There’s only one thing I’m more passionate about than the arts – and that’s helping others. Whether it’s through donating my time or my money, I love non-profit, service work and social justice organizations that are dedicated to helping someone else. (Even if – okay, especially if, that someone is furry.)
I remember when my obsession with helping people and animals really began. I was eight at the time, and I found a local cat outside who looked hurt. His ear was bleeding, and he was scared. I suspected that his owners – my neighbor – abused him, so I coaxed him into my arms and snuck him into my house.
When my mom found me with the black-and-white ragamuffin a couple hours later, it warmed her heart that I cared so much – but she told me that we had to return the cat to its home. Fortunately, several weeks later, the wife showed up on our doorstep holding the poor cat. “Can you guys take him in, please? My husband says he’s going to drive down the highway and drop him off on the side of the road if I can’t get anyone to take him in.” The cat looked worse than before, and we instantly said yes.
We nursed our new cat, Drew, back to health and kept him safe. He was always afraid of certain things, like yelling and people raising their fists, but I was just glad that we could help him. Because of this, my love for helping animals and people alike was born.
These days, I’m known by those around me for my writing, my fashion sense, and the way that everything I do is really colorful and sparkly. Only the people who have actually spoken to me know how much I still care about helping non-profits. But the absolute best thing is when I can have the best of both – when my fashion and crafts can also be supporting causes that I care about.
There are so many ways to help out, but sometimes non-profits and social justice organizations hit a rough patch when people just aren’t donating their time or money. This is where donation fundraising often comes into play – you buy these products, and a certain percentage goes toward a specific organization. It’s popular at restaurants such as Appleebee’s now, where a certain percentage of the bill for everyone who eats there on a certain night will go towards a non-profit.
But what if you could wear something that was also responsible for helping create positive change? The answer is that you can and you just might not know it.
I was inspired to write this post because of Chelsea, a friend and colleague of mine who absolutely loves dogs (follow the link on her name to check out her dog blog). Recently, she’s been hand-knitting scarves that she’s selling so that she can give 100% of the proceeds to the Sterling Animal Shelter, a shelter for animals located in Sterling, MA. Chelsea adopted her late dog, Jasmine, from this shelter 11 years ago. “Without Sterling Shelter I wouldn’t have had the most amazing dog ever,” she says, recalling Jasmine’s purple leash and collar. “Without Sterling Shelter I wouldn’t have a dog passion like I do today!”
(A photo of my scarf from Scarves for Paws.)
Her message rang loud and clear for me. I ordered a scarf from her about a week before my wonderful 12-year-old fat cat, Winnie, passed away. On the day he passed, I received my scarf. It was like a sign – it reminded me that although I’m sad, I can also do something now to help other animals. I can adopt a cat from a shelter, just like I’ve always wanted to do.
I’ve been wearing the scarf every day since I got it, but that’s not just because the idea behind it touched me. It’s also because the scarf is gorgeous. It’s a deep amethyst color in an infinity wrap-around style (the only kind I’ll wear!) with a paw print stitched onto the front. I’m wearing it because it’s cute. I’m wearing it because it reminds me of Winnie, and how he’d want me to help love other cats in need like I did with him (he was adopted from a friend, not a shelter, and I patted him daily). I’m wearing it because I want people to ask where I got it so I can steer them Chelsea’s way. I’m wearing it because the $10 I gave toward it isn’t going to a chain store in the mall, but a wonderful animal shelter where their mission is to get as many animals adopted as possible. (The shelter is also a No-Kill Shelter, and I love that.)
(A photo of me wearing my purple scarf from Chelsea’s Scarves for Paws.)
If you’re interested in helping Chelsea with her Scarves for Paws campaign, just check out the link on her blog here.
There are so many ways to help others with fashion and crafts, but I’ll just throw a few of my favorites out there!
The Giving Keys
The Giving Keys is an organization that sells beautiful keys – and helps the homeless. The organization employs people looking to transition out of homelessness so they can achieve that goal. Their employees hand-stamp the keys with inspirational words. If you purchase a key, you’re also supposed to pass it along to someone who needs it when you feel it’s done its work for you (and so on and so on). It’s a wonderful “Pay it Forward” strategy. My personal favorite product is the Never Ending Necklace. It’s been on my wish list for a few months now.
(A photo of the Never Ending Necklace from The Giving Keys.)
Love’s Affect is an Etsy shop that donates 10% of their sales to various organizations. Currently their chosen organization is the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). I own several pearl tassel bracelets from Love’s Affect and I adore them – and plan to buy a custom, which they also do, soon! Their customer service is also fantastic, and when my tassel fell off, they sent me another one immediately. I wear their bracelets daily, and I’m so happy that they give back.
(A photo of my wrist with bracelets, including the blue tassel with pearls from Love’s Affect.)
The Clarity Project
The Clarity Project focuses on creating a fair trade system for gemstones, and the creation and sale of jewelry. 100% of proceeds are given to the mining communities that provide the fair trade stones. The project aims to help impoverished communities become prosperous again. The diamonds from this project can be a great gift that says more than “I love you” – it also says, “I believe my jewelry should not be made at the expense of others.”
Whip City Candle
And if you’re looking to help, but you just don’t wear jewelry and aren’t into fashion, you can also help by purchasing a new candle. I’m currently working with Whip City Candle on their Candles for a Cause program – 50% of proceeds from these product sales go to every non-profit that joins the program. The owners of Whip City Candle are dedicated to trying to help non-profits (all of their employees come from area service organizations), and would like to add 100 new organizations to their program in 2015. If you want to help, you can buy a candle from the available stock here, or tell a local non-profit that you know about a program that can help them. If you’d like to pass along the name of an interested organization, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can help others and still look good doing it!