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2023 gifts that give back

  1. Strong & Safe Communities

2023 gifts that give back

A Q&A with Evan Feinberg, executive director of Stand Together Foundation, about this year's holiday gift guide

This article was originally published by Stand Together Foundation.

Why do we create a guide for gifts that give back?

Well, I'll start in a unique place — Todd Rose and the team at Populace have new research out on what it means to live the American dream and to live a successful life. And one of the most encouraging findings is that the American people see success in life as being able to make a positive impact in their communities and to improve the lives of others. These findings suggest that the American dream isn't selfish. The American people aren't selfish. It's a beautiful thing that many of us are motivated to ensure that the actions we take uplift others. 

With that in mind, this gift guide offers an incredible opportunity. Many of the Catalysts in our community of nonprofits have social enterprises or products that they develop. The creation of these products is something that improves the lives of the people making them. By purchasing any of these products, we can see lives improved and transformed in a way that offers dignity and hope. Gifts that give back are an opportunity to not only buy great products, but also improve the lives of others. It aligns our holiday needs for gift buying with our communities' needs for empowerment, healing, and social repair. We can join the youth of Café Momentum in championing high expectations for their gifts and talents and we can encourage women overcoming abuse and trauma through the loving community and hard work of Thistle Farms

We can welcome and support newly arrived refugee families through Miry's List and we can buoy a few of the many hundreds of minority entrepreneurs empowered through Rising Tide Capital. We can lend our voice and our dollars to reparative work and tell a different story through the gifts we give this holiday season. Catalysts are creating a world of good in communities nationwide and this gift guide reflects their important work.

Which gifts that give back are you most excited about?

Definitely the cutting boards from Saw's Edge at Coalfield Development — that's an easy one. I have a couple of these in my own kitchen and they are as durable as they are beautiful. Coalfield Development fosters a success-oriented spirit in rural Appalachian communities by providing professional, personal, and academic training to prepare workers for long-term success. Coalfield also incubates and invests in local social enterprises, such as Saw's Edge. If you ever have the chance to tour the Saw's Edge workshop in Huntington, West Virginia, I hope you take advantage and get to see more of their incredible craftsmanship. They're the real deal. 

Also, the succulents made by The Other Side Academy are great. The Other Side Academy is a free residential program that provides peer–led vocational training and personal development coaching to help those facing long–term incarceration, substance abuse issues and homelessness, ultimately enabling participants to transform their lives. The succulent arrangements they make are great for just about anyone but especially for my wife because she kills plants. In our house, we need plants that can live…independently. 

And then I think Antong Lucky's memoir, A Redemptive Path Forward, will be my go-to for extended family, friends, and colleagues. A Redemptive Path Forward is the story of Antong's journey from founder of the Dallas Bloods to a practitioner of peace and nonviolence as the President of Urban Specialists. It's a truly inspiring read.

How is this holiday gift guide unique?

The products in this guide are produced by overcomers — by people who have faced many challenges and barriers and yet endured, daring to transform their lives and contribute to the lives of others. This guide is a catalog of their efforts and their triumphs. We get to celebrate the life transformation that's possible when barriers are removed and a culture of empowerment is created. These products are byproducts, actually, of our principles in action. And the collection is stunning. 

Every group in our Catalyst Program is not just managing the symptoms of poverty or social barriers, they're helping people transform their lives. So the promise of this gift guide is that if you purchase something, it's going to make a difference in somebody's life. But more importantly, in participating you become part of something even bigger, akin to an empowerment movement. This gift guide represents the idea that each and every person has a gift. Everybody is capable of extraordinary things, but we often need community support to realize our full potential. And so you are a part of that community and a part of that bigger movement to see every person empowered.

Why should people care about gifts that give back?

Expect to find something for everyone on your list. Expect to be inspired by the stories of the people who made the gifts. Expect to return to this guide again and again throughout the year as you have more opportunities to shop with a purpose. 

When dignity is restored and centered in a person's life, a journey of empowerment becomes possible. They become empowered to transform their lives and contribute to the lives of others. So many people think that the way to make a positive difference in the lives of others is a zero sum interaction — you sacrifice or give in order to improve the life of someone else. But the real magic of our communities — the magic of our country — is the mutual benefit that occurs when we invest in and work with people to improve their lives as they create value for others. This is a great example of that. 

The dining room table in my home was created by one of our partners. The candles in my house were produced by one of these Catalyst organizations. And those are all products that are both world-class and amazing — that's what makes them special. The individuals who made these products weren't looking for my charity. They were looking to create value, and they have done that for me and my family. And so I think what people should expect when they come to this website and why they should care is they're doing something much more powerful than charity, as it's traditionally understood. They will enjoy the value of enabling mutual benefit, earned success, and the dignity of work and value creation. Total win-win. 

I mean, purchasing these products has changed my family's life in many ways. When someone comes into our home and they admire our coffee table or dining room table, it becomes a part of our identity — that that's who we are. We're the kind of people that want to invest in and support our neighbors who are facing social barriers. And the way we do it is living life with them, buying their products as a way of saying, "We believe in you. And thank you – this is beautiful." And it makes a world of difference. These become the stories our kids tell — stories of overcomers.

Learn more about Stand Together's efforts to build strong and safe communities, and explore ways you can partner with us.

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