Charitable Gift Giving

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

Charitable Gift Giving header image 1

The Best Radio to Have When the Power Goes Out – Eton's FRX3

October 16th, 2013 · American Red Cross

Last year during Hurricane Sandy, all of the power on Long Island went out for weeks. Now I thought I had been prepared, and had about 30 AA batteries charged, thinking that would be enough to allow me to charge my phone, power on a radio, and power my flashlights. All the batteries were drained within a day.

I’ll admit, my wife and I ended up having a pretty nice time. We played a full round of Monopoly by candlelight, and heated up food by the heat of the candle.

playing monopoly during hurricane sandy

That was fun for one night. But the next night, and the night after that, and the next few nights after that weren’t as fun as we began to realize how much we really rely on technology. It’s important to be able to have a radio to hear updates on the weather, especially if there are evacuation warnings or news of danger. And it’s really, really important to have a cell phone to keep our loved ones updated (and yes, to play the occasional game of Candy Crush Saga to help pass the time).

Now in our tiny apartment, we can’t buy a generator (not that we could have gotten any gas for it). And I’d purchased some solar powered battery chargers that didn’t seem to work (they need a full day of full sunlight to even have a hope of charging one AA battery).

the perfect radio for a power outageIf there’s one radio I wish I’d had, it’s the Eton FRX3 Radio. I had a chance to try this radio out, and my first impressions is that this is like the “Swiss Army Knife” of portable radios. It is truly the next best thing to having a generator. It won’t power your TV or your microwave, but it will do just about everything else, including:

  • Allow you to listen to AM or FM radio
  • Allow you to listen to NOAA weather radio
  • Charge your smartphone
  • Let you see in the dark with a bright white flashlight or signal for help with a flashing red light
  • Play audio from other sources using an AUX input
  • Let you listen in quiet with headphone output
  • Wake you up with an alarm clock

The unit lets you switch between two modes of power: battery mode and “dynamo mode”.

Battery mode will power the radio using AAA batteries under normal power conditions.

In Dynamo mode, when the AAA batteries are drained, you can continue to power the unit through an internal rechargeable Ni-MH battery that can be charged in one of three ways:

  • A solar panel on top of the unit (must be exposed to direct sunlight, not a lamp or through a window to work).
  • A hand-crank turbine.
  • A USB port with DC input (you can use this on normal days to quickly charge the internal battery using a USB source like your phone charger. If the power goes out, you can also charge it using another device that provides emergency power through a USB port like this one we’ve highlighted in the past). A USB-to-mini USB cable is included.

The explain how the dynamo feature works, think of The Professor’s bike on Gilligan’s Island. You’re basically taking your mechanical energy and converting it to electrical energy. The hand crank is as pleasant as it can be to use–it turns loosely with a slight “whirring” sound, and the handle itself rotates for efficiency and comfort. That said, you might want to take turns as a family cranking it, as it does get tiring.

attach the rechargeable battery to the eton radioWhen you get the unit, setup is easy. First, you open the battery compartment and make sure the Ni-MH battery is plugged in (I missed this step at first and tried to figure out for the longest time why all my hand cranking was doing nothing). Then, just charge the Ni-MH battery using USB until it’s full.

As with all rechargeable batteries, this battery pack has a limited number of charges it can hold, but the good news is you can buy additional packs from Eton for the really low price of $8.95; buy enough of them and you can ensure that you can power your smartphone all throughout the zombie apocalypse (and listen to some cool zombie tunes when they take over the FM radio).

From there, it’s just a matter of pushing the right buttons to listen to radio. Push the power button to power the device on. Turn the knob of the left for radio volume (clockwise for softer, counter-clockwise for louder), and turn the knob on the right for tuning. Use the clicking switches on top of the hand crank to switch between AM, FM, and one of seven weather bands, at least one of which should be broadcasting in your area (assuming there isn’t a government shutdown going on!). An LED panel tells you your band, frequency, and battery charge level.

To set the time and the alarm clock there are buttons on top, under the handle. To set the clock, make sure the radio power is off and then press the “Set” button and then adjust the hours by pressing the “Up” and “Down” buttons. Press the “Set” button again to adjust the minutes, and then 12/24 time format. You can do the same for the alarm by clicking “Alarm On/Off” follow by “Set”.

There’s also an “Alert” feature. To use it, set your radio volume to a comfortable one, move the dial to a working weatherband frequency, and press the Alert button on top. The word “alert” will start flashing on the screen. Now, in the case of a weather emergency, your radio will power on and you’ll get the news right away.

bright flashlight perfect for blackoutsUsing the Flashlight is a snap. Just press the button on the front of the unit to unleash a really powerful flashlight with two bright white LEDs (so powerful when I just accidentally looked into the light I still see spots). There’s also a single red flashing LED for emergencies, also really bright.

And now, for the most important feature IMO: charging a cell phone. To do this, you first make sure your Ni-MH battery pack is sufficiently charged–if it’s not, turn the crank, set the unit in sunlight, or charge it with a USB power source to get it there.

Then, you plug one end of your phone charger cable into the USB port…

charging a cell phone in a power outage

…and the other end into your phone. In my case, I used an iPhone 4S whose batteri I’d run down to nothing. Then, you press the “Cell” phone on the top right, under the handle. You’ll see the word “Cell” appear on the LCD panel.

eton radio charging iphoneVoila! I could see the battery indicator on the radio start to flash and the charge on my iPhone start to go. In a half hour, the iPhone battery charged to 23% before the Eton radio gave out. Not a full charge, of course, but more than enough if you’re desperate in a total power failure.

As for how long the unit works after charging it using these various approaches, here are some figures:

  • It’ll take about 2 hours to fully charge the Ni-MH battery with a USB adapter, or about 10 hours of direct sunlight. With a fully charged battery, the radio will run about 3 to 4 hours at low volume.
  • 90 seconds of hand cranking will charge the Ni-MH battery to a point where it can power the radio for about 5 to 7 minutes at low volume, or run the flashlight for about 20 minutes continuously. If you’ve got the strength, you can keep cranking to more fully charge the battery (the manuals says to continually crank at least 2 or more revolutions per second, and if you stop for any reason, to take a 5 second break before starting to crank again).

I can’t say enough good things about the usability of the radio. It’s not the prettiest radio in the world, but they’ve definitely made up for it in functionality. All the buttons are intuitive and easy to master, something I appreciate in an emergency.

And I haven’t gotten to the best part. For every radio it sell, Eton donates 57 cents of the sales price to support the American Red Cross. Moreover, Eton has been active in helping in areas ravaged by natural disasters, most recently during the Colorado floods. Eton was there, donating many of their products to help many of those affected by the storms.

Whether it’s hurricane season, tornado season, snowstorm season, a truck runs into a utility pole, or the zombie apocalypse, you never know when you’ll completely lose the power to your house. This is definitely the radio to get when it does.

→ No CommentsTags:

Christmas Gifts at Kohl's, this year starring Snoopy!

October 13th, 2013 · Children's Charities, Kohls

It’s that time of year again! Every year, I look forward to when Kohl’s releases its Kohl’s Cares line of gifts. As we’ve featured on this blog in past years, they’ve sold everything from Dr. Seuss books to Nancy Tillman books to Winnie the Pooh stuffed animals. I never fail to be impressed by the quality of gifts that they sell in this collection.

But even more remarkable is that the gifts sell for $5. If you look on Amazon and eBay, you’ll see that the very same merchandise usually retails for far more than this, but somehow they’ve managed to keep the $5 price point for years. And even more remarkable, 100% (that’s 100%) of the net profits go directly to kids’ health and education initiatives. Since 2000, over $231 million has been raised for the cause.

This year’s line of gifts feature my all-time favorite cartoon characters (and likely yours or a loved one’s)–Snoopy, Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Woodstock, and the whole Peanuts gang. Once again, they have a great assortment of high quality gifts, all at $5 (when’s the last time you bought anything for $5?). These aren’t watered down versions of the retail product–these are well produced products that match or even exceed the quality of what you’d find in any other store.

There’s a line of stuffed animals featuring Lucy, Snoopy, Linus, Charlie Brown, and Woodstock. And then there are books. There’s a picture book of the all-time classic A Charlie Brown Christmas. There are books to inspire kids, including “You Can Be Anything” and “Be Yourself”.

But my favorite gift (and grab it while it lasts) is a two-book set that features two Charles Schulz classics: Happiness is a Warm Puppy, and Christmas is Together Time. Both books come together shrink-wrapped at only $5.

kohl's peanuts classic gift set for $5

happiness is a warm puppy and christmas is together time at kohl's

Back in 1962, Happiness is a Warm Puppy landed on the New York Times bestseller list and sold millions of copies over the years. This is a brand new, hardcover version of the book that maintains the original book’s design, form factor, and even page colors.

While this would be a great gift for kids, I think it’s an even better gift for grown-ups, not only for nostalgic reasons, but because as with all of Charles Schulz’s comic strips, the pithy sayings in these books can be enjoyed from both a child’s perspective, but even more from a grown-up’s perspective. I’ve often said that Charles Schulz was one of the 20th century’s greatest philosophers. Check out some of the pages.

christmas is suggesting we decorate the tree with strings of popcorn and cranberries

happiness is a pile of leaves
christmas is a box of tree ornaments that have become part of the family
happiness is a good old fashioned game of hide and seek

This gift, along with the rest of the great selection, is available today at Kohl’s. I usually don’t start posting Christmas stuff until November, but because these gifts tend to sell out VERY fast, I’d suggest you stock up while you can!








→ No CommentsTags:

Heaven's Styles Boutique – Trendy Fashion that Fights Cancer #fightwithfashion

October 11th, 2013 · Cancer

stylish dressIf you look through the online catalog of Heaven Styles Boutique ( or their Facebook page, , you’ll see the spectacular creations of fashion designer Nathan Carl Garvin. His designs are unique and elegant, and yet approachable and affordable.

The ensemble you see to the right, believe it or not, is from their Spring and Summer collection, and costs $35 for the color block top and $30 for the elongated skirt. From their Facebook page, a Fall collection is currently available in the Heaven Styles Boutique location in the Boston area, and will be coming soon.

Heaven Styles Boutique uses the “fast fashion” technique, meaning that designs go quickly from the catwalk to retail sales, ensuring that you’re  always wearing this season’s latest fashions.

heaven styles t-shirts

What’s even more amazing about Nathan Garvin is that he has decided to “give back” with every purchase made from Heaven Styles Boutique. It started when he was asked to support a fashion show for Beat Liver Tumors. Garvin designed for a cancer survivor who ended up becoming a dear friend. From there, he decided to devote proceeds from all sales of his fashion designs to different cancer organizations.

In their boutiques, Heaven Styles also sells its own “Heaven Styles” branded T-Shirts, where $4 of each sale will go to a variety of great organizations. These aren’t your typical promotional logo T-shirts–they themselves come in a variety of colors and sizes.

Look through their site and their Facebook page, and spread the word. With great designs, truly personalized service, and a heart of gold, this is a small business that really deserves your attention.

→ No CommentsTags:

Great Wine that Supports a Great Cause #wine

October 9th, 2013 · Veterans and Military

wine-that-helps-charityOperation Homefront is a non-profit organization that helps the families of active-duty military and veterans in need with emergency financial assistance. Since it began in 1982, Operation Homefront has provided more than $170 million dollars in funding to programs that benefit military families. Last year alone, Operation Homefront met 151,150 needs for military families, including assistance with everyday needs like food, auto repair, medical assistance, housing, essential items, and raising morale. As a charity, it has been given the highest rating of four stars by Charity Navigator, which means that it’s one of the best run charities there are. Nationally, 95% of total revenue donated to the charity goes directly to programs that provide support to military families.

You can view more of the specific types of needs that Operation Homefront assists with here. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been tough on our country, and toughest on our soldiers. Many families have lost loved ones who died in service to our country, and survivors often suffer from financial hardship or physical or mental challenges upon returning home. The least we can do for these men and women who have given up so much of their lives to defend our country and our lives, is to help them. You can read more about Operation Homefront here.

Murphy-Goode is a wine seller in California. They’ve introduced a wonderful new red wine called “Homefront Red”. It’s a California red wine that’s a blend of Syrah, Merlot, Petite Sirah, and Zinfandel grapes. According to the wine tasting notes it is “food friendly and fruit forward”, full of flavors like juicy black cherry and raspberry, with toasty vanilla notes and a long, nice finish. I got a chance to sample the wine, and it is definitely a high quality wine that’s complex and lives up to other fine wines. At $15 a bottle, available direct from the winery, it’s also a fantastic value for gift giving or just for enjoying at tailgating or holiday parties.

Aside from being an excellent wine, Murphy-Goode will donate 50 cents from each bottle to Operation Homefront, with a goal of raising at least $300,000 for Operation Homefront. As the holidays approach, the need is greater than ever for food assistance, vision care, community events, moving assistance, and the Wounded Warrior Wives program.

