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PhiLAnthropist Gift Guide

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Tom's Shoes donates one pair of shoes to a needy child for each pair purchased. Photo by Emily Lerman/LAist

Waking up early for Black Friday's "doorbusters" sounds like the anti-fun. So here are some of LAist's Holiday Picks for the philanthropist in you, none of which involve any malls, massive stores or long lines. All of these gifts have a charitable element to them, benefiting mostly local or national organizations so you're really giving two gifts and making lots of people happy. And you feel good. Everybody wins! Onto the gifts that keep on giving...

Finding Grace: The Face of America's Homeless, $100; Supports Homeless Health Care Los Angeles

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Purchase a signed copy of Lynn Blodgett's book Finding Grace: The Face of America's Homeless from Homeless Heath Care Los Angeles and all proceeds go directly to HHCLA. The book tells the story of homelessness through the lens of photographer Lynn Blodgett. He traveled throughout America stopping in the parts of cities and towns "where the homeless would gather for shelter and protection. On these ruthless streets he would put up a white backdrop, and start photographing anyone who would place themselves in front of his camera." Four years and 1500 men, women and children later, Blodgett created the book to "let people meet these people and care about them." Since 1985, HHCLA has provided heath care and housing services to 100,000 homeless in LA.


Solar Cookers, $30; Supports Jewish World Watch's Solar Cooker Project in Darfur
Yesterday, LAist interviewed Rachel Andres, creator of the Solar Cooker Project. As mentioned, the women refugees who escaped the the Darfur genocide constantly placed themselves in unsafe and violent situations when they would leave the camps in search of firewood needed for cooking. The Solar Cookers address this problem by eliminating the need for search for wood. Each $30 Solar Cooker donation provides 2 Solar Cookers per family, 2 pots, 2 pot holders a year supply of plastic bags and skills training for refugee women and girls. The project goes beyond the cookers alone as it "provides [women] with income opportunities that include manufacturing solar cookers, training others to use the cookers and making carrying bags to increase the life span of the cookers."

Backpack, Supplies and Books for a Homeless Student, $100; Supports School on Wheels
School on Wheels tutors homeless children throughout LA, Long Beach, Ventura, Santa Barbara and Orange County (LAist). The organization is made up of a of volunteers who tutor an individual homeless child from ages 5-18 at shelters throughout the city on a weekly basis. On a side note, they are always looking for volunteer tutors downtown. A donation provides these students with uniforms ($25 donation), books ($50 donation) and backpacks ($100 donation).

Dedicate a Tree (or a whole grove!); $25 and up; Supports Tree People
For the last thirty years, Tree People has dedicated their work "to helping nature heal our cities" through not only tree planting, but also through the training, support and education of communities, adults and school children to increase environmental awareness. They also target critical water issues by working with government agencies. During a 50-year lifespan, one tree generates about $30,000 in oxygen, recycles $35,000 worth of water and cleans up $60,000 in air pollution. The gift that keeps on giving! Their Citizen Forester program has been a successful model of civic engagement by getting community members to change the urban landscape by planting and caring for trees and making their neighborhoods healthier while adding life and beauty. One can also take part in their Million Trees Los Angeles initiative, either through a donation or by volunteering to plant trees.

Shop the 826LA Winter Catalog or visit their Time Travel Mart! Supports 826LA

826LA's free drop-in tutoring center in Echo Park also doubles as The Time Travel Mart, packed full of items such as Robot Milk and Barbarian Repellent in addition to t-shirts and books and magazines written by 826LA students. 826LA had an impressive year, breaking daily attendance records at drop-in tutoring and helping nearly 300 students write college-application essays. Since they never charge for the tutoring sessions or workshops, they rely on community support, so they published a catalog of items they "desperately need in order to provide both east-side and west-side students with free writing instruction and homework help". Buy a bundle of pencils for $8.98, ten new library books for $131 or "buy" a 3-hour drop-in tutoring session for one student for $500. There are lots of ways to support this organization dedicated to inspiring creativity and a love for writing in both students and their teachers.

