Gifts That Keep On Giving: A Social Enterprise Holiday Shopping List

By Caitlin Schnur, Workforce Research and Policy Fellow, NTJN
and Jonathan Philipp, Research and Policy Assistant, NTJN


It’s the giving season, and this winter you can give your friends and family fabulous gifts while also giving back to organizations that work year-round to put chronically unemployed Americans back to work!  As your holiday shopping “wraps” up (or, just gets started…), the NTJN urges you to consider buying from the social enterprises highlighted below.  These social enterprises, all 2013 NTJN members, believe that everyone deserves the opportunity to work and support themselves and their families. Revenue from their product sales helps to fund their employment and job training programs for people with barriers to employment.  This holiday season, we hope you’ll join us in getting America back to work by snagging some great gifts at these social enterprises!

Women’s Bean Project, Denver, CO
The Women’s Bean Project employs chronically unemployed and poor women through a transitional jobs program in gourmet food preparation and handcrafted jewelry making.  Cruise the Women’s Bean Project’s online shop for gourmet bean soups, cookie and brownie mixes, salsa and spice rubs and, for something less fleeting, handmade jewelry!  If there’s anything better than these goods, it’s knowing that with each purchase you’re helping women break the cycle of poverty and chronic unemployment.

What they sell: Handcrafted jewelry, gourmet food and beverages, books, dog biscuits, and gluten-free gourmet food items.

Homeless Garden Project, Santa Cruz, CA
Located on a three-acre organic farm in sunny Santa Cruz, the Homeless Garden Project (HGP) provides job training, transitional employment, and supportive services to people experiencing homelessness.  Program participants produce “gifts of love” from the herbs and flowers grown on HGP’s organic farm in addition to items such as cards and jewelry.  Give a gift of love to someone you love this season by making a purchase through HGP’s online store or, if you’re in the Santa Cruz area, head over to their “pop up” holiday store.

What they sell: Dried flower wreaths, beeswax candles, handmade salve, and herb salt.

Bright Endeavors, Chicago, IL
Bright Endeavors is a social enterprise of New Moms, Inc., a Chicago-based non-profit that offers an array of services, including career-readiness training, to help adolescent parents and their children develop economic independence and family stability.  Bright Endeavors offers young parents the opportunity to gain work experience in manufacturing, inventory, marketing, and customer service.  Bright Endeavors makes ecologically-friendly Dreambean home and bath products (think: handmade scented candles) and, through Good Glass Chicago, offers candle-lighting products and services to venues, restaurants, caterers, and other event professionals.   Take a look at Bright Endeavors’ online shop—the limited-edition Dreambean Holiday Scent Suite may just be the perfect gift for that special someone on your shopping list!

What they sell: Scented candles, soaking salts, gift sets, and tea lights.

Connections to Success, Kansas City, KS; Kansas City, MO; St. Louis, MO
Is there anything better than a freshly-baked cookie?  Doubtful!  If someone on your holiday shopping list has a sweet tooth, check out Connections’ social enterprise, Sweet Success.  Sweet Success helps Connections achieve its mission to help people living in poverty become economically self-sufficient by providing program participants with job skills and a work history.  Sweet Success makes and sells a variety of delicious cookies (we’ve sampled them here at the NTJN, and we assure you they’re good!), and revenue supports Connections’ programs!  And, if you’re in the St. Louis area, check out Connections’ Mystique Boutique.  This mobile social enterprise offers upscale resale clothing, handbags, shoes, and accessories.  Maybe the only thing better than a freshly-baked cookie is a new pair of shoes to go with it!

What they sell: Mouthwatering cookies and fashion-forward clothes.

Central City Concern, Portland, OR
Central City Concern (CCC) works to provide comprehensive solutions to ending homelessness and help its clients achieve self-sufficiency.  At Central City Coffee, CCC’s social enterprise, program participants craft roast and sell coffee, learning transferable employment skills and generating revenue for CCC.  Central City Coffee’s “craft coffee with purpose” may just be the perfect gift for the budding barista in your life—and it sounds like their special “Velocity Blend” may offer the boost needed to get through the holiday season!

What they sell: Craft-roasted coffees.

D.C. Central Kitchen, Washington, DC
Do right and eat well by catering your next event—or holiday party!— through DC Central Kitchen’s revenue-generating social enterprise, Fresh Start Catering.  DC Central Kitchen provides job training, distributes healthy food to low-income neighborhoods, and partners with local farms to help individuals overcome poverty, hunger, and poor health.  Fresh Start Catering employs graduates from DC Central Kitchen’s Culinary Job Training program, and caters breakfasts and lunches featuring high-quality, locally-sourced ingredients.  Roasted tarragon-rubbed chicken salad, anyone?

What they sell: Gourmet, “conscious cuisine” that will leave your event’s guests feeling good.

Goodwill Stores, Various Locations
The vintage-lover on your list will be thrilled by the one-of-a-kind item you snag at your local Goodwill, which aims to help people in need reach their full potential through learning and the power of work.  While Goodwill stores are located around the country, we’d like to give special recognition to the Goodwills that are also NTJN members: Goodwill-Easter Seals Minnesota in Minneapolis, MN; Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids in Grandville, MI; and Goodwill Houston in Houston, TX.  If you live there already or your holiday travels take you to Minneapolis, Grandville, or Houston, stop by the Goodwill to find a unique gift for someone on your list who’s been “good” all year!

What they sell: Clothing, home décor, and household goods.

Growing Home, Chicago, IL
If you’ve got a Chicago-based locavore on your holiday shopping list, consider the gift that keeps on growing – a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share from Growing Home!  2014 CSA registration is open now, and your lucky gift recipient can receive three seasons’ worth of fresh, local produce including asparagus, eggplants, and squash.  Growing Home, a nonprofit social enterprise focused on empowering people and communities through organic urban farming, will put your investment to use by hiring individuals with barriers to employment to manage the farm and grow the veggies as they train for permanent, competitive jobs.

What they sell: Organic produce via CSAs, farmers’ markets, and wholesale outlets.

Inspiration Corporation, Chicago, IL
Inspiration Corporation provides social services to Chicagoans experiencing homelessness and living in poverty, and inspires program participants to take action to improve their lives.  Through Inspiration Corporation’s social enterprise, Inspiration Kitchens, individuals gain valuable skills and work experience as they prepare and serve delicious meals and get on track to find employment in the food service industry.  Dine well and do good while enjoying brunch, lunch, BYOB dinner, or dessert this holiday season at their Garfield Park or Uptown locations—NTJN has enjoyed a meal or two at Inspiration Kitchens, and we definitely recommend you try out the root beer glazed brisket if you’re out in Garfield Park!

What they sell: Bountiful brunches, lip-smacking lunches, and delicious dinners and desserts.

Rubicon Programs, Richmond, CA
When you hire Rubicon Landscape Services, you’re helping to generate revenue for Rubicon Programs, which provides job training, employment opportunities, housing, and support services to individuals in need.  While on the job, Rubicon Landscape’s staff, made up of employees and trainees with barriers to employment, also learns a trade and develops valuable transferable job skills.  And while everyone’s not in need of landscape services, there’s surely widespread demand for baked goods around the holidays—and Rubicon’s other social enterprise, Rubicon Bakery, is at your service!  Treat yourself (or your friends!) and transform lives by picking up Rubicon Bakery’s tasty treats at any of these retailers.

What they sell: Landscape maintenance and landscape installation services; delectable baked goods.


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About National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity

Heartland Alliance’s National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity is dedicated to ending chronic unemployment and poverty. We believe that every person deserves the opportunity to succeed in work and support themselves and their families. Through our field building, we provide support and guidance that fosters more effective and sustainable employment efforts. Our policy and advocacy work advances solutions to the systemic issues that drive chronic unemployment.

4 responses to “Gifts That Keep On Giving: A Social Enterprise Holiday Shopping List”

  1. Jon Clark says :

    Hats off to you for posting this great information and encouraging folks to be a part of such a great organization. We have been writing about giving back this year, whether through organizations like those you have listed or others. We will share this information for you! Thank you!

  2. online shopping sites in the UAE says :

    These are good sites. anyway nice post. 🙂

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