The Ultimate Chicago Feel-Good Gift Guide

Your do-good holiday guide: Gifts with #socialpurpose from #Chicago nonprofits + social enterprises Tweet This

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(updated 12.20.2018) Still scrambling to cross those final names off your holiday shopping list? Chicago’s do-gooders have got you covered.

Check out these local social enterprises and nonprofits where you can pick up a unique gift you won’t find in stores—and warm your heart, knowing you’re benefiting a great cause with your purchasing power too.


After School Matters

A brick wall hung with dozens of small unframed paintings on canvas
Through the After School Matters mentoring program, teens develop their skills and focus by apprenticing alongside working artists. Participants paint, sew, build, weld and every art form in-between—and you’ll find many of their creations at the gift shop, where all proceeds go directly to the young artists and to keeping the program running.

What to pick up:
The variety is breathtaking at this colorful shop, where handmade jewelry sparkles beneath bold paintings on wood or canvas from tomorrow’s emerging artists. Browse their selection of fabric crafts, from handmade bandanas to puppets—and let’s face it, every shopping list has someone who needs a puppet—or pick up an anthology of the best poetry and fiction from the program’s young authors. And be sure to check out the 25 For $25, a curated collection of artworks each priced at $25 through December.

Where to get it:
Visit the shop at 66 East Randolph Street, or find a selection online at


Bright Endeavors

An array of candles with colorful labels reading Lavender Sprig
Bright Endeavors transforms the lives of young mothers by teaching them to craft premium candles in a supportive, professional environment. This 16-week paid training program provides the guidance and skills young moms need to secure quality employment and begin working toward professional success.

“Our young moms get to have an experience of learning how to work with the grace of a program that requires change, but also allows for mistakes.” Hear their story: Lighting the Way Out of Poverty for Young Moms

What to pick up:
Hand-poured, richly scented soy candles. Classics like Lavender Sprig and Vanilla Honey, seasonal offerings like Whitebark Pine—or their Chicago scent, with notes of bergamot, jasmine and gardenia “reminiscent of a fresh lake breeze,” that just might become your go-to gift. They’re available in four sizes, from travel tins through 40-hour glass candles packaged in vibrant boxes featuring the signature of the young mother who made each one.

Where to get it:



A book of photography and a binder of photographic negatives
This nonprofit “community digital lab” provides high-end scanning and printing equipment available to all members of the public. In addition, they nourish Chicago’s vibrant arts ecosystem through an artist-in-residence program and an ongoing series of talks, workshops and other events.

What to pick up:
A cherished memory, brought to life. Drop off images with LATITUDE’s Service Bureau and have them transformed into beautiful prints—a precious moment captured with your phone, or a reproduction of a treasured old family photo. If this whole thing sounds right up someone’s alley, pick up a gift certificate for them to order prints, register for workshops or create and explore with some DIY lab time. And this year, LATITUDE is hosting its first-ever Holiday Print Shop, where you can pick up limited-edition photographs printed on exhibition quality paper, with 70% of your purchase price going to the artist and 30% to LATITUDE.

Where to get it:
1821 West Hubbard Street, Suite 207, or visit online at


Lillstreet Gallery

Close-up photo of a pottery vase on a mantel, with books and a sculptural bust
Lillstreet Art Center is a community of support for the arts, offering classes, artist residencies, gallery exhibitions—and ArtReach, their nonprofit providing arts education to underserved neighborhoods across Chicago. Tucked inside the gallery space is a retail shop featuring wares from local and national artists.

What to pick up:
One-of-a-kind jewelry, and a ceramics collection that ranges from art objects to gorgeous mugs and servingware you’ll want to use every day. Through the month of December, the shop is home to a holiday market of over 135 artists working in wood, glass, fiber and paper goods too.

Then stop at First Slice, a nonprofit providing healthy food to the homeless and those in need, to refuel with their hearty soups, sandwiches and “70’s-style salads.” Bonus holiday achievement: Call ahead to order a whole pie for the next holiday party you’re heading to—their apple pie made Food & Wine’s list of the best in America, but maybe almond truffle polka-dot pie or raspberry balsamic pear is more your style?—and instantly claim the title of Most Valuable Guest.

Where to get it:
Visit 4401 N. Ravenswood Avenue, or shop online at and


Rebuilding Exchange

A wooden cheese board reds on a marble counter, holding cheese, bread and a sprig of rosemary
This nonprofit social enterprise is dedicated to diverting building materials from landfills, and creating innovative models for sustainable reuse—through promoting sustainable deconstruction practices, education and job training, and a retail supply warehouse.

What to pick up:
Unique, handmade woodcrafts of all kinds. Stock a bar with coaster sets, wine racks, and one-of-a-kind bottle openers made from reclaimed roller-rink flooring whose grooves are sure to bring back memories. Or, for your friend who’s already counting the days until next summer’s concerts in Millennium Park, pick up modernist tea light holders, beautifully grained cheese boards and folding wooden seats to plan the most stylish picnic that lawn has ever seen.

Where to get it:



A smiling woman wearing a black shirt and a green and white patterned scarf in front of a brick wall
RefuSHE specializes in protecting, nurturing and empowering refugee girls and their children living in Kenya. Their artisan collective takes a trauma-informed, holistic approach, enabling members to continue their healing within a supportive environment.

What to pick up:
Eye-catching home accents like tea towels and throw pillows—but the star of the show is their colorful wraps and infinity scarves, designed and hand-dyed by young refugee women in East Africa. (Check out the “Angie” style, named in honor of Angelina Jolie who wore the design during her visit on World Refugee Day.) 100% of proceeds benefit the artisans in this economic empowerment collective.

Where to get it:


Sweet Beginnings

A gift box of body care products rests on a wooden countertop
This program of the North Lawndale Employment Network provides full-time transitional jobs in green industry to men and women returning from incarceration. Employees tend beehives located across the region, then create, pack and ship the beelove line of personal care products.

“Second-chance people can create first-rate products.” Hear their story: Taking the Sting Out of Re-Entry After Incarceration

What to pick up:
All-natural skin care infused with honey, beeswax and soothing botanicals, made right here in Chicago. Stock up on luscious lip balms—the perfect stocking stuffer—or pick up a gift set like the luxurious Spa Collection: honey body balm, sugar scrub, moisturizing cream and a lip balm in your choice of custom gift packaging, for a party-ready presentation. (Don’t forget a decadent jar of local raw honey for yourself, too!)

Where to get it:


Happy shopping! And if you know a Chicago-area nonprofit or social enterprise offering a great gift option we missed? Let us know!