I heard from a lot of readers about last month’s Reynolds Rap (“The me-me-me millionaires”), mostly positive (the folks at Salesforce) and some surprisingly negative (tech folks who don’t believe they should have to share). Some of the letters confirmed my lack of faith in humanity, like the one from William Halls titled, “Bums and dogs.” Halls wrote, “I really don’t give a damn about bums or dogs. … If you care about bums and dogs, you and your friends should all get together and contribute to bums and dogs. Don’t wait for others to do the contributions. … You do it.” Halls assumed that I don’t contribute to causes, but in fact I do. Thanks to my Apple stock, I’m able to make donations each month to charities I care about.
I responded to Halls and reminded him about a little thing called karma. That didn’t set well either. “Karma is another nonsensical belief system,” Halls responded. “Keep on contributing to your priorities and understand not everyone shares those priorities. And stop begging and guilt tripping for the sympathy and money of others. It is unseemly.” Ebenezer Scrooge couldn’t have said it any better.
To be honest, I feel sorry for people like Halls. I agree with Salesforce founder and CEO Marc Benioff, who said of his fellow tech community’s lack of empathy, “You’re not really going to get the great feeling of life. The real pleasure to help other people …” And you don’t have to be rich to make a difference. As we enter into an uncertain time in our nation’s history, I believe we should be doing more than ever to help others. December is a natural time of giving. If you do your shopping online, consider AmazonSmile.com, where you shop as you normally would, but Amazon donates a percentage from each sale to the charity of your choice (I do my Amazon shopping this way all year long). You can also visit online malls such as GoodShop, GiftBack, and iGive that allow you to shop thousands of stores and designate a portion of your purchase to affiliated charities.
It’s also time for my annual picks of gifts that give back and where to find them. Sorry to disappoint you, Halls, but here is my 2016 list:
For the cooks in your life: Sixteen million children in the United States struggle with hunger — that’s one in five. The No Kid Hungry (nokidhungry.org) campaign connects kids with nutritious food and teaches their families how to make healthy, affordable meals. They’ve teamed up with Williams-Sonoma to produce celebrity-designed spatulas to benefit the Share Our Strength campaign. This year’s lineup includes American Girl brand, Jimmy Kimmel, Chef Michael Voltaggio, Chrissy Teigen, and the Bay Area’s own Ayesha Curry. $12.95, Williams-Sonoma.com
For the man who loves the smell of bourbon: The Barrel-Aged Oak Candle by Damn Handsome is 100 percent soy wax, handcrafted in small batches using spent grains from Michigan breweries and organic hops. The scent captures the manly yet sweet notes of old bourbon barrels with balanced notes of bourbon, oak, and vanilla. And each Damn Handsome purchase provides soap to someone in need. $18, societyb.com
For the lady who loves jewelry: The SA Foundation (SAF) offers recovery programs that include life skills development and job training to women who have escaped sexual exploitation and trafficking. Their Global Wonders products are one-of-a-kind handmade pieces made by the women in the Nepal program, with 100 percent of net revenue from the jewelry going back into the program. As a mermaid-loving Pisces, I’m partial to the Siren Song necklace, which features iridescent cream and grey pearls cascading from an elegant tangle of gold chains. $40,
For the kid (or big kid) who loves cruising in style: Bureo’s Minnow Cruiser is the first skateboard deck made from recycled marine debris paired with 30 percent vegetable oil wheels and premium marine-grade hardware. Each board prevents more than 30 square feet of harmful plastic fishnets from entering our oceans while providing support to local Chilean fishing communities. It comes in four cool colors. $149, bureo.co
For the kid (or big kid) who loves stuffed animals: Inspired by Lea Clark, American Girl’s 2016 Girl of the Year, choose from three animals she loves: sea turtles, margay cats, and sloths. One dollar from the sale of each limited edition plush animal benefits the World Wildlife Fund. I adore all animals, but I have to admit I’m partial to sloths. $18-$20, americangirl.com
For the iPhone lover (who also loves the color red): Founded in 2006 by socially conscious U2 frontman Bono, Red collaborates with iconic brands that donate a portion of the purchase price of special edition Red items to fight HIV/AIDS. To date the organization has raised more than $300 million and impacted 70 million lives. The Red catalog is heavy on tech, so it’s a great place to shop for technophiles. The Special Edition Product Red Juice Pack Air by Mophie is a lightweight yet protective everyday case for iPhones that delivers more than 100 percent extra battery, and 5 percent of the retail price goes to the cause. $99.95, mophie.com
For the animal rescue lover: It’s no secret that I support animal causes, especially local grassroots rescue groups that depend on donations to save the lives of animals at risk. Every year I buy cool T-shirts, hoodies, mugs, and more either directly from the groups or on custom printing hubs like Zazzle and CafePress (just search for the rescue you want to support). But if you want to do global good for animals while holiday shopping, check out TheAnimalRescueSite.com, part of the GreaterGood cause-related group of websites. Since launching in 1999, GreaterGood has contributed more than $40 million to charities worldwide.
Pet-themed gifts on TheAnimalRescueSite are broken down by category (clothing, kitchen, garden, jewelry, etc.), and each item purchased funds the value of at least 14 bowls of food for shelter and rescue animals. There are thousands of items to choose from, but I recently picked up a pair of cozy faux-suede purple paw midrise boots with a warm, fuzzy lining and a fold-over knitted cuff with button accents (perfect for wearing on winter walks with my rescued pit bull, Skylar Grey). It’s a gift that gives back times two — by entering the promo code GIVEAPAIR at checkout, Stride Rite Shoes donated a matching pair through Soles4Souls, a nonprofit that provides shoes and coats to people in need. $26.99, theanimalrescuesite.com
For the wine lover: Onehope Vineyard is located in the Rutherford AVA in Napa Valley. In 2009, an idealistic group of friends who wanted to make great wine with a charitable angle got some unexpected help from Michael Mondavi, whose son Rob Mondavi Jr. became their primary consulting winemaker. To date, Onehope has made more than $2 million in donations benefiting a wide array of causes, including breast cancer, autism, veterans, the environment, and shelter animals. The Onehope Glitter Bottle Editions are perfect for the holiday season, featuring Brut Sparkling Wine (available in gold, silver, and rainbow glitter bottles), California Chardonnay (pink), and Edna Valley Pinot Noir and Edna Valley Reserve Pinot Noir (red). $59-$360, onehopewine.com