11 Thoughtful Gifts That Give Back

One World Play Project
One World Play Project

Giving feels great—so great that there’s an entire holiday season devoted to it. This year, instead of limiting yourself to conventional presents, give a gift that extends that warm and fuzzy feeling to your loved ones. Making a donation in someone else’s name or gifting an item that benefits a charity is the perfect way to brighten the holidays for those who need it most. And when your friends and family feel included in the effort, a little generosity can go a long way.

1. ONE WORLD FUTBOL; $39.50

For every soccer ball purchased from the One World Play Project, one ball is given to children in a disadvantaged community. The organization’s model is simple but effective: So far over 1 million balls have been distributed in the name of “the power of play.” Each ball is ultra-durable, making it a great gift for any roughhousing kid.

Give Back: One World Play Project

2. WHOLE TURKEY FOR A BIG CAT; $20

Tiger carrying raw chicken.
Big Cat Rescue

More than 80 lions, tigers, bobcats, cougars, and other exotic cats call the Big Cat Rescue sanctuary in Tampa, Florida home. After rescuing the abused or abandoned animals, BCR provides them with shelter, healthcare, and plenty of fresh meat to eat. One of their favorite treats to enjoy around the holidays is poultry. For $20, you can make a big cat’s day with a whole turkey given in someone else’s name. The sanctuary also lists cheaper gift options: $10 for a chicken or half turkey for medium-sized cats and a $5 Cornish game hen for even smaller cats. If your donation exceeds the cost of the bird, that money will go to meeting other needs around the sanctuary.

Give Back: Big Cat Rescue

3. THE AUTOBIOGRAPHER'S HANDBOOK: THE 826 NATIONAL GUIDE TO WRITING YOUR MEMOIR; $19

Whether you’re a part-time pirate, superhero, or cryptozoologist, there’s an 826 chapter out there for you. The national organization of themed tutoring centers has been inspiring kids to read and write since 2002. If you’re looking for a way to give back to the nonprofit, include The Autobiographer's Handbook: The 826 National Guide to Writing Your Memoir on your holiday shopping list. This how-to guide is full of precious nuggets of advice from accomplished writers like Elizabeth Gilbert, Nick Hornby, and Sarah Vowell. In addition to upping your memoir writing game, the proceeds of each purchase will directly benefit the student programs offered at 826 centers across the country.

Give Back: Amazon

4. ROMA BOOTS; $69

Patterned rain boot on white background.
Roma

Roma makes giving back look good. Every purchase of a pair of their sleek boots results in a new pair donated to an underprivileged child. The shoes come in a variety of styles and designs, with the cheapest classic boot pair priced at $69.

Give Back: Roma

5. ALPACA; $150

Boy with alpaca in a field.
Heifer International

If you’ve ever dreamed of owning an alpaca but don’t have the yard space, buying one for someone in need is a great alternative. Heifer International does more than provide livestock to families—they also empower them with the tools and knowledge they need to turn animal products like milk and wool into a source of income. Alpacas are some of the more fun items in their gift catalogue, but gifters have their pick of farm animals ranging from $20 for a flock of ducks to $500 for a heifer. After selecting the gift, donors can send a personalized card to the person who inspired it.

Give Back: Heifer International

6. WATER PURIFIER; $35

Card showing someone bathing in water.
Oxfam

For families living without access to a safe water source, a basic water purifier can be life-changing. With a donation of $35 Oxfam can provide the gift of clean water to someone in one of the many impoverished communities it works with around the world. If you want to donate the purifier in honor of someone else, Oxfam gives you the option to send them a physical or digital card or print one out at home.

Give Back: Oxfam

7. NARWHAL ADOPTION KIT; $55

Narwhal plush doll.
World Wildlife Fund

Narwhals are known as the unicorns of the sea for a reason—they’re mysterious, elusive, and famous for their horn-like teeth that grow up to 8.8 feet long. For just $55, you can symbolically adopt the sea creature for yourself or someone you know. An adoption kit includes a photo, a plush toy, a gift bag, a species card, and an adoption certificate from the World Wildlife Fund. Donors looking to make an even bigger impact can choose to opt out of the gifts with more of the proceeds going towards WWF’s conservation efforts around the world. And if you don’t have any whale lovers in your life, WWF has dozens more “adoptable” species to choose from.

Give Back: World Wildlife Fund

8. MOSQUITO NET; $10

Box wrapped in mosquito net.
Nothing But Nets

One of the easiest ways to save a life is by providing a mosquito net to a family that needs one. According to Nothing But Nets, a campaign from the UN foundation, bed netting reduces malaria rates by 90 percent. After donating $10, the organization will send a insecticide-treated net to a home in sub-Saharan Africa where the disease is especially prevalent.

Give Back: Nothing But Nets

9. HOMEMADE COOKIE GIFT BOX; $29

Box surrounded by packaged cookies.
That's Caring

If you don’t have the energy to bake cookies for everyone on your gift list this season, buy them a box of pre-made baked goods instead. This package includes three cookie varieties: white chocolate macadamia, sugar caramel, and oatmeal raisin. The cause it benefits makes this sweet treat even more satisfying: For every purchase, That’s Caring will donate a weekend food bag to a child facing food insecurity.

Give Back: That’s Caring

10. THE UNEXPECTED PIT BULL 2018 CALENDAR; $22.50

2018 calendar with pitbull model.
The Unexpected Pitbull

This 2018 wall calendar shows that pit bulls are just as deserving of love as any other breed. The calendar includes photos of the dogs jumping, snuggling, and striking handsome poses, and each month features a true story from a human owner who’s taken a pit bull into their home. All of the proceeds go to helping dog rescue and advocacy groups. For animal lovers who can’t adopt a pet of their own, hanging up this wall calendar is a simple way to show support.

Give Back: The Unexpected Pit Bull

11. WATERPROOF HIKING BOOTS; $140

Hiking boot on white background.
Keen

A pair of tough, water-resistant boots from Keen makes for handy hiking gear year-round, but the best time to buy the shoes is around the holidays. Through December 24, the footwear company will donate $5 from every pair purchased to the Portland, Oregon-based charity organization Mercy Corps. The group works in dozens of countries around the world, including Syria, China, and Haiti, to help victims of humanitarian crises. Sandals, winter boots, and other apparel are also included in Keen's Pair With Purpose program.

Give Back: Keen

The 8 Most Expensive Dog Breeds in the World

iStock/ClarkandCompany
iStock/ClarkandCompany

Big dogs, little dogs. Fuzzy, hairless. Tiny ears, floppy ears. Shelter dogs, fancy dogs. We love them all (especially shelter dogs). While Americans shell out an average of about $1675 per year on their dogs, purebred-loving pet parents are willing to pay more than five times that just to acquire the breed they've always dreamed of. Here are eight of the most expensive dog breeds in the world, according to The Dog Digest.

1. LÖWCHEN

Nancy, a 18-month-old Lowchen or Little Lion Dog bitch, poses for a photograph on the second day of Crufts Dog Show at the NEC Arena on March 10, 2017 in Birmingham, England.
Matt Cardy, Getty Images

​Löwchens are a petite, long-haired dog that have been a popular breed since the Renaissance, and are even featured prominently in paintings from that period. Nowadays, these "little lions" are extremely rare, pushing their cost to as much as $10,000 in some places around the world.

2. SAMOYED

A Samoyed sits in a flower-filled field
iStock/bruev

This breed's name comes from the Samoyedic peoples of Siberia, who used these fluffy white dogs to herd reindeer and pull sleds for their nomadic groups. The competitive, strong dogs can cost from $8000 to $10,000.

3. TIBETAN MASTIFF

Beautiful Tibetan mastiff on the background of the winter landscape of nature
iStock/~User7565abab_575

The Tibetan Mastiff originated with the ancient nomadic cultures of China, Nepal, and Tibet. Tribes of Himachal Pradesh used this breed as a guard to protect sheep from predators, making them a very protective breed for any owner. The massive dogs can weigh up to 160 pounds and be as tall as 33 inches. The price for this breed is equally as massive, reaching up to $7000.

4. PHARAOH HOUND

Pharaoh hound with a leather collar lying down on a snow in winter
iStock/Eudyptula

The Pharaoh Hound is a Maltese breed whose native name, Kelb tal-Fenek, means "rabbit dog," because they were traditionally used for hunting rabbits. These dogs are highly intelligent as well as athletic. Some bloodlines of this breed can cost owners $6500. We hope the rabbits are worth it!

5. AKITA

Akita dog in grass
iStock/baiajaku

The Akita breed originated from the mountainous regions of northern Japan. An Akita can be categorized as either a Japanese or an American Akita, but all come with a short double-coat similar to that of a Siberian Husky. Certain breeds of the Akita can be priced as high as $4500.

6. AZAWAKH

Azawakh on a white background
iStock/fotojagodka

The West African Azawakh is one of the few breeds of African breeds that is available for purchase in the United States and Canada. This lively dog requires lots of physical activity and moves with a distinct feline gait. They can be identified by their almond eyes, thin bodies, and sandy color. These exotic pooches can be priced from $3000 and up.