→ No CommentsTags:

NOMOS Glashutte Watches that help Doctors Without Borders

October 4th, 2013 · Developing Areas, Doctors Without Borders

This stunning watch is one of two special edition watches released by NOMOS Glashütte to support Doctors Without Borders. The watch comes in two sizes with a diameter of either 33mm or 38mmm, and both watches are limited to a production of only 1,000 watches.

watch for charity

NOMOS Glashütte first released a limited edition watch in March 2012 in Germany. Now, they’re repeating the charitable initiative by producing the NOMOS Tangente 38 and Tangente 33 in the United States.

What makes these hand-wound watches extra-special is  the name “Doctors Without Borders” on the white silver-plated dial, as well as a red “12″ and an engraving on the back referring to the international medical humanitarian organization. In addition, these special models have black oxidized hands instead of the Tangente’s usual tempered blue ones.

The back is special as well. You can watch the intricate movement of the gears through the sapphire crystal glass back.

These watches do come at a premium price ($1,840 for the 33mm and $2,140 for the 38mm), but if you know someone who is an aficionado of the finest timepieces in the world, this is an amazing opportunity to get an amazing watch.

$100 of the sale of each watch will go to Doctors Without Borders, helping this amazing organization support people in countries around the world that are affected by armed conflicts, epidemics, malnutrition, or natural disasters. $100 is enough to supply one of the following:

  • 1,000+ refugees ensured clean water supplies for a week, thanks to chlorination equipment
  • 17 wool blankets to protect displaced people from the cold,
  • 5 emergency shelters for families uprooted during a crisis,
  • 450 emergency food rations,
  • 20 life-saving treatments for malaria,
  • 250 Meningitis A vaccine doses,
  • 90 rapid diagnostic tests for HIV,
  • 25 full sets of emergency wound dressing supplies for treatment in the field.

For more information on this amazing timepiece, or to buy one, visit

→ No CommentsTags:

Pink Shopping Bags for $2.99 at Safeway That Helps Breast Cancer Research

September 30th, 2013 · Breast Cancer

From now until November 3, when you visit a Safeway, Vons, Pavillions, Tom Thumb, Randalls, Dominick’s, or Carrs store, you’ll be able to purchase a reusable shopping bag for $2.99. A full $2.00 of that will go to benefit breast cancer research.

You can also purchase $30 of participating products with pink price tags, and $5 will be donated, up to $1,000,000. Here’s a video that talks about it, with a message from Stand Up to Cancer ambassador Marg Helgenberger of CSI fame.

The bag is reusable and engraved with the words “Creating a brighter tomorrow”. With 2.5 million women in the US (that’s one out of every 8) still affected by breast cancer, it’s a cause that still desperately needs all the attention we give it every October.

creating a brighter tomorrow

→ No CommentsTags:

Shop at Kohls for Breast Cancer Awareness 2013

September 25th, 2013 · Breast Cancer, Kohls

Each year, I take a little extra time as October approaches to talk about pink breast cancer related products. That’s mainly because Breast Cancer Awareness and the pink ribbon campaign is what really spawned the concept of retailers and consumer product manufacturers tying in their products with charities. This accomplishes two things–of course, the portion of proceeds that gets donated to charities helps the cause right off the bat, but perhaps more importantly, the product becomes a walking, living advertisement that draws attention and spawns conversation about the cause, bringing it more awareness and more donations down the road. Today, pink products are still the most visible and most recognizable of these charitable products.

Over the years, the products have gone from simply slapping a pink ribbon on an existing product to having products designed from the ground up specially for the month. One of my favorite retailers each year to watch, both during Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October as well as their “Kohl’s Cares” product line during Christmas, is Kohl’s.

This year, they’ve introduced an entire pink product line called the Tek Gear collection. It includes T-Shirts, caps, leggings, tank tops, fleece, and accessories that are designed exclusively by Kohl’s. And amazingy, all items only cost $5, $10, or $15. That’s not a typo–that’s $5, $10, and $15.

In addition, 100% of the net profit (that’s right, 100%) goes directly to breast cancer causes, including the American Cancer Society and the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s Southeast Wisconsin Affiliate, where Kohl’s is headquartered.

You can find the entire collection online at their site here. In addition, merchandise will be available at all 40 Kohl’s stores in Wisconsin.

breast cancer awareness at kohls

The collection is available until November 3. Jump on it quick, because as we’ve seen with past Kohl’s collections like this, once they’re gone, theyre gone.

