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Mother's Day gifts that make a difference

From cards that help fight breast cancer to Fair Trade crafts

By Teri Goldberg
Shopping columnist

Flowers, a card and a meal are a given for Mother's Day. But this year, why not consider a card that celebrates Mom (with a capital m) and helps fight breast cancer, or flowers that benefit Mot qher Earth or a care package, which will help other women support themselves?

Even those who are opposed to so-called Hallmark holidays, have to give mom a card. So why not choose a card that helps a good cause?

This Mother's Day, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation is offering two tribute cards
designed specially for the occasion. Both cards help support the organization's mission to
eradicate breast cancer as a life-threatening disease. A minimum donation of $10 per card is
required but the contribution is tax deductible.

The 5-inch-by-7-inch "wisdom card" thanks mom for being "a source of infinite wisdom." The "strength card" features three flowers as symbols of strength, support and love. Each card comes with a pre-printed message but will be sent directly to you so you can add a personal note.

No visit to the Komen Web site is complete without a stop at the online gift shop, where you'll find fashionable new items including the limited-edition, 100 percent silk scarf designed by Lilly Pulitzer for $35, a pink-and-white striped travel case, $28, and the rhinestone-studded pink ribbon pin, $12.50, with a clasp for different charms shaped like a heart or the numbers 1, 5, 10 or 20 to represent years of survivorship. Charms are sold separately for $3.50.

Save the snow leopard
Instead of ordering from a mass-market florist, consider a charitable bouquet from Organic Bouquet. The Mill Valley, Calif.-based cyber shop ships flowers direct from farms across America or imported from Ecuador and Columbia, which a customer representative enthusiastically says are all "pesticide free."

Five percent of each purchase of any of the 21 charitable arrangements help support a variety of causes, including the National Wildlife Federation and Adopt-A-Minefield.

Send mom two dozen organic roses, $54.95, and Amnesty International U.S.A. benefits. Opt for snow white roses, $39.95, and a contribution is made to the Snow Leopard Trust, whose mission is to protect the endangered snow leopard and its habitat in Central Asia

Bean soup for the soul
"They" say chicken soup soothes the soul. And what about all those Campbell Soup commercials — mom is always there with a steaming crock of soup, no?

Apparently, nothing says I love you more than a hot bowl of soup. So why not send mom a care package avec some soup mixes.

Best known for its bean soups, The Women's Bean Project sells individually wrapped 13-ounce packs of soup mixes for $5.25 each. Located in an old fire station in Denver, Colo., the nonprofit center teaches women job skills and responsibilities through hands-on training in the "bean" business.

The primo gift pack is the six-bean sampler, $35, which includes mixes for Firehouse chili, Marian's black bean, old-fashioned chili (mild), Toni's ten bean, Sarah's spicy split pea and sixbean organic. Five other gift packs are available, ranging in price from $15.75 for three bean dips to $18.75 for a three-soup sampler.

Further help "break the cycle of poverty and unemployment" among women, and pick up some cake and cookie mixes or Fair Trade coffee as well.

Fair world after all
And then there's the fair trade marketplace. This group of stores, which has sprouted up in recent years, makes a conscious effort to pay artisans a fair wage for their work, instead of taking advantage of lower cost of living in other countries to make the most profit possible, like many mainstream retailers do. Consumers reap the benefits with beautiful crafts that might not otherwise have access to. Artisans make a decent wage. The world marketplace becomes fair after all.

For mom's day gifts, the selection is phenomenal, from small shopping "bazaars" such as Women for Women International (the tie-dyed apron from Nigeria for $21 is a steal) to cyber malls, such as Novica, which stocks about 20,000 products from more than 2,000 artisans around the world. A great gift for mom is the oil painting, "My Mother's House," $404.95, by Alcides Medina Umeres, an artist from a small Andean town in the state of Cuzco.

Mom can always use an extra picture frame — for a snapshot of you, the grandkids, even Dad. Among other crafts and handmade gift at Chicago-based World Shoppe is a 5-inch-by-7-inch frame, made of coco wood in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Sales from the $22.50 frame help support the Indonesian People's Handicraft Foundation, an association of craftspeople that helps craft workers organize as well as provides technical assistance and training for its members.

But these days, being a Fair Trade product doesn't mean it has to be funky. Launched this past December, Portland, Ore-based Lucina features jewelry (and shawls) from artisan cooperatives in Columbia, Ecuador and Rwanda.

"The collection has a North American design sensibility — kind of like Fair Trade for the Gucci and Gump's crowd rather than for the granola crowd," says a company spokesperson. Well, I wouldn't go that far but there's plenty to choose from among the Bohemian-style pieces that mom might like. The red Pomegranate bracelet, $46, or the turquoise-and-Tagua bracelet, $72, makes an exceptionally nice gift.

Handbags from Mad Imports, however, could be mistaken for high-end commercial designers. The collection is a result of collaboration between a handful of NYC-based designers and artisans in Madagascar and in Kenya, says Laurel Brandstetter, who took over her stepfather's export business and founded Mad Imports.

The neutral-colored Beeline makes a great everyday summer bag. The hand woven tote, made out of banana leaf with raffia, sells for $40. The 12-inch-by-14-inch satchel also has a zippered inside pocket for keys, change and other small items.

Mad Imports' "signature clutch," the Embark, features a hand-embroidered baobab tree and carved wooden handles. Made of soft raffia/cotton fabric, the 6-inch-by-11-inch clutch, costs $78. Sales of the bags are reinvested in business development workshops, education for the weaver's children, and AIDS and water access projects.

Mad Imports goods are sold at Los Angeles-based Fred Segal, which caters to the celeb crowd, National Geographic and specialty shops, such as Tracy Feith.

@ 2006 MSNBC Interactive

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