7. PERUVIAN INCA ORCHID

Photo of a Peruvian hairless dog
iStock/manx_in_the_world

This pup is a hairless dog with origins in Peruvian pre-Inca cultures. As they're completely hairless with elephant grey skin, the dogs are quite unique in appearance. This breed is priced up to $3000.

8. SALUKI

Portrait of a Elegant Saluki Arabian Hound
iStock/ClarkandCompany

​The Saluki is the Royal Dog of Egypt, meaning it has been man's best friend since the pharaohs roamed the pyramids. Salukis are classed as a sighthound, with long legs and a deep chest. Being tall and lean, the males can weigh up to 60 pounds and measure up to 28 inches. Prices of these pups can reach up to $2500.

5 Ways You Can Help California's Wildfire Victims

Fire Captain Steve Millosovich carries a cage full of cats after a wildfire destroyed homes and land in Paradise, California.
Fire Captain Steve Millosovich carries a cage full of cats after a wildfire destroyed homes and land in Paradise, California.
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

The “Camp Fire” in Northern California’s Butte County has killed more than 40 people and destroyed more than 7100 homes since it started tearing through the region on November 8. Authorities are still investigating the cause, but it has already been labeled the deadliest wildfire in California’s history. At the same time, two other fires—Woolsey and Hill—have been wreaking damage in areas northwest of Los Angeles. Here are some ways you can help the victims.

1. DONATE MONEY

Making a financial contribution to a nonprofit that’s helping wildfire victims is usually the best way of ensuring your donation will be utilized, according to the Center for International Disaster Information. The flexibility of a monetary donation lets disaster responders decide what’s most needed at any given moment. Listed below are a few of the charities and companies accepting donations on behalf of victims, according to The New York Times.

American Red Cross

California Community Foundation’s Wildlife Relief Fund

California Fire Foundation

Enloe Medical Center

Google (Scroll down and click "Yes, Donate")

Humane Society of Ventura County

North Valley Community Foundation

Salvation Army

United Way of Greater Los Angeles

Before determining which charity to choose, it pays to visit Charity Navigator and do a little bit of research to determine which organizations are the most reputable, and how much of your donation will make it directly to the victims.

2. DONATE FOOD

If you’re based in California and want to contribute something other than money, you have a few options. But first, make sure you’re choosing an organization that has the time and resources to coordinate these donations. Los Angeles firefighters, for example, received way more goods (to the tune of 5000 pounds) than they could handle. However, you can still donate non-perishable food items to the Salvation Army Ventura Corps, which is assisting individuals affected by the Woolsey and Hill fires in Southern California. If you happen to see days-old requests for donated goods, just visit that organization's website or social media channels first to make sure they aren't at full capacity.

3. OPEN UP YOUR HOME

Airbnb is encouraging people in the Butte County region to open up their homes to wildfire victims while the figure out longer-term arrangements. From now through November 29, Airbnb users can advertise their homes as free, temporary shelters for aid workers and evacuees, The New York Times reports. Hosts have the chance to communicate with potential guests in advance, and hosts can also determine the length of stay. Hosts in Butte County are welcome to sign up (click here for more info), as well as those living in Ventura, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and San Diego counties (click here for info).

4. FOSTER OR ADOPT A PET

Just as humans are being displaced by California's wildfires, so too are their pets. Whether it's because they've been separated from their families or their pet parents are in a temporary living situation that does not allow for animals, hundreds of now-homeless pets are arriving at shelters around California every day. In order to make as much room as possible for more intakes, LA Animal Services posted an urgent call for fosters and adopters on its Facebook page. If you're not in the California area, donating money and supplies to these same shelters is also an option. SPCAla, for example, has set up an Amazon Wish List.

5. VOLUNTEER YOUR TIME AND EXPERTISE

Caring Choices, a nonprofit in Northern California, is currently accepting applications from volunteers with medical backgrounds or other skills—such as data entry, radio communications, or animal care—that are currently needed. (Manual skills, like being able to remove debris, are also listed on the volunteer application form.)

They’ve already received thousands of volunteer applications and aren’t able to sift through them all immediately, but they’re still urging volunteers in the region to apply. “This a marathon and not a sprint,” the organization wrote on its website. “We will need more volunteers in the coming weeks and months as we continue through the disaster response, relief, and recovery efforts.” To apply, fill out this application and email it to aavendano@caring-choices.org. You may also want to consider volunteering with the United Way or The American Red Cross.

Keep checking California Volunteers for additional volunteer opportunities.

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