We had the opportunity to try out the microfleece top.

pink microfleece

It comes in pink, magenta (actually, more like a darker pink), and quiet shade (actually, a medium grey). As you can see, the magenta version is even more vibrant in person than what you see on the Web site. The material may as well be called “I can’t believe it’s not wool”, as the microfleece is incredibly warm and soft on both sides.

Here’s a photo of my lovely wife modeling it (don’t worry, she has a head and hands in real life–it’s just that she’s a bit bashful, and she normally wears an “XS”, so the “S” was a bit big on her).

kohl's pink fleece shirt

For more information on the Kohl’s Cares Breast Cancer Cause Merchandise program, visit And be sure to keep that page bookmarked, as I’m sure there will be something cool happening as the holidays approach.

→ 1 CommentTags:

Getting an iPhone 5s? Give a little more to (PRODUCT) RED

September 20th, 2013 · (PRODUCT) Red, Apple

If you’re an Apple fan, you probably know by now that the new iPhone 5s launches today! I’ve been stuck with my 4s for years, so I’m one of those who jumped at the chance to upgrade.

The iPhone 5s comes in three gorgeous colors: “Space Grey” (their fancy word for “black”), Silver, and Gold.

In order to protect the beautiful metallic finish from the inevitable dings and scratches, they’ve also introduced form-fitting cases with leather exteriors and microfiber interiors. The irony, of course, is that the case itself completely covers the very thing that it’s trying to protect.

Happily, the cases themselves are pretty attractive as well, and come in six colors: yellow, tan, blue, brown, black…

iphone 5 leather case covers

…and my personal favorite, PRODUCT (RED).

red iphone 5 cover

As with all PRODUCT (RED) products, a portion of proceeds of sales of this cover will go to help the Global Fund to fight AIDS in Africa. You can read more about Apple’s different PRODUCT (RED) products here:

→ No CommentsTags:

Free Appetizer or Crab Bucket at Joe's Crab Shack with Donation

August 29th, 2013 · Children's Charities

end childhood hunger

Joe’s Crab Shack is having a special deal where if you donate $5 to Share Our Strength you’ll get a free appetizer and if you donate $10 you’ll get a free Crab Bucket. You can read details here:

I was actually a little surprised to see there was a Joe’s Crab Shack within 10 miles of me. Looks like they’re in about 80% of the country now.

One nice thing about this deal is that you make the donation to Share Our Strength yourself–which means that you can take the deduction yourself in addition to the coupon. Your donation goes a long way: a $5 donation can feed hungry childred up to 50 meals, while a $10 donation can feel hungry children up to 100 meals.

But hurry, this deal lasts from now until September 30 only (although you’ll be able to use the coupon through December 31, 2013).

→ No CommentsTags:

Shop for a Cause 2013 at Macy's is this Saturday, August 24

August 20th, 2013 · Uncategorized

It’s that time of year again: Macy’s is having their annual “Shop for a Cause” event on Saturday, August 24!

shop for a cause at macy's 2013I’m always a little confused at this promotion, because I get all kinds of notices from all kinds of charities that they’re part of this event. But after a little digging I understood.

Here’s how it works: for the last few weeks, Macy’s has been distributing savings passes to eligible charities that request them, which they can in turn sell for $5. The charity gets to keep the $5, and the customer gets to enjoy 25% off on Saturday when they bring their savings pass into their local Macy’s. Over 8,000 charities participated in this event last year, and this year it looks like a ton of charities are participating again, including a charity near and dear to my heart: the Alliance for Lupus Research, as well as organizations as diverse as animal shelters, arts organizations, and home-schoolers.

Every year this is a wildly successful program. Since 2006, they’ve raised over $42 million for charities.

If you didn’t get a chance to purchase a ticket from a charity, don’t worry, it looks like Macy’s is still going to let you enjoy the discount anyway, at least online.

Saturday 8/24 Only! Extra 25% off when you buy a $5 Shop for a Cause savings pass at!

I believe you’ll be given the option of adding a saving pass to your basket for $5 that will go to support the March of Dimes, which will entitle you to the 25% discount (seems to apply to all regular, sale, and clearance merchandise, although bigger ticket items like furniture and electronics will only get 10%). So as long as you’re ordering something around $20 or more, you’ll be saving well over $5, making money and helping a great cause.

Kudos to Macy’s for doing this every year. Granted, they get a lot of valuable PR and foot traffic out of it, but on the other hand I think they’re doing a great thing by helping to bring awareness to and support all kinds of charities nationwide.


→ No CommentsTags: