Each holiday season, millions of people spend their earnings on gifts for friends, relatives and sometimes even strangers. More and more frequently, however, buyers are skipping the sentimental and opting for the sensible.
Gift cards have become the default. This common cop-out blames the recipient: he would prefer to pick out his own items than be stuck with an ill-fitting sweater or ironic necktie.
But when a person opens a gift that is thoughtful and personal, it becomes memorable. Rarely do you get the same tender feelings from a slice of plastic sandwiched between cardboard. This year, why not take a swing at the sentimental?
An excellent way to do this is by giving a gift that benefits a higher cause. Based out of Cohasset, Mass., the jewelry company EK Designs has created a Causes Collection devoted to worthy programs such as Autism Speaks and the Gal-to-Gal Foundation for breast cancer. The Causes Collection donates up to 30 percent of each jewelry sale to the charity it represents, and each piece of jewelry is accompanied by a poem or inspirational message specifically related to its cause.
Jewelry design first began as a hobby for owner Elizabeth Kissick while she made her living teaching preschool art. Eventually, her jewelry’s popularity grew and she was able to leave her career as a teacher to focus on her line.
The company started with Mother’s Name bracelets, which spelled out children’s names in beads, and the Causes Collection came a bit later with Breast Cancer Awareness bracelets. Kissick said, “My grandmother, whom I never met, died of breast cancer and my aunt also had it. There were so many people I knew that had breast cancer and so I thought, ‘Why don’t I build a bracelet to beat it?’”
From there the Causes Collection expanded, funding national charities such as the Elton John AIDS Foundation and local charities such as the Jonathan Rizzo Foundation, named after a 17-year-old Boston College High School student who was murdered in 2001. “If a single parent is having trouble paying for heat through the winter, the donations from the Jonathan Rizzo Foundation bracelets will go to that; it will go to local people who need the help,” Kissick said.
The line also offers jewelry that benefits the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “Five years ago, even three years ago, you couldn’t say that you knew someone who died from suicide without being embarrassed. People hid it a lot,” she said. Dangling off of bracelets from the suicide prevention line is a life preserver charm, which to Kissick means, “We’re all together in this.”
Kissick continued, “People are just looking for hope, anything they can grab onto to keep them going.” Kissick also gets something out of the creation of each Causes piece. “I can help people with my jewelry, and I feel like I won the jackpot,” she said.
EK Designs offers another bracelet that gives the same message of hope as the Causes Collection jewelry but with more of an individualistic sentiment: the Pass It On bracelet. Kissick said, “You wear the bracelet yourself, and when you see that somebody is experiencing hardship, whether you know them or not, you take the bracelet off your wrist and give it to them. They wear it until they turn a corner, and then they pass it on to someone else.”
Kissick shared an experience in which her own Pass It On bracelet was given to a beautiful stranger in the restroom of the Liberty Hotel. The woman, who had originally been diagnosed with terminal cancer, just received the news that she would survive and shared it with Kissick and several other women in the restroom.
“I was wearing my own Pass It On bracelet and was able to give it to her,” Kissick said, and the bracelet initiated a bond between the two women. “That’s what the jewelry is all about, to bring that out, to bring people up. To remember that we’re so lucky to get to live.”
So if you’d like to re-establish the connection between gift giving and thoughtfulness this holiday season, skip the plastic and contribute to something more than personal abundance. The Causes Collection as well as EK Designs’ other collections can be found at the EK Designs website, www.ekdesignsjewelry.com.