The economy and helping those in need continue to be at the forefront of the consciousness of many this holiday season. That concern can be carried over to gift-giving by spending dollars that will do double duty - helping a worthy cause while giving an exclusive gift to that special someone.
* Give your favorite tyke a plush blue-footed booby through a donation to the World Wildlife Federation (www.worldwildlife.org). Adoption kits range from $25 to $250. For a $50 donation, WWF will send your recipient a plush 12-inch animal of your choice (90 species are available), an adoption certificate, a photo and a species spotlight card.
Two of the most popular adoption animals are the Burchell's zebra of Eastern Africa and the Arctic polar bear. The habitats of both are being threatened. For a $100 donation, the photo and certificate come framed along with a WWF gift box or gift bag.
A WWF polar-bear ornament accompanies all donations of $75 or more.
* Partnering with WWF and back by popular demand, Build-a-Bear Workshops (www.buildabear.com) are offering a lovable zebra plush ($25) whose purchase benefits WWF's efforts.
Add to that donation by helping Build-a-Bear Workshops jump-start the holiday season with a special donation to the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots campaign. During December, builders of furry friends can purchase a special satin purple heart to slip inside their new friend. The proceeds from that sale will go to the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation.
At other times of the year, purple heart sales benefit a variety of programs supporting children's health and wellness, education and literacy; helping preserve endangered animals; and benefiting domestic animal shelters and other programs.
* Upgrade a loved one's wardrobe with Five Humans T-shirts (www.fivehumans.com) - hip, fashionable shirts with a message. Choose tees with messages humanizing and raising awareness of diseases such as autism, cancer, asthma and diabetes. T-shirts range from $15.50 to $30.50 and are made from 100 percent fine jersey cotton with double-stitched hems. Ten percent of each purchase goes to the Five Humans causes.
Help the little ones in your family and neighborhood by creating a Register for Learning Gold Star Registry site (www.goldstarregistry.com) for your children's teacher. Site statistics claim that on average, teachers annually spend $475 of their own money on classroom items. Easy to create, a Gold Star Registry site enables students' parents to honor those teachers by donating money for the teachers' use instead of giving items such as candles and candy. This enables the teacher to shop for more than 6,000 products that can augment his or her classroom endeavors. Items available include books, paper materials, award and recognition stickers, and curricula-enhancing learning charts.
* Send a message of ocean conservation to your loved ones by adopting a marine creature through the Oceana Marine Creature Adoption Program (www.oceana.org/adopt). For a donation of $50 or more, adopters will receive a plush marine creature, such as an adorable harbor seal, and an adoption certificate. For $75, the gift includes the plush creature with a corresponding animal-shaped cookie cutter, a recipe card, an Oceana oven mitt and framed adoption certificate. For a $100 donation, adopters also receive a complete set of cookie cutters and two oven mitts along with the plush animal, adoption certificate and recipe card. The card features an exclusive recipe from chef Warren Brown of the District's CakeLove bakeries and star of "Sugar Rush" on the Food Network.
* Microsoft and the Children's Miracle Network are partnering to sell a value pack of family games to raise funds for the Children's Miracle Network. Microsoft will donate 100 percent of the net proceeds to the Children's Miracle Network in support of its yearly treatment of 17 million children. For the Xbox 360, the Miracle Network Family Game Pack ($29.99) includes Activision's Shrek the Third (with 20 levels of action and multiplayer minigames), Sega's Sonic the Hedgehog (an arcade-style game featuring the dynamic, very fast blue hedgehog) and Microsoft's Viva Pinata Party Animals (battles and races set within the framework of a social party game).
Alexandra "Alex" Scott is very much alive to millions of cancer patients. A remarkable girl, Alex lost her battle against cancer in 2004 at the age of 8, but she left behind an undying legacy of hope through the Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation. Before she died, Alex raised more than $1 million toward finding a cure. Today, more than $25 million has been raised for the foundation, one cup at a time.
* Lindi Skin Care (www.lindiskin.com) is helping increase those dollars through the sale of a limited-edition package of Lindi Skin Care body lotion, donating 10 percent of the purchase price for every bottle sold. Lindi Skin body lotion, which was created with cancer patients and their skin care needs in mind, is made from natural ingredients and botanical extracts.