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Me&Ro Silver Step Up Guitar Pick Pendant, $135; Supports Step-Up Women's Network

Me&Ro Jewelry has variety of pieces in which the profits go directly to a number of specific charitable organizations including the Joyful Heart Foundation and the Step Up Women's Network. The Guitar Pick Pendant, designed for Vanity Fair's Music Issue, directly benefits the Step Up Women's Network that provides "teen empowerment programs for underserved girls" as well as health education, professional mentorship and social networking opportunities for women.

Shop at Project Angel Food's Divine Design; Supports Project Angel Food
From December 4-8, Project Angel Food, dedicated to "nourishing the body and spirit of men, women and children affected by HIV/AIDS, cancer, and other life-threatening illnesses" puts on Divine Design, "the West Coast's premiere fashion and home shopping event. Leading designers donate gorgeous fashions, furniture, beauty and gift items that are sold 50%-90% off retail" and 100% of the proceeds go to supporting the organization.

GOOD Magazine, pay what you want; Supports the organization of your choice
PhiLAnthropist loves GOOD, the magazine for "people who give a damn." GOOD adopted the "Radiohead-model" by letting subscribers pay whatever they want for a subscription. 100% of the subscription price goes directly to one of twelve not-for-profits of your choosing, such as Youth Aids, Malaria No More, Kiva and Slow Food USA.

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Bikerowave Annual Membership, $100; Supports the Not-for-Profit Community Bike Shop
LA is home to some hardcore and dedicated cyclists, despite how many uninformed people might try to say "no one bikes in LA." The Bikerowave is just one example of this growing cycling culture. What is it? Tucked away in an alley in Santa Monica, the Bikerowave (like the Bicycle Kitchen on the East Side) is bike repair collective the provides with equipment, tools and instruction to learn how to repair maintain and even build their own bicycles. "It’s more than that" says the Bikerowave, "it’s a community space where cycling culture is born, remixed and renewed." Rates are usually $7 for shop time, but $100 buys an annual unlimited membership.

Tom's Shoes, $48; Supports Tom's "One-for-One" Mission
Tom's Shoes has given away over 60,000 pairs of shoes to children Africa and Argentina since their beginning in May 2006. For each pair of shoes purchased, Tom's provides a pair to a child in need. This holiday season they hope to give away 30,00 pairs in Ethiopia. Visit their pop-up store on Abbot Kinney to check out all the latest models (from vegan to corduroy to glitter) and learn more about the Tom's story.

Sponsor a Sister; Supports the Downtown Women's Center
The Downtown Women's Center is asking for people to "Sponsor A Sister" by "providing a Day Center Participant’s full gift this holiday season." Sponsors receive a wish list from each woman and then a new backpack is filled with all the items on the list and given to each Participant on Christmas Day.

Aaron Stewart's Pillow Pillow Pillow, $86; Supports Cedars Sinai Women's Cancer Research Institution.

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Proceeds from this pillow support the Cedars Sinai Women's Cancer Research Institution and are available at Zipper Gifts on West 3rd Street or from Pillow Pillow Pillow.

Shop The Hunger Site Store; Supports Mercy Corps and Provides Food to People in Over 74 Countries
The Hunger Site online store is full of hundreds of gifts that quantify the impact of each item. For instance, for each "Free Burma" shirt purchased for $14.95, the The Hunger Site will fund 25 cups of food. They have a large selection of Fair Trade Gifts as well as their trademarked Goods and Gifts That Give More" like goats for a Rwandan family ($59.95) or a teachers salary in Afghanistan ($40). With 1-cent shipping and each order alone providing food for two families of four, it's hard to go wrong buying gifts from their site.

MOCA Membership, $75

Last week, the MOCA'smade their need for help clear. Support them by purchasing a membership as a gift or by shopping in their store (which is also online).
The bookstore at Hammer Museum in Westwood, also a not-for-profit institution, is another great place to check out for books and as well as gifts produced by local artists.

Library Foundation of Los Angeles Store; Supports LA Libraries

The Library Foundation of Los Angeles supports the Central LA Library and its 71 neighborhood branches. Inside the Central Library downtown, they have a cool store (also online) with some unique items including a Romeo and Julienne Cutting Board ($12), autographed copies of books such as Robert Scheer's The Pornography of Power ($24.99), Earthquake Safety Playing Cards ($5). Another option is supporting the libraries by purchasing an associate membership ($50 and up, tax-deductible).