Vail Daily feature story: Gifts that give back |

Vail Daily feature story: Gifts that give back

Katie Coakley
Special to the Weekly
Kids in Guatamala wearing Roma Boots.
Courtesy Roma Boots | Special to the Weekly |

It’s officially the holiday season. It’s impossible not to notice the multitude of commercials, articles and advertisements bombarding the public with recommendations of what to buy for the upcoming gift-giving season. From electronics to jewelry to clothing to toys, there’s something new and shiny that is a “must have” for everyone on the list.

The holiday season is more than just an opportunity to illustrate love through giving — at least, it could be. Many companies are not only providing an item for the buyer but also are giving back to people in need, providing a win-win for both the consumer and the recipient.

Consumers are paying attention to companies and their commitment to societal issues. According to Edelman’s Good Purpose study, “When quality and price are equal, the most important factor influencing brand choice is purpose. Across the globe, the prominence of purpose as a purchase trigger has risen 26 percent since 2008.”

From donating a portion of proceeds to worthy causes to donating product to people in need, it’s becoming easier to give a gift that actively gives back. While there are plenty of companies out there that focus on the “buy one, give one” model (TOMS comes to mind), here are options that, if you so choose, can not only outfit your family and friends from toe to top, but also help someone in need at the same time.


Founded in 2010 by Romanian-born Samuel Bistrian, Roma Boots are rain boots that come in several styles and many colors. Bistrian moved to the United States with his family as a child, but he continued to travel around the world, working with children in need. Roma Boots (Roma is “amor,” or love, spelled backwards) is headquartered in Dallas and allows Bistrian to combine his love of fashion with charity.

What you get: Fashionable, comfortable rain boots that come in traditional colors like black or blue as well as bright versions like orange, pink or hunter green. Also available: lace-up and bootie versions. Prices start at $88 for adult boots.

What you give: For every pair of Roma Boots sold, a brand new pair of rain boots stuffed with educational supplies is donated to a child in need. Additionally, 10 percent of all sales proceeds go to the Roma For All Foundation, an educational foundation designed to help children break from the cycle of poverty. Roma Boots have been given to children around the world, from Guatemala to Transylvania, as well as in the United States.


Founded in 2009 by Sammie Appleyard and Kirsty Dunphey in Tasmania, Australia, Baby Teresa is a line of children’s clothing and accessories. As their friends started having children, the pair wanted to be able to purchase gifts that also gave back in a philanthropic way — and Baby Teresa (named after the giving Mother Teresa) was born. Prices start at $29.95 for a short romper.

What you get: Baby outfits and accessories made from fair-trade, organic cotton. The line ranges from onesies and rompers to hats, bibs and blankets.

What you give: For each outfit purchased, another is donated to a child in need. When an accessory is purchased (hats, bibs, blankets), a portion of the proceeds goes toward formula donations that are distributed to developing world orphanages. Donations have been made in more than 20 countries, including Peru, Indonesia, Uganda and Egypt.


Brooklyn-based STATE Bags were conceived in 2009 by husband and wife team Scot and Jacq Tatelman after they saw kids arrive at their nonprofit summer camp with all of their belongings in trash bags. Wanting to do more, the pair created STATE to help American children living with challenging — and sometimes critical — circumstances. Prices start at $55 for kids’ bags; $75 for adult bags.

What you get: A well-designed bag that ranges from classic styles to more creative ones in a variety of colors for both children and adults.

What you give: For each bag sold, STATE hand-delivers one to an American child in need.


Launched in 2010, Out of Print is a literary-themed company that sells apparel, accessories and other gifts. Founders Todd Lawton and Jeff LeBlanc say that Out of Print’s mission is to celebrate literature through fashion while spreading the joy of reading to those without access to books.

“Our shirts have become the band tee for bookworms,” said co-founder Lawton.

Prices start at $20 for kids’ T-shirts; $28 for adult sizes.

What you get: Though the company started with T-shirts featuring classic and often out-of-print book cover designs, it has expanded to include a variety of products including bags, notebooks, phone cases and more. The most recent design is from “Where the Wild Things Are.”

What you give: For every item purchased, a book is donated to a community in need through its partner, Books For Africa. Since its inception, Out of Print has donated more than 1,000,000 books.


Founded in Austin, Texas, in 2012, the idea for Mitscoots came while volunteering. For those less fortunate people, a clean pair of socks was the most requested item, right after food and water. Prices start at $13.95 per pair for adults.

What you get: A high-quality pair of socks that are designed for comfort as well as for performance. Featuring bright colors, unique designs and a variety of styles, Mitscoots makes socks for men, women and children.

What you give: For every pair of socks purchased, Mitscoots gives a pair of equal-quality socks to someone in need. Additionally, the company employs the recipients of the socks to package and distribute the socks they sell. In the two years that they’ve been in business, Mitscoots has donated more than 10,000 pairs of socks.


Founded in 2010 by Neil Blumenthal, Andrew Hunt, David Gilboa and Jeffrey Raide, Warby Parker designs eyeglasses and sunglasses. Customers can try on several different pairs at home, make their choices and receive the new glasses in the mail. To date, Warby Parker has distributed more than 1 million pairs of glasses worldwide. Prices start at $95, including prescription lenses.

What you get: A pair of prescription glasses or sunglasses with the opportunity to try on multiple pairs until you find the right style. Gift cards are also available.

What you give: For every pair of frames sold, Warby Parker distributes a pair to someone in need.

“Glasses are one of the single most effective poverty alleviation tools on earth,” said Dave Gilboa, co-founder and co-CEO of Warby Parker. “A pair can increase a person’s productivity by 35 percent and monthly earning potential by 20 percent, so the fact that 700 million people worldwide lack access to glasses is a problem that needs solving.”

These are just a few of the companies that operate on a one-to-one model — there are many more out there, providing items such as blankets, flashlights and even food when their products are purchased. As a result, this holiday season, it’s possible to double the impact of your gifts — for your loved ones as well as those less fortunate.

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