The holiday season brings with it an appreciation of friends, family and community. It is a time of giving and sharing, a time when we’re encouraged to think of others before ourselves. The metro region offers plenty of opportunities for both shoppers and philanthropists to contribute to the greater good of the region. From something as small as purchasing a gift item with proceeds benefiting others to donating to your favorite charity in the name of a loved one, these local establishments make it easier than ever to support great causes across the city.

The Louisiana Children’s Museum (420 Julia St., 523-1357, provides a safe place for children and families in the community to learn and play. Promoting hands-on participatory learning for kids of all ages, the museum uses interactive exhibits and experiences that turn learning into fun. Proud to be celebrating a quarter of a century in operation, development director Wendy Granier, remarks, “We’re 25 and still playing!”

This year, the museum will host its first annual “Festival of Trees,” sponsored by Regions Bank. The Festival of Trees showcases 25 whimsically decorated trees representing various artists and community partners, and additionally, 10 schools will present student trees, designed and decorated by children. While the trees will be on display throughout the museum during December, the Festival of Trees events include the Enchanted Premiere Party, an adult-only ticketed affair at 6 p.m. on December 2, and the Family Preview Brunch, an all-ages ticketed preview beginning at 10 a.m. on December 3.

The museum also welcomes families for the “New Year’s Eve Countdown to Noon,” where they can enjoy a daytime countdown complete with balloons, a confetti drop and numerous activities.

Pre-purchase tickets for this event as well as the Festival of Trees events online. All proceeds go back into the museum to fund educational programs and exhibits.

Offering an array of wedding consultation services, nuptial necessities, bridal accessories, gifts and clothing, Old.New.Blue.

(6117 Magazine St., 655-0863) is the concept of mother-daughter team, Janie Glade and Marylyn Rigby.

“People like to look and feel beautiful during the holiday season. At Old.New.Blue we help them do that. Our clientele can choose from beautiful shoes, jewelry, purses, hair accessories and lingerie, as well as purchase Emily Post’s Etiquette, 18th Edition: Manners for a New World,” says Glade.

Emily Post’s Etiquette is the go-to guide for everything from everyday manners and life stages to cell phone and email etiquette to weddings. Ten percent of sales from the book at Old.New.Blue. will go directly to Upward Bound's Project PASS (Postsecondary Achievement for Special Students), which provides students who have documented disabilities with free and extensive supplemental instruction and tutoring, preparation for taking the ACT, information on becoming a self-advocate and support with completing applications, financial aid information and exposure to colleges.

A locally owned children’s department store, Pippen Lane (2929 Magazine St., 269-0106, is described as an emporium of children’s items, ranging from clothing and shoes to strollers, gifts and toys. They serve children of all ages, from infants to pre-teens. For over a decade, Pippen Lane has brought the “whimsy of youth” to families in New Orleans with unique designs from Europe and beyond. Pippen Lane now proudly offers TOMS Shoes in an effort to help children around the world.

In 2006, American traveler Blake Mycoskie befriended children in a village in Argentina and found they had no shoes to protect their feet.
Wanting to help, he created TOMS Shoes, a company that would match every pair of shoes purchased with a pair of new shoes given to a child in need, “One for One.” Since then, TOMS has evolved from a shoe company to the One for One company, and is now addressing an entirely new need around the world in addition to shoes – eyewear.

“Our mission at the Tipitina’s Foundation (4040 Tulane Ave., Suite 6000, 309-7934, is to restore Louisiana's irreplaceable music community and preserve the state's unique musical cultures. One way we can do that is by supporting the music and band programs in area schools,” says Kim Katner, Managing Director of the Tipitina’s Foundation.

The foundation’s four programs are doing just that. Programs include: Tipitina’s Music Office Co-Op (a training and office-skills resource for musicians); Instruments a’ Comin’ (the annual band instrument fundraiser for Louisiana schools); The Tipitina’s Internship Program with Donald Harrison Jr. (an after school jazz and recording program); and the Sunday Music Workshops (an opportunity for students to play and learn with experienced musicians at world-famous Tipitina’s). For detailed info on each program, visit the foundation online.

Consider contributing to the foundation by purchasing Tipitina’s T-shirts and merchandise, donating your used instruments or marching band gear, or by making a cash donation. Merchandise and donation info can be found online and donations may be sent to the above address.

The Louisiana SPCA (1700 Mardi Gras Blvd., 368-5191, is the oldest animal welfare organization in the state, serving the Gulf Coast region through a variety of programs and services that benefit the public. Services include the community clinic, pet adoptions, humane education, disaster response and more.

This holiday season, support the LA/SPCA with the purchase of the new Mardi Gras Bead Dog ornament, a miniature version of the public art sculpture that will be on display throughout the city beginning in January. At $10 each, these ornaments make perfect holiday gifts and come in various colors, including black and gold and purple and yellow for local sports fans. The LA/SPCA will also be selling their yearly calendar and stationary showcasing some of the year’s success stories. All proceeds from the sale of the calendar go into the organization’s adoption efforts and volunteer teams that bring the animals into the community. Proceeds of the Mardi Gras Bead Dog ornaments go back into the organization’s operating costs. Animal lovers may also consider sponsoring a pet or donating to the organization in honor of a loved one. Details may be found online.

If you plan to adopt a pet as a gift this holiday season, the LA/SPCA wants to make sure the entire family is involved. To this end, adoption gift certificates are available to help ensure each adoption is a “forever fit.”

Opera has been a celebrated art form in New Orleans for centuries, with regular performances dating back at least as far as 1796.

“In addition to bringing world-class performances to the New Orleans stage, the New Orleans Opera Association (NOOA) (1010 Common St.,
Ste. 1820, 529-2278, produces free community programs for thousands of children and adults around the region every year,” says executive director Timothy Todd Simmons. “As one of the largest classical arts organizations in the city, NOOA is an important participant in the local cultural economy, providing work for hundreds of local singers, musicians, and craftspeople. NOOA is the largest employer of the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra and a frequent collaborator with other local performing arts groups.”

This year, make a contribution in honor of a music lover in your life or in memory of an opera aficionado. All commemorative gifts are included in season program materials and are acknowledged with a special card to the honoree.

What began as one man’s passion for Southern art is now the home of the largest collection of Southern art in the world. The Ogden Museum of Southern Art (925 Camp St., 539-9650, features a vast permanent collection, numerous exhibitions, weekly and yearly events for all ages, educational classes and more.

On December 2, the museum will host “The Art of Giving” from 6-8 p.m. Presented by the museum's Center for Southern Craft and Design, it’s a special shopping event open to both museum members and the public. The museum will be filled with the best of Southern craft – ceramic, glass, jewelry, glass, metal and textiles by more than 80 artists – as well as CDs, books, T-shirts and more. Become a member that evening and receive the members-only discount of 15 percent off all items that night. There will be complimentary wine and water for members, plus a cash bar.

Enjoy holiday shopping in the gift shop all month long during museum hours, Wednesday through Monday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and Thursday evenings during Ogden After Hours, 6-8 p.m. By supporting the Ogden Museum, you are furthering the understanding of the importance of Southern art and culture, as well as the museum’s outreach programs.

Designed and built between 1939 and ’42 for Edgar and Edith Stern, the Longue Vue House and Gardens (7 Bamboo Road, 488-5488, is one of the last Country Place Era homes built in the United States. A New Orleans icon, the home and gardens have since become a place of learning and exploration, continuing the legacy of the Sterns in bettering the lives of New Orleanians.

With innovative, hands-on programming, Longue Vue prides itself on being a “historic, relevant and beautiful extension of the classroom.”

With seven different funds set up to sustain the Longue Vue House and Gardens’ mission, donating to a cause about which you’re passionate is easy and can be accomplished online. Another way of helping others and the House is by visiting the gift shop. The shop now offers soaps from the BirdProject. These black bird-shaped soaps contain handmade ceramic birds made from Louisiana clay. Proceeds from the sales of the soap go to the Gulf Restoration Network and the International Bird Rescue.