Charitable Gift Giving

We surf the Web to find good products that help out a great cause.

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Wonderbag – Works like a Crock Pot with no Electricity!

October 15th, 2014 · Amazon, Developing Areas

I love my Crock Pot. Granted, I lug it out almost as often as I lug out my ice cream maker or Ronco Rotisserie (meaning almost never other than the first two weeks I owned them when I used them constantly). But whenever I do have a slow cooked meal it’s always heavenly. I can’t go back to cooking beef stew any other way.

The Wonderbag is an ingenious product that’s a slow cooker just like your Crock Pot, except that it doesn’t use any electricity. No plugs, no cords, nothing. You basically bring your dish to a boil on the stove in a pot, place it (pot and all) in the bag, and then just plop it down on a counter or anywhere else. For the next 4-12 hours your food will continue to cook, thanks to the clever way the bag is insulated. Any pot from two to nine quarts will work; cast-iron pots like ones from Le Creuset will work the best.

Unlike with the Crock Pot, you’re not running electricity all day, so it’s friendlier to the environment. And you’ll be amazed that just like with the Crock Pot, your food will come out steaming and ready to eat.

the amazing wonderbag slow cookerThere are a ton of uses for these. If you’re entertaining during the holidays and only have one Crock Pot, why not use this Wonderbag as its “understudy” to cook larger quantities (you can even do a “taste test” between the two). Or, take one camping with you and instead of cooking pork and beans on the fire, upscale it to butternut squash soup (it comes with some great recipes). You can also steam rice in an hour.

While they’re cleverly pivoting the marketing of Wonderbag to sell as a kitchen appliance for us with first-world problems like wanting to save money on our electricity bills or wanting the novelty of cooking without electricity, Wonderbag actually got its start in the third world to solve much more important problems. Specifically, in many areas of Africa and the Middle East, there is no access at all to energy. Charcoal is expensive, so many people have to cut down trees, resulting in deforestation. Both charcoal and wood cause smoke inhalation. And women usually are the ones who are left to forage for wood and cook, meaning that girls who could otherwise be in school can’t be. And worse, often when women and girls have to wander farther and farther away to forage, they are open to attacks.

South African entrepreneur Sarah Collins and poverty activist Moshy Mathe designed Wonderbag to help societies like these. Hundreds of thousands of Wonderbags have been distributed to countries like South Africa, Rwanda, Kenya, Syria, and Jordan. It’s saved poor families upwards of 30% of their household income, provided for healthier air to breathe, and reduces time cooking which opens up more time to raise kids and get educated. A side benefit is that because the Wonderbag “locks” moisture in, which means less water (another precious commodity) is wasted. Another side benefit is that because food is simmered and not cooked on an open fire, less food gets burned and wasted.

They’re still distributing Wonderbags to the poor, and that’s another reason you should buy one: for every one you buy, one will be donated to a poor household. So what we might see as a relatively inexpensive novelty could be a life-changing gift for someone on the other side of the globe.

The Wonderbag comes in three colors and costs under $55. It’ll make a great gift for the cook in your life who already have everything else. You can get yours here.

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Agraria Helps Out for Breast Cancer Awareness Month Again

October 9th, 2014 · Breast Cancer

Once again, Agraria is donating 35% of all online sales of their Cedar Rose fragrance of products to breast cancer research, benefiting the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Agraria is a producer of products of exquisite fragrances. Their history dates back to 1970 when they started as a boutique on Nob Hill, introducing two products with unique fragrances (“Bitter Orange” Potpourri and “Balsam” perfume candles.) The Henri Bendel store on New York’s Park Avenue and later Bergdoff Goodman put Agraria potpourri in the entryways of their stores. If you’ve stayed at an InterContinental Hotel and Resort, chances are you’ve had a chance to sample some of their “Lemon Verbena” bath products.

Today, Agraria is found in the top department stores and gift shops in the world. But thanks to e-commerce, you don’t need to go past your bedroom to order it. You can find diffusers, bath bars, soap, shower gel, lotion, candles, cologne, incense sticks, and even “TasselAire” tassels to hang on your door in eight fragrances Balsam, Bitter Orange, Cedar Rose, Golden Cassis, Lavender & Rosemary, Lemon Verbena, Lime & Orange Blossoms, and Mediterranian Jasmine.

I had an opportunity to try out the bath bar. The first thing to know about it is that like all other Agraria products, this one comes packaged beautifully. All their products make impeccable gifts.

cedar rose soap

The second thing to know is that it’s HUGE. It’ll last for weeks and weeks and it feels AMAZING. While some might scoff at the idea of a $20 bar of soap, at 8.2 bounces it will last forever and it contains top quality Olive Oil, Vitamin E, Shea Butter, Yucca Oil, Kukui Oil, and Sea Fennel. This is not your typical Dial soap–you’ll be doing your skin a favor by using this.

great soap

Finally, the smell is amazing. It’s not heavy with artificial-smelling perfume, but a subtle scent that really does put you in the mind of a field of roses.

great soap

While Agraria products make great gifts any time of the year, October is an especially nice time to buy something and know that a good chunk of your price is going to help a critically important cause. Visit Agraria Home for more details or to make a purchase.

 

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Devon Still Jerseys to help Cincinnati Children’s Hospital

October 1st, 2014 · Uncategorized

devon still jerseyThe NFL has gotten a lot of flak lately. Seems that every time you read about football in the media, they’re not talking about the game, but about distractions like why a team name is supposedly offensive or how the criminal behavior of certain players supposedly represent the entire league.

Here’s a nice story to come out of the NFL.

On June 2, defensive tackle Devon Still learned his four year old daughter had Stage 4 pediatric cancer and given a 50% chance of survival. Soon after, he was cut from the roster of the Bengals, a devastating blow for any aspiring football player. That’s a lot of trauma for a 25 year-old man to go through. And of course, little 4 year-old Leah had to go through surgery to remove her tumor, her lymph nodes, and her right adrenal gland.

The Bengals decided to put Still’s jerseys on sale for $100 each, with 100% of the proceeds (not just the profits) of the jerseys, up to the first 10,000 going to Cincinnati Children’s Medical Center, meaning that the team would absorb about $500,000 in the cost of the jersey itself. Any sales over 10,000 jerseys and the profits would continue to go to the hospital. They’ll be continuing this sale until Monday, October 20.

On November 6 during Thursday Night Football, the Bengals will present the check, which will likely exceed $1 million, to the hospital.

Want to get in on the action? You can visit the Bengal’s Pro Shop to order your own jersey. While Still will probably never be an NFL star on the order of a Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, let’s hope his jersey sells more than any of them for the next few weeks.

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Oprah’s Chai Tea from Teavana and Starbucks that Helps Charity

September 2nd, 2014 · Uncategorized

Remember when rocker Bret Michaels created Snapple Troparocka as part of the Celebrity Apprentice reality show?  It was hard to believe that someone who wasn’t a beverage professional could create something so delicious. In fact, I have a bottle sitting next to me right now.

 

troparocka

 

Well, back in April of this year Oprah announced at a Starbucks shareholders’ meeting that she had collaborated with Starbucks and Teavana to create her own chai blend.

Chai tea, for those who don’t know, is actually a but of a redundancy (technically speaking a tautology). The word “chai”is the word for “tea” in many languages in Europe and Asia, derived from the Persian word “chay” which itself was derived from the Chinese word 茶. So when you say “Chai Tea”, you’re actually saying “Tea Tea”.

But “Chai Tea” has become synonymous in the US with a concoction of tea prepared with milk and spices. Just as regular coffee evolved into latte, a mixture of milk and extremely strongly brewed coffee (expresso), chai latte is a mixture of milk, tea, and spices.

Oprah’s Chai combines cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and cloves, blended with loose-leaf black tea and rooibos. But let’s face it, this blend is wildly successful because of one ingredent: Oprah’s name. Just as 90% of coffee connoisseurs out there can’t tell the difference between good expresso and mediocre expresso, the folks who thought of this probably figured the same was true for Chai.

Oprah’s Chai is a decent Chai. It’s a bit too sweet for my wife’s taste and frankly I prefer my latte in coffee form vs. tea form. But overall it’s not bad. And the best thing about it is that a portion of every purchase of leaves from Teavana or drinks from Starbucks goes to benefit educational opportunities for young people through The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy Foundation.

This includes:

oprah chai tea set25 cents for each Teavana Oprah Chai prepared beverage at Starbucks

$1 USD per reusable storage tin like this Teavana Oprah Chai Tea Tin 16oz

$1 USD per 2 oz. of Teavana Oprah Chai Loose-Leaf Tea like this Teavana Oprah Chai Tea Loose Leaf Tea

$1 per small gift set like this Oprah Chai Tea Infuse Inspiration Set

$4 USD per large gift set like this Teavana Oprah Chai Tea Infuse Inspiration Set

 

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Sports Memorabilia for Auction That Helps United Way

August 23rd, 2014 · Uncategorized

Are you a big sports fan or do you know one? How would you like to own or experience some of the following:

  • A round of golf with Lee Westwood, former World Number One and UPS Golf Ambassador.
  • A UPS Racing fire suit worn by NASCAR driver Carl Edwards in the 2013 Kentucky Speedway: Quaker State 400.
  • An autographed football from former Chicago Bears All-Pro Linebacker Brian Urlacher.
  • An autographed basketball  from former Atlanta Hawks Dominique Wilkins; Wilkins is a retired nine-time NBA All-Star and one of the best dunkers in NBA history, earning the nickname The Human Highlight Film.
  • An autographed Udonis Haslem jersey from the 2006-07 season – a title year for the Miami Heat. Haslem played on all three championship teams for the Heat.

UPS is running these auctions on autographed football, basketball, racing and golf collectibles, including NASCAR, Formula 1, NFL, NBA, PGA and college team merchandise to benefit United Way. New auction items will post every week until the end of September. As of this post, there are three days left to big on a real Masters Pin Flag autographed by Ernie Els and Louis Oosthuizen and my personal favorite, a UPS Racing fire suit worn by driver, Carl Edwards. 

fire suit for auction

There don’t seem to be a lot of bids for these items, meaning that you can probably get something very cool for a very low price–and help a great charity along the way.

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An Easier Way of Donating to ALS Than #icebucketchallenge

August 16th, 2014 · Uncategorized

By now everyone has heard of the “Ice Bucket Challenge”. No doubt multiple people on your Facebook feed have done it, and of course there are celebrities all over from Justin Timberlake to Jimmy Fallon who have jumped on the bandwagon.

The story goes that the whole thing started on July 29, when former Boston College baseball player Pete Frates issued the “Ice Bucket Challenge” to his friends (including celebrities such as Tom Brady and Matt Ryan) to take the Ice Bucket Challenge to raise awareness for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a disease from which he suffers. Some media outlets have contradicted this, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who started it and when–the most important thing is that so far, $62.5 million and counting have been raised.

The one thing about viral phenomena like this is that they tend to come and go and then be long forgotten (remember #stopkony? Just barely, right?).

While ALS Association is reaping huge benefits, one thing to keep in mind is to remember them even after the hype has faded. One way to do this is to support ALS on eBay so purchases from specially marked products on eBay go to help them. But of course, an even better way is to donate directly to them at http://www.alsa.org/donate/.

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Nominate your charity to receive $10,000 from Toms of Maine #50statesforgood

August 9th, 2014 · Uncategorized

Toms of Maine is a great company based in, well, Maine that makes toothpaste, deodorants, and other products from all-natural ingredients. I’ve used their products and know first-hand how great they are–they don’t have artificial colors, flavors, fragrances, nor preservatives, and they don’t even use any products derived from animals. And yet their products work just as well or better than anything you’ll find out there.

Admittedly, sometimes when I use them I miss my radioactive-glowing-blue-shade of Aim Toothpaste, but my mouth and body feel so much better knowing I’m using natural products.

Toms is not only great for the planet in their business model, they also do amazing charity work. Right now they have a program called 50 States for Good going on. From now until September 30, you can nominate a charity in your state to receive a $10,000 grant from Tom’s. Just visit their Web site and click “Nominate a Nonprofit” and your favorite grassroots charity can be in the running to receive one of 50 grants, given to one non-profit in each state. So if you’re in a smaller state that doesn’t have a lot of not-for-profit activity, your chances of getting it are even better.

There’s also a cool featured called “Be a Virtual Volunteer” where just by Facebooking or Tweeting you can help a local grassroots organization.

Be sure to support this great effort from a great company.

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Buy a Subway Sandwich to Support Stand Up To Cancer

August 2nd, 2014 · Uncategorized

Feel like buying two $5 footlongs at Subway (okay, sorry for getting that song in your head). From now until September 15, pay with your Mastercard and you’ll not only get lunch out of it, Subway and Mastercard will donate to Stand Up to Cancer to accelerate innovative cancer research to get new therapies to patients quickly.

Since 2008, Stand Up To Cancer has raised more than $261 million, 3 of which (and counting) have been raised by this campaign. But hurry, you only have a few weeks left to help.

stand up to cancer

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Toys R Us Guide for Disabled (or Differently-Abled) Kids

July 26th, 2014 · Uncategorized

Over the years the world has come up with all kinds of words for children with special needs. They were “handicapped”, then “disabled”, then “physically challenged”, and now “special needs”.

But there’s one thing a lot of people don’t call these children that they should: kids. Despite whatever physical ailments they have, they are at the end of the day kids. They laugh, they play with toys, they want to run and jump and be silly, and they cry, sadly more than other kids.

I really love what Toys R Us has been doing for the last 20 years. They’ve released a guide called the Toys “R” Us Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids that should be required reading for any parent, family member, health care giver or friend of a family with a child with special needs. What’s great about this toy catalog is that it’s not just a list of toys placed in categories that is intended to sell more products, but it goes into the individual needs of each individual child, pointing out toys that reinforce skills such as Auditory, Language, Social Skills, Creativity, Fine Motor Skills, Gross Motor Skills, Self Esteem, Tactile, Thinking, and Visual Skills. They collaborated with the National Lekotek Center, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that provides an array of services to improve the lives of children with special needs.

You can view a copy of the guide here.

Here’s a message from the great Albert Pujols, himself a parent of a child with Downs Syndrome and one of the all-around good guys in baseball and in life, to talk more about it.

Toys R Us is a great supporter of multiple charities that benefit children with needs, including their own Toys R Us Children’s Fund, the American Society for Deaf Children, Autism Speaks, National Center for Learning Disabilities, National Down Syndrome Society, Spina Bifida Association, Hollyrod Foundation, MDA, National Federation for the Blind, the Special Olympics, and United Cerebral Palsy.

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Gardener’s Supply Copmany’s Charitable Donations

July 18th, 2014 · Uncategorized

I’ve been a customer of Gardener’s Supply Company a lot lately, actually a lot more than I wish given that the main product I’m buying are to combat a nasty fungus gnat infestation.

One thing I didn’t realize about the company is that 8% of their profits are donated to charity.

gardeners supply charity

This isn’t a one-time gimmick nor a donation with a maximum cap as other companies tend to do, but something the company has been doing since 1983! So the next time you need potting soil or garden supplies or (gasp) yellow sticky traps for gnats, think of them first!

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