Sure, you love unwrapping gifts as much as the next person — we do, too. But watching a loved one open the perfect present, courtesy you, ranks among the top warm-fuzzy winter feelings.

Kick that charity-inspired  cheer up a notch with these gifts that give — and give again.

Shop with the elves, benefit the North Texas Food bank

Photo by Can Türkyilmaz

Most kids who walk into the Cozy Cottage boutique want to know what’s upstairs.

The children’s clothing store is in a two-story converted house at the corner of Eighth and Bishop. The shop takes up the ground floor only, but a staircase leading to the second story captivates many children who come into the store.

“It’s such a mystery to them,” owner Cynthia Herndon says.

We don’t have to tell the little ones, but the second floor of the Cozy Cottage is not exactly thrilling. Herndon uses it for storage mostly.

But it gave her an idea. Every year for Jingle Bells on Bishop, Herndon and her employees transform the upstairs into “Santa’s Secret Workshop.” For a $1 donation, kids can climb those alluring stairs by themselves and take a look around. Not only that, but they also get to visit Santa’s elves and pick out a gift for mom or dad. The gifts usually are little trinkets such as key chains that Herndon picks up in dollar stores. The gift is not what’s important, though.

“It makes them feel important and grown up to be able to buy a gift for their parents,” Herndon says.

She donates every dollar to the North Texas Food Bank, where $1 can provide four meals.

Now when kids ask her whether they can go upstairs, she has a good answer: “Not ’til the elves come.”

Jingle Bells on Bishop is Thursday-Saturday, Dec. 1-3.

The Cozy Cottage
336 W. Eighth, 214.941.1110

Save a billboard, give back to the community

Photo by Benjamin Hager

Lisa Walter of Oak Cliff is a woman of many talents. She’s a painter. She’s a graphic designer. She has her own line of screen-printed T-shirts.

Her newest venture is a line of bags, Banner Theory, which strives to reduce waste, offer a lovely and affordable product, and give back to the community.

Walter launched Banner Theory last year after doing some freelance graphic design work for an outdoor advertising company. Before that, she had never felt the vinyl on which billboards are printed. She learned that vinyl is not recycled, and she figured some 250 million square feet of vinyl from billboards winds up in landfills every year.

She asked if she could have some of the vinyl, and she started playing around with it. She came up with grocery and messenger bags that are sturdy and chic.

Banner Theory’s tag line is “Turning unsustainable waste into sustainable good.”

The bags sell at IndieGenius and a few other local retailers. But so far, most Banner Theory clients have been “forward-thinking” conference organizers who request custom orders for conventioneers.

It would be cheaper to have the bags made in China, but Walter employs a team of sewers in Dallas instead.

“It shows that a small, local company can do things the right way and also give back to the community,” Walter says.

Banner Theory’s mission is to donate a percentage of its profits to small nonprofit organizations in Dallas. So far, the fledgling company has not yet turned a profit. But Walter says Banner Theory will make a small donation to Oak Cliff-based 2000 Roses at the end of the year anyway.

Another part of her mission is to raise awareness on reusing billboard vinyl. She buys the vinyl from outdoor advertising companies when there is a misprint or the billboard is retired. The companies stipulate that the advertisement cannot be recognizable on any of her products, so their designs are abstract. “Mostly red” and “mostly purple” are the Banner Theory product descriptions at, where a messenger bag sells for $59.99, and a grocery bag sells for $31.99.

Advertising companies also will sell the vinyl to anyone for use as tarps or whatever else.

“Anyone can save a billboard from a landfill,” Walter says. “All you have to do is ask.”

Walter is working on expanding the line next year. She’s making clutches and a boho bag that employs a discarded bicycle tube as a stripe.
IndieGenius, 409 N. Zang, 214.941.0075

Rep your ’hood

Photos by Benjamin Hager

Oak Cliff. That’s our ’hood.

But let’s get more specific. If you live in Winnetka Heights, there is a T-shirt for that. There’s one for the King’s Highway Conservation District. And there’s a bumper sticker too: “Oak Cliff. Keep it Real.”

All of these Oak Cliff-centric gifts give back to the community.

Oak Cliff-based Freelisa printed the King’s Highway Conservation District Tee, and neighborhood resident Amanda Pounds designed it. It costs $20, and $9 goes back to the neighborhood association.

Kings Highway neighbors have been working on creating more public green spaces in the neighborhood.

“So now we’ve got a water bill,” says neighborhood association president Paul Zubiate. “We’ve started to have some overhead as a neighborhood association.”

