Gifts That Will Keep on Giving

December 2, 2009

Wendy Liscow, Program Officer

I don’t know about you, but as soon as the Thanksgiving leftovers are crammed into the refrigerator, I start to think about two things: sending year-end donations to my favorite nonprofits and tackling my holiday gift list.  I have come to dread the latter task, not just because I hate crowds and making gift decisions, but also because I don’t want to spend money on more “stuff” that people don’t really want and that will ultimately end up in a landfill.   I am part of a growing number of people who want their purchases to reflect their values.  In fact, one of New American Dream’s holiday polls revealed that 82% of Americans would rather receive a photo album filled with memories than a gift from a store.  New American Dream offers a great list of ideas on how you can make more socially responsible choices.

I’ve committed to using my purchasing power for dual purposes:  delight the gift-receiver and support New Jersey’s nonprofits.  Just a little bit of brainstorming will reveal a plethora of ways to do this.

How about giving your friends and loved ones tickets to a concert, play, or dance?  Or even better, consider a subscription.  How about a class at your favorite community arts center or nature reserve?  Or a membership at a museum.  Or check out a New Jersey Audubon birding tour and workshop or a Hackensack River Eco-Cruise. Or consider a donation to your friends’ and family members’ favorite charity/nonprofit in their name!

If you are thinking that you would prefer to give your lucky family members and friends something more tangible that they can unwrap and keep, why not consider a gift that also supports the herculean efforts of a nonprofit organization and  bolsters the livelihood of an artist.  For example, you can help ArtPride NJ raise $10,000 to support the Arts in our state by bidding (before December 11, 2009) on almost 70 items of memorabilia, travel packages, and tickets to cultural events at their online auction.

I have found some of the most unique, one-of-a-kind gifts at museum stores and holiday art sales.  This weekend there are some fabulous events at some of the greatest art centers in our state.  Be sure to check these out:

gsndc Wheaton Arts

On December 5th and 6th you can catch Millville’s WheatonArts holiday happening which features some excellent discounts.  Make a day of it and watch artist Deborah Czeresko and her team create an amazing large-scale blown-glass snowman and other holiday related pieces.  According to Dodge Foundation President and CEO David Grant, who witnessed this artistic feat several weekends ago, it is something you won’t want to miss.

JJD_Lucky_Mandala D&R

Princeton’s D & R Greenway has a history of bringing the arts and environment together, and Sunday December 6th their Winter Green: Gifts of Nature holiday sale will showcase watercolor calendars featuring creatures of the wild, jewelry and wearable art, ceramic works, photography note cards, and mosaics and tiles.   35% of the proceeds support D&R Greenway’s preservation and stewardship efforts.

Glassroots youth

December 3-6 you can visit the GlassRoots studio in Newark for demonstrations, studio tours and holiday shopping.  GlassRoots is also participating in a range of other holiday sales events at New Jersey Performing Arts Center and PSE&G.  A purchase of these beautiful glassworks made by Newark youth makes it possible for young people to learn a distinctive craft and develop entrepreneurial skills.

Newark Museum Shop

Museum shops have become one of my favorite shopping haunts.  In fact, this past spring I made lots of graduating teens happy with unique gifts made from recycled materials from the Newark Museum Shop.    Morris Museum kicks off their holiday sale and special events this weekend and you can use a special 10% off coupon for Montclair Museum’s Holiday Sale on December 3-6.  If you are in Oceanville, NJ be sure to stop in at Noyes MuseumThe Brodsky Center for Innovative Editions at Mason Gross School of the Arts in New Brunswick is offering fabulous art at “ridiculously low prices” at their holiday blowout on December 14 and 15th.

These ideas represent only the tip of the iceberg of possible gift ideas that will please the most finicky people on your list and make for a more socially responsible holiday season.  So, help us out, and please share your ideas  for supporting nonprofits while tackling that holiday list.

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