Super hiking Trail or through one of the many state parks. 

Generally, the third week of September is the best time to go to the North Shore when the leaves are at their peak colors, however, the last weekend of September can also be just as spectacular. We just returned from a visit this past weekend and the colors were extraordinary with breathtaking vistas of reds, yellows, and orange coating the landscape. Further inland, towards the Boundary Water Canoe and Wilderness Area and the Eagle Mountain Trail, the leaves were just starting to turn so I can only imagine that over the upcoming week it will be at its peak.

Oberg Mountain Lookout onto Oberg Lake

One of the spectacular technicolor lookouts on top of Oberg Mountain, looking down on Oberg Lake

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#IStandForGirls: Why Getting Girls to School is More Important than Ever

Did you know that over 132 million girls around the world are out of school?  This number was before the COVID pandemic began and now millions of more girls are at risk of not receiving an education this school year. As my own thirteen-year-old daughter prepares to begin her hybrid version of 8th grade, I often realize how incredibly blessed we are to have the opportunity and the resources to continue her education. Millions of children, especially girls, will miss out this year and not have the opportunity to learn. However, there is something we can do to help out and make a difference.

I’m thrilled to be partnering for the fourth year in a row with Kurandza this month for the #IStandForGirls campaign. I learned about Kurandza’s work five years ago when I started researching my popular Gifts that Give Back page and international nonprofits that are changing the world. I shared Elisabetta and Percina’s powerful story about why they founded Kurandza on the blog and have been an avid supporter of their work in Mozambique ever since.

While the global pandemic has impacted us all, it has impacted some of the most vulnerable communities around the world even more. Thanks to organizations like Kurandza girls are able to continue to receive an education and continue learning and thriving despite these new challenges. Now it is more important than ever before to stand up and support girls’ education.

#IStandForGirls because I believe all girls around the world should have equal access to education and opportunities no matter where they’re from. I believe in the power of education, and that all girls have the ability to reach their dreams when given the chance at an education.

When a girl gets an education she…

  • Is less likely to become a child bride

  • Has improved nutrition and access to better health care

  • Is likely to do what she can to uplift other girls in her community

  • Can dream about a bright future!

Photo courtesy of Kurandza

Child Labor, Marriage, Education and Survival Global Issues Global Non-Profit Organizations and Social Good Enterprises SOCIAL GOOD
Eagle River, Michigan

A Family Road Trip to Michigan’s Remote Keweenaw Peninsula

After five long months of being cooped up at home without a real vacation, it was time for our family of four to head out of town for a break. Like most people, all of our summer plans that involved flying had been canceled due to the pandemic. Given the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S., we wanted to travel safely and also be mindful of where we were going. We also preferred to find a destination that we could drive to in one day.

Living in Minneapolis, we are rather isolated in terms of where we can drive to under eight hours. We are blessed to have Lake Superior only a few hours away and have spent several fantastic family vacations along Minnesota’s rugged North Shore up in Lutsen, Minnesota, and have also visited Bayfield, Wisconsin, and the Apostle Islands. One place that we had not yet been to was Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, on the other side of Lake Superior. We had heard a lot of wonderful things about the U.P. as locals call it so decided on a whim to plan a family trip.  I did a search on Airbnb and found a weekly rental of an entire house in Eagle River along the U.P’s remote Keweenaw Peninsula. We left on Saturday, July 4th in time to celebrate our 20-year wedding anniversary on July 8th. It was going to be a wonderful week of rest, rejuvenation, and priceless family time.

On the hot, sultry night of July 4th, we watched the sun dip below the horizon of an uncharacteristically calm Lake Superior. The water was like glass and the fresh lake air filled my lungs and touched my soul with ease. For just a week, I finally let my weary, stressed-out soul completely relax and break free of the chaos of the last few months living through a global pandemic, uprisings, and endless stress. Life as it was meant to be returned to me for one short week, and for that, I am truly grateful.

Eagle River, Lake Superior

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Our First Trip Away During a Global Pandemic: A Weekend in Ely, Minnesota

March 13, 2020, is a day I will never forget. It is the last day that my children went to school and was a few days before life as we have known it had dramatically changed. The rapid shutdown of our state, our country, and the world began shortly thereafter as the venomous reach of the coronavirus pandemic struck the United States like a match in a dry forest waiting to burn.

Never in our wildest dreams could we have anticipated or even imagined such a devastating, life-changing global pandemic could take place and rock the world. Now over three months later, after canceled plans and completely rearranged lives, we have all settled into the new “normal”. A life of social-distancing, working at home, wearing a mask when out in public, not traveling or doing much of anything outside of the home except our daily walks, and wondering when on earth our lives will ever be the same.

Then just as we were finally beginning to accept our unsettled lives in the midst of the pandemic, the murder of George Floyd happened less than three miles away from our Minneapolis home setting off angst, rage, a few days of absolute lawlessness, fear, rioting, looting, pain, and destruction. When our city finally regained control and the massive clean up began, our hearts were broken. It was devastating and traumatizing on so many levels that it is hard to explain. We needed to get out.

George Floyd Murals on Hennepin Ave South Minneapolis

After three long, challenging months of fear, anxiety, isolation, and sadness, it was time to break free and leave home. We booked a weekend away, our first trip since the pandemic began, to Ely, Minnesota, a remote town on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe and Wildnerness Area, four hours north of Minneapolis. It was time for a change of scenery and a mental break.

We decided to rent a cabin at a small remote resort that we had stayed at a few times before, called the Northernair Lodge. We knew that it was isolated enough to safely socially-distance and since we could drive there we would not have to worry about traveling by plane.  Ely is a small town of only a couple thousand people so we were more concerned with potentially bringing COVID-19 there (where they have few reported cases) than actually catching it ourselves.

As we left the city, and slowly headed north I could feel the tension in my back and shoulders dissipate. For a woman who loves to travel, this was the first time I had left a ten-mile radius of my house in the city in over three months. It was liberating. Yet it also made me feel sad for all that has been lost in these past three months. I was hoping that the pure, untouched beauty of northern Minnesota would ease some of the sorrow and pain.

George Floyd Murals on Hennepin Ave South Minneapolis

We made two stops along the way to use the restroom and even that felt strange. None of the typical restroom stops were open save the gas stations and we were almost the only ones wearing our masks (it is required in our city to wear a face mask indoors so it has become normal for us). The further north we went, the less it felt that COVID was real until we arrived in Ely.  The harsh impact on the economy in such a small town was evident by the boarded up shops and stores. The big tourist draws such as the International Wolf Center and the North American Bear Center were still closed due to the pandemic (Both have reopened since we were there). Yet of course being outside and enjoying nature was not canceled. Nor was sitting by a campfire, kayaking on a pristine lake or listening to the melodic cry of the loon at sunset.

Three days relaxing and restoring some of our faith in mankind would be helpful.

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George Floyd Mural at Cub Foods (38th and Chicago in Minneapolis).

The George Floyd Murals of Minneapolis: A Demand for Justice, Hope and a Better Humanity

This is a developing story and I will be updating it regularly with new murals as they go up around the city. While not every mural is not of George Floyd, I used the liberty to call them the George Floyd murals because every single one of these murals has been painted since his tragic murder on May 25th. Please check back often and let me know if I am missing any murals. My goal is to document the murals throughout the city over the coming months. I will also interview muralists and artists to learn as much as I can about why them. Therefore, as I receive more information I will update the accuracy of this post. Finally, if you plan on visiting these murals, please do so with humility and respect. There have been many complaints from residents that George Floyd’s memorial site at 38th and Chicago has become a “tourist attraction” which is not at all what it is meant to be. Please be respectful. If you would like to make a donation to one of the many social justice groups in our city, I am including a list at the end of this post. Thank you. 

May 25, 2020.  A life is tragically taken. A local and then global protest began demanding justice and systemic change. A movement begins. George Floyd is just one of the countless other people who have been a victim of violence, racial injustice, suffering, and pain.

Monday, May 25th is a day that changed my city, Minneapolis, forever. That tragic day, a white Minneapolis Police officer kneeled on George Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds outside of Cup Foods on 38th and Chicago. Following Floyd’s brutal murder, thousands took to the streets of Minneapolis, some peaceful others violent, demanding justice for George Floyd, systemic change, and hope for a better, more just world where black lives not only matter but are treated with equality and respect.

Without diving into all the social justice and moral issues of George Floyd’s death and the immense racial inequalities in our city, our country, and our world, I want to use this space as a living museum to document the incredible art that is going up on the boarded-up businesses around our city. Artists are using their voice to demand social justice, antiracism, systemic change, and hope by painting powerful murals all throughout Minneapolis.

George Floyd Mural at Cub Foods

George Floyd Mural at Cub Foods (38th and Chicago in Minneapolis).

What started as a cry of outrage for the brutal death of George Floyd outside of Cup Foods has grown into a citywide movement of representing pain, suffering, tragedy, and hope. It is my commitment to document and share this voice throughout the coming months. I will be updating this post with finished pieces of art and new murals on a regular basis, and I will also be speaking with local communities to learn more about what each piece means and who created it. It is my commitment to myself, my children, and my community that together we can make this city and world a place where all people are treated equally with humility and respect. A country where every single human being is treated with freedom, liberty, and justice for all.

Powderhorn 

38th Street and Chicago Ave South

One of the first and now most renowned murals to be painted as a tribute and call to justice for George Floyd was done shortly after he was killed by Good Space Murals artists Niko Alexander, Cadex Herrera, Greta McLain, Xena Goldman, Pablo Helm Hernandez.  The artists began painting the mural three days after Floyd was killed on the side of Cup Foods and completed it in less than 12 hours. For the artists, it was a way for them to heal and demand justice for George Floyd. Today, this site continues to have peaceful protesters and those coming to pay their respect often leaving flowers. There are also ways to donate to community initiatives and outreach for those impacted by the protests. Several community groups have set up pop up food shelves and are collecting canned food items and essential supplies. More murals are going up around the Powderhorn neighborhood and I hope to document them soon.

George Floyd Mural at Cub Foods (38th and Chicago in Minneapolis).

George Floyd Mural at Cup Foods (38th and Chicago in Minneapolis).    

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Street Art Minneapolis

My Heart is Broken for My Minneapolis

The last week has been utterly heartbreaking and traumatic as we’ve watched our city fall apart. My family is all physically safe however our hearts are broken and it will take years and years to rebuild our city. Instead of focusing on all the scary, heart-wrenching news, I wanted to share a post I published two years ago that shares some of the beautiful multicultural street art that paints these very neighborhoods which have been destroyed. As we slowly start to mend and rebuild as a city, I hope that these murals will bring a sense of culture, community and much-needed hope in such dark days of grief, pain, and heartbreak. As soon as things calm down, I will add the new George Flloyd mural that has gone up at 38th and Chicago. 

Street Art Minneapolis

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Ely, Minnesota sunset

Postcards from Around the World: Week 4

Spring has finally sprung in Minnesota bringing much-needed sunshine and a burst of new life. Not much new has happened since I posted last week’s postcards. Our state has extended our Stay At Home order for another two weeks and after almost seven weeks of staying at home, I have adjusted to the new “normal”. It is hard to say when life will ever be normal again. I continue to read, practice my language skills, and enjoy time outside and my immediate family. I continue to miss my larger community and most of all my extended family who live all across the US. I am grateful to be well both mentally and physically and have food and shelter, love and some laughs here and there despite it all. I hope these quotes bring you some inspiration and hope. Stay well.

“All human wisdom is summed up in two words: wait and hope”. – Alexandre Dumas


Sunset Ely, Minnesota

Snapped: Fall 2017 Ely, Minnesota

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Postcards from Around the World: Week 3

As time goes by, days and weeks seem to ebb and flow together. A mess of so many strong feelings continuously flow like a river through my soul. A resounding sadness and despair seem to be the dominant feelings every morning when I rise. As the day goes on, anger, disbelief, and acceptance mix in while at times a sense of hopelessness prevails. While I try to remain hopeful and positive, each passing day it becomes a bit harder. I have always been a sensitive soul. Then I remember the words of our governor, “It is a marathon, not a sprint”. We are in this for the long haul and as hard as it is I need to buckle up and accept it. I need to stop reading so much of the tragic news of the lives lost and changed forever. Yet it is hard to not keep searching for answers and a way out of this mess. It is hard to feel so out of control. Perhaps more than ever I need to remind myself to practice mindfulness and try my best to live in the present moment without worrying so much about the future that lies ahead. For it is the only way to manage such overwhelming feelings.

We are entering week 6 of our Stay at Home order in my state of Minnesota. We haven’t even reached our predicted peak yet. That is estimated for late June to early July. We are getting restless at home yet at least we are finally getting to enjoy the rebirth of Spring. The trees laden with pollen are about to burst, the birds are singing in full glory each morning and I rejoice in my countless walks around our lovely urban lake that is one of the only things that is not canceled. At least for now. We will see what happens as the weather continues to improve and more and more couped up Minnesotans want to get outside and take advantage of our urban lakes and nice weather. I hope that our beautiful walkways and bike paths are not closed like they have been in other large cities. We are so blessed to have the ability to be outside and in nature unlike so many others around the world in urban cities who are locked inside their homes. There are a few silver linings in this extraordinarily difficult time.

My family continues to be well. My husband still has his job. My kids are hanging in there. We have food on our table, a roof over our head and each other. For that, I am truly grateful. I long to see my extended family and my community of friends. But of course that will have to wait.

As we enter another week of uncertainty, I will share my weekly postcards of inspiration and hope. We need some good news. Wishing you all a healthy, safe week. Please let me know how you are doing whererever you are. I’m thinking of you.

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be”. – Anne Frank

Ely, Minnesota sunset

Snapped: Northern Minnesota, Fall 2016

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Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

Postcards from Around the World: Week 2

Here is Week 2 of my new series, Postcards from Around the World. Hoping to bring a little bit of hope and inspiration to your day. As we enter week 5 of our Stay at Home order, I’ve been keeping busy with my work as the marketing coordinator for EOS International, a nonprofit organization that brings safe drinking water to rural villages in Honduras and Nicaragua. While it is not a full-time job by any means, it is enough to fill me up with hope and gratitude for the things I take so easily for granted such as access to safe water to keep me and my family healthy.

I’ve also been busy learning intermediate level Spanish and beginning Italian on Babbel and Duolingo. As I’ve had more downtime I thought I might as well learn some new skills and I was a French major during my university years so I enjoy the Romance languages.  Finally, I’ve been brushing up on my photo processing techniques hence another inspiration behind this new series. It keeps me continuing to learn and practice my new knowledge while I could easily be watching Netflix!

Our Stay at Home order is through May 4th however I am not sure if much will change here in Minnesota in a mere two weeks. The encouraging news (if there is any) is that our state continues to be doing a good job at keeping the number of infections at bay and our strategy seems to be working. We will see what the coming weeks bring. In the meantime, here is week 2 of my postcards from around the world. Hope you enjoy.

“Since we cannot change reality, let us change the eyes which see reality”. -Nikos Kazantzakis

Snapped: April 2017, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Costa Rica

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Gifts that Give Back to Support Fight Against COVID-19

In unprecedented times of COVID-19, now more than ever your purchasing power matters. In response to the coronavirus outbreak, many social enterprises, business and nonprofits are offering ways that you can use your purchasing power to help give back by either providing medical masks, supplies or your own facemasks to keep you and your loved ones healthy. Here are a few of my favorites.

Anchal  

www.anchalproject.org

Anchal [on-chal] believes design can change lives. As a non-profit social enterprise, Anchal uses design thinking to create innovative products and sustainable employment for exploited women worldwide. To date, Anchal has provided alternative careers in textiles and design to over 200 women in Ajmer, India and Louisville, KY.

Anchal is committed to producing the highest quality home goods & accessories while maintaining the integrity of our artisans and natural resources. Distinct design, craftsmanship and a personal signature connect you to the individual maker. Our eco-friendly products are entirely hand-stitched from vintage materials, certified organic cotton and low-impact dyes.

Anchal’s organic and vintage cotton face masks are made from two layers of quilted fabric. The dense weave of this durable cotton barrier provides protection and breathability. Anchal’s cotton bandanas also make for a versatile face mask option that can still be worn when COVID-19 pandemic ends. You can learn how to make your own Bandana Mask here. All masks are washable and reusable. The fabric is hand embroidered by an Artisan in Ajmer, India. The mask is cut and sewn by our team in Louisville, KY. All masks are pre-washed and delivered in polybags. Cost $20.00.

Gifts that Give Back SOCIAL GOOD