The Winnetka Heights Tee costs $20, and about $10 goes to the neighborhood association. Winnetka Heights also sells a Christmas ornament for $10, and about $5 goes to the neighborhood.

The Oak Cliff Keep it Real bumper stickers cost $5. There’s also a T-shirt, which sells for $25. Both are sold at Bishop Street Market, and 100 percent of proceeds go to the Old Oak Cliff Conservation League.

Winnetka Heights Neighborhood Association
Order ornaments and T-shirts online
King’s Highway Conservation District
To order a T-shirt, email events coordinator Catherine Dodge at
Bishop Street Market
For Oak Cliff Keep It Real t-shirts and bumper stickers
419 N. Bishop

Buy fashion, give women a hand up

Photo by Benjamin Hager

The Rose Garden resale shop carries vintage batik, designer accessories and the occasional Chanel suit. But that’s not all. There also is an entire room dedicated to home décor: lamps, art, knickknacks, rugs, blankets, vases, handmade candles.

The Rose Garden is a locally owned boutique and a good place to find something special to wear or give.

It’s also a nonprofit that gives formerly incarcerated women a place to work and learn how to get back on their feet. The Rose Garden supports 2000 Roses Foundation, the nonprofit that Oak Cliff resident Kelly Wiley founded in 1999.

The nonprofit provides housing, food and other help to women coming out of prison.

Wiley herself was imprisoned for two years, and she gained empathy for incarcerated women, especially those with little or no family support.

“I saw so many women who were hurting,” Wiley says.

Even with a loving and supportive family, Wiley’s ordeal was difficult. So after she was freed, in the early ’90s, she knew she wanted to work toward making life better for women who had paid for their mistakes.

The women of 2000 Roses work in the store to learn business: retail, merchandising, marketing and customer service. And they work on handicrafts: handmade candles, soap and pillows, which are sold in the store.

“We create opportunities,” Wiley says. “We’re all entrepreneurs here. Instead of selling our bodies and selling drugs, we can sell jewelry that we’ve made with our hands, and we can sell candles and stuff that we make.”

The Rose Garden
841 W. Davis, 214.941.1333

Fair trade, local owner

Photo by Can Türkyilmaz

Wendy Medling walks most days to work at her shop, From the Ends of the Earth. Her daily world is pretty small, but the items in her shop come from as far away as Cambodia and Bali.

“I spend a lot of time teaching people about different cultures and about what fair trade is,” she says.

Medling, who has lived in Oak Cliff since 1996, opened From the Ends of the Earth seven years ago. Most of what she sells is fair trade, that is, products imported from developing countries and purchased at a price that allows workers a living wage. So instead of working in a big-name sneaker factory for pennies a day, many fair-trade producers work at home or in small factories, earning enough to provide for their families.

Much of what Medling buys are artisanal and handicraft items.

There are handmade greeting cards from Africa. Leather journals from India ($25) are made with “cruelty free leather.” These cows died of natural causes. The paper is made from recycled linen, scraps from a sewing shop floor.

Himalayan salt lamps ($15) give a lovely orange glow and release negative ions, which is good for the respiratory system and mood, Medling says.

There is home décor, clothing, jewelry and trinkets, all made by someone, somewhere, who is eking out a living.

“I really like the idea of taking something that’s discarded and making something new from it,” Medling says. “And I really like these handicrafts that are handed down through generations.”

From the Ends of the Earth also sells the work of local artists as well as some other items that “people just like,” such as incense.

From the Ends of the Earth
835 W. Davis, 214.942.1030

Repotted, the garden store on West Davis, carries several products that give back. Live rosemary plants formed into Christmas trees come from the teaching farm at Paul Quinn College. The trees cost $20-$25, and proceeds go back to the farm. The shop also sells Susan G. Komen for the Cure branded garden gloves, shears and trowels that sell for $5-$8.
• Repotted
700 W. Davis, 214.948.4770

Our neighborhood contains not one but two artisan chocolate shops that carry socially responsible chocolate (that is, not harvested by child slaves in West Africa). Drinking chocolate at Dude, Sweet is made from Valrohna cocoa powder and sold with huge hand-made marshmallows ($18). CocoAndré carries bars from Fortunato No. 4, a single-origin chocolate from Peru ($12).
• Dude, Sweet Chocolate
408 W. Eighth, 214.943.5942
• CocoAndré
831 W. Davis, 214.941.3030

Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters offer socially responsible coffee. The neighborhood company sells five single-origin coffees ($15-$17 per pound). Read all about the farms where the beans are grown on the roaster’s website.
Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters