Every year, I find myself searching for ways to combine my love of gift-giving with my desire to share gifts that help the greater good.
Whether it’s supporting a business that invests in their community or buying goods from a non-profit as a way to invest in their mission, Cleveland has lots of ways to give back while you give. Below are a few of my favorites for the 2019 holiday shopping season.
Give gifts from community-minded vendors:
Six Shooter Coffee is a Cleveland-proud, small-batch roaster that aims to foster a community that values quality by spreading coffee knowledge and culture. Six Shooter serves coffee, kombucha, a full drink menu, and an array of locally baked goods.
Their cafe, located in Cleveland’s Waterloo Arts District, was recently damaged by a hit and run incident and was forced to close for a few days. “The cornerstone was pushed in, and a lot of the framing in the corner of the building was destroyed,” explains owner Peter Brown, adding that the windows were also broken.
Thanks to a generous neighborhood contractor who erected a false wall, Brown was able to reopen the cafe on Black Friday. When the store reopened, Brown had raised enough money to cover employees’ lost wages by devoting 100% of sales from stickers and can koozies.
Stop in for a holiday season cup of coffee in the comfortable cafe, and check out the new wall; perhaps you’ll leave with a gift of a Six Shooter sticker, a can koozie, or a sweatshirt. You can also find coffee and other gift possibilities for purchase online.
STEM Handmade Soap is a small soap company with two locations in Lakewood and Shaker Heights, Ohio. Their premium artisan soaps are handcrafted, using 100% all-natural ingredients. You can visit their stores in person or shop online. STEM donates 5% of their proceeds to Clean the World, which celebrates and promotes good hygiene by collecting, recycling, and distributing soap to help fight preventable diseases.
Nothing goes to waste at STEM: all of their soap scraps are donated to the homeless in Cleveland, most recently thirty pounds of leftover soap to Family Promise of Cleveland. This season they offer special holiday scents that range from Frankincense and Myrrh body butter to Sugar Plum home fragrances.
Refresh Collective, a hip hop makers space for clothing, music, and purpose, is located in Cleveland’s Gordon Square Neighborhood.“ Students young and old grow in creativity, confidence, and character while collaborating for a healthier community,” boasts creator Dee Jay Doc. Members of their workforce learn in-house screen printing and work together to create the Fresh Clothing line.
The shirts are hand-printed at the studio and can be purchased online at the Refresh Collective gear shop or at the studio during events. Creative quips like “So Fresh & So CLE” and “ That’s my jam” adorn these soft shirts. All proceeds from shirt sales support the Fresh movement.
Upcycle Parts Shop, founded by Nicole McGee and Devon Fegen-Herdman, is the leader in sustainable art and craft supplies in Cleveland. This non-profit is dedicated to encouraging creativity and promoting community through reuse. At Upcycle Parts, you can donate used art and craft supplies and can also purchase such items at modest prices.
The shop serves thousands of participants each year by supplying materials to creative endeavors, leading programming, and building community in Cleveland’s St. Clair neighborhood. Co-founder Nicole McGee says, “We truly mean it when we say we wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the support of hundreds of people.”
When you purchase your holiday gifts from Upcycle Parts, you’ll know that you’re helping to keep goods out of the landfill.
Cosmic Bobbins creates apparel and empowers the community. Through trauma-informed practice in art-based education, screen printing, sewing, embroidery services, and workforce development, Cosmic Bobbins’ work defines the spirit of hope in the Greater Cleveland area.
While the business of Cosmic Bobbins continues to focus on the screen printing and embroidery services of the social enterprise, the Foundation diligently works to impact the lives of local underrepresented participants, including youth, refugee, and immigrant populations.
This year, their Jamie Clause empowerment headscarf, made in partnership with Cosmic Bobbins Foundation and Cleveland Sews, is part of a workforce development program to revitalize the sewing industry via the empowerment of underserved and economically disenfranchised individuals. The headscarf can be purchased online, the perfect gift for the strong, confident women in your life.
Esperanza Threads, founded by Sister Mary Eileen Boyle with the aid of a ministry grant from the Ursuline Sisters of Cleveland, is a non-profit striving to be self-sustaining as a social purpose enterprise. They provide industrial sewing and job readiness training to low-income individuals with multiple barriers to employment.
Operating as a revenue-generating venture to assist in funding the mission, Esperanza Threads offers handmade items for babies, toddlers, and women, as well as home goods. Your purchase helps to empower people to get fair paying jobs to support their families.
Spice for Life LLC is a woman-owned social enterprise with a twofold mission: encouraging healthy eating and providing more life opportunities for women and men who have been victims of human trafficking. They offer customers an array of fresh spices and unique blends, many of which are ground in house, to encourage home cooking and healthier eating, thus fostering more family time.
All profits are donated to nonprofit organizations in Northeast Ohio that work to prevent human trafficking and support its victims. The founders of Spice for Life have chosen the Renee Jones Empowerment Center as their initial beneficiary. All profits will go to the RJEC, which focuses its efforts on advocacy and social support for survivors of human trafficking.
You can visit Spice for Life’s brick and mortar store located in the Shaker Heights Van Aken District to purchase spices, or items can be ordered online. Mouthwatering top sellers include applewood smoked salt, honey-chipotle rub, and Tuscan bread dipping seasoning.
Storehouse Tea is an ethically and socially responsible tea maker in Cleveland’s historic Hildebrandt Provisions building. The company is dedicated to supporting tea gardens that help conserve our fragile ecosystem by sustainable, organic farming practices.
Storehouse Teas works with their neighborhood community development office, community resettlement agencies, and the local high school to hire employees, believing that it is an honor to be connected to the growth and livelihood of their community.
Tea can be ordered online and can also be found in brick and mortar locations across Cuyahoga County, such as The Green House in Euclid and the affoGato Cafe in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood. If you’re looking for loose teas, tea sachets, or tea sets, Storehouse Tea has you covered.
Hope Soap, a Summit County soap company, began when founder Nathan Walden grew frustrated after years of struggling with dermatitis. After years of appointments, testing, and medication, he decided to create his own remedy. In 2012, he started making natural soap that completely cured his skin problems.
In addition to making natural soap, Walden is passionate about helping the homeless community. That passion pushed him to create a non-profit called The Love Truck, which assists those who are homeless in Akron, Ohio. The last Saturday of each month, The Love Truck serves hot meals and distributes necessities like soap, as well as assisting with finding employment for community members.
All of Hope Soap’s products can be purchased online, or you can visit their brick and mortar shops in Akron and Cuyahoga Falls. For every item sold, a bar of soap is shared with someone in need.
Volunteer or donate–not every gift needs to be wrapped:
Euclid Hunger Center operates as a choice pantry for the residents of Euclid, Ohio. “EHC serves an average of 700 families per month, so the need in our community is very real,” shares EHC manager Kay O’Donnell. The center offers assistance in a positive and compassionate environment.
Monetary or food donations in someone else’s name is a true gift of love. You might also volunteer with a friend or family member, giving your time together to help others in the community rather than exchanging gifts. Visit the Euclid Hunger Center website to find out how you can get involved.
The Refugee Response was founded in 2009 by two Clevelanders, Paul Neundorfer and David Wallis, to help refugees adjust to life in Northeast Ohio. In 2010, ground was broken on the Ohio City Farm, the first of the Refugee Response programming. Recruiting mentors to support refugee students, they established the REAP program and sold organically farmed fresh produce to some of Cleveland’s best restaurants.
Over the years, their unique programming has grown and now includes The Farm, Youth Mentoring, Teen Response, and Adult Tutoring. TRR works to empower the area’s growing refugee population by providing opportunities for them to learn skills and succeed in their new communities.
Neighborhood Pets offers affordable and accessible basic wellness care, spay/neuter, supplies, education, and resources for pets from the Cleveland area. Each year, more than 96,000 Cleveland cats and dogs lack access to affordable resources for the care to which Neighborhood Pets believes they are entitled.
Neighborhood Pets’ mission is to keep animals healthy, happy, and home with their families. They welcome monetary donations that help to provide affordable and accessible pet care to pet owners with low income. Consider making a donation in the name of the animal lover in your life. You can also donate pet supplies or food via their Amazon wish list, or drop items off at their Slavic Village location. Visit their website to learn what they need. You can even team up with a friend to make a joint donation in lieu of exchanging gifts.
These are just a few of the many ways that Cleveland offers for giving to the community as well as to those you love. The list of community-oriented businesses and nonprofits is practically endless. So this year, let’s do what we can to eliminate the commercialism of the holidays and make the season truly about giving and giving back.