Gifts That Keep On Giving

November 28, 1993|By ELIZABETH LARGE

For the people on your holiday shopping list who have everything, you can always make a charitable contribution in their names. But what about the people who don't have everything? Wouldn't it be nice if they could have their cake and eat it too, so to speak? If your present delighted the receiver and helped some worthy cause? If you could give a gift that kept on giving? It doesn't take holiday magic to make that happen, just a little careful shopping for presents where part or all of the proceeds go to a good cause.

As you might expect, "eco-stores" are an excellent source for such gifts. The Nature Company at Harborplace has tapes and CDs of environmental and New Age music ($11 and up) that benefit nature groups. The store also sells Gathered Wild, an attractive gift basket filled with foods from various Indian tribes. Part of the $40 price tag goes to help tribal cooperatives. Wind bells ($30-$125) by architect Paolo Soleri benefit various organizations such as Nuclear Free Space, Plant-a-Tree, Save the Whales and others.

Natural Wonders in Towson Town Center has striking T-shirts ($20) with pictures of endangered species on the front. The back explains the work of the Center for the Reproduction of Endangered Species, which the sale of the T-shirts helps support. You also can get brightly painted birds carved out of fallen wood from rain forests ($12-$75). A hang-tag tells about Conservation International, the organization that benefits. And look for neckties ($25-$30) that help the World Wildlife Fund as well as various 1994 calendars put out by Greenpeace, Sierra Club and other nonprofit groups.

Calendars are great inexpensive gifts that can benefit others. White Marsh Mall is selling "Life Around Maryland" calendars for $1 on Dec. 4 and 11. All the proceeds go to Santa Claus Anonymous. Starting Dec. 1 at various locations around the mall, you can also buy "The Night Before Christmas" for $1 to benefit Santa Claus Anonymous. This storybook version of the classic would make a fine stocking stuffer.

Malls as a whole sometimes team up with nonprofit organizations this time of year so your gift-buying dollars can do more. Beth Israel Congregation is selling Owings Mills Mall gift certificates; 5 percent of the sales goes to the congregation. And if you buy your presents at Owings Mills and have them wrapped there, you'll be supporting both Beth Israel and the Colonial Baptist Church. The mall is paying their volunteers instead of staff to do the wrapping this holiday season.

A couple of stores have opened recently that market the handcrafts of people in developing countries. SERRV International Gift Shop shares space with UNICEF on West Pennsylvania Avenue in Towson. The shop has a wonderful "mood doll" from Thailand ($45), with four different facial expressions depending on how you turn her head. Christmas ornaments from India, Thailand and Bangladesh range in price from 95 cents to $7. You can get a Zuni Indian pin (yes, some things are made by less fortunate artisans in our country) of silver, enamel and mother-of-pearl for $60 or a pin from Mexico for $9. A multicolored hand-knitted sweater from Guatemala sells for $74.

A People United, a store on Howard Street's Antique Row, works with different women's groups in developing countries to bring their crafts to the United States. As of this writing, the store was just being redone under new management, but look for plenty of gifts, home accessories, clothes and jewelry in all price ranges from countries such as Thailand, India, Guatemala and Nepal. Buying your holiday presents at A People United benefits women's collectives and aids local community development by giving these women economic power.

Along the same lines, the Woman's Industrial Exchange on North Charles Street sells items made by homebound or elderly women who get 65 percent of the proceeds. One-of-a-kind quilts ($20-$375), sweaters ($17-$50) and smocked dresses ($45-$50) make wonderful gifts. This time of year there are lots of handmade Christmas ornaments and toys (like a Raggedy Ann doll for $35).

Sometimes you'll find charitable gifts in unexpected places. Crabtree & Evelyn in the Owings Mills Mall is known for its luxurious bath and beauty products. If you buy its gift baskets -- whether you spend $4 or $20 -- 10 cents of each sale through the holidays will go to the Child Abuse Prevention Center in Baltimore.

The Body Shop in Harborplace is selling lovely silver-plated, gold-plated or sterling pins ($15-$30) to benefit the Living With . . . Group, an AIDS education and service organization in Boston. Closer to home, you can help Hoka-Hai and TICO Enterprises, a Fells Point project involving at-risk youths in profit-making ventures. Their soap savers, made of recycled wood, are $4. Hand-painted pins and magnets ($4), to help local disadvantaged kids, are also available.

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