Everyone knows the holiday season is about gifts and giving to those you love. But this year, Present Perfect: Charitable Gift Givingthe times they are a-changin’, as giving is less about what you give than to to whom you give it. So while the economy is trying our patience and our wallets, make those gifts count by giving back a little to those who need it most. Whether it benefits those around the world or right here in your own New Orleans backyard, charitable giving is definitely in.

For the chef in your entourage, there’s nothing more thoughtful than a new cookbook. Local dining and cuisine guru Tom Fitzmorris is selling is cookbook, New Orleans Food, either signed or unsigned, available at area bookstores and half of the royalties go to Habitat for Humanity to assist rebuilding efforts in New Orleans. The cookbook contains more than 225 recipes, compiled by Fitzmorris over the past 35 years and has everything from Creole to Cajun to Contemporary fare. 

Even the most accomplished chef needs the proper tools to perfect his or her craft, so pick up a kitchen gadget with a heart.

The newly opened Macy’s carries exclusive pink merchandise, like a new twist on the classic–and highly coveted- Kitchen Aid mixer, whose signature hue lets you know proceeds benefit the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. 

Present Perfect: Charitable Gift GivingIf someone you know has a thing for home décor, then Hazelnut (5515 Magazine St., 891.2424) is the place to go. Two of their exclusive fabric prints, New Orleans Toile and Pontchartrain Beach, give a portion of their proceeds to charity. The toile collection comes in five varying colors and motifs, each with a local twist on the classic French fabric. In years past proceeds from the Toile collection went to Second Harvest Food Bank. The bright and punchy Pontchartrain Beach print, splashed across everything from pillow shams to butler trays, has previously given a percentage of sales to Children’s Hospital. Hazelnut also recently carried an exclusive Live Oaks jewelry design, the proceeds of which proceeds went to the Live Oak Preservation Fund, benefiting City Park.

Speaking of preservation, here’s a great way to get the little ones in your life involved in the charity process. There are hundreds of organizations out there that allow you to, for a nominal amount, sponsor an animal, whether it’s a rescued farm critter or a wild endangered animal. The World Wildlife Foundation’s Adopt an Endangered Animal program teaches children eco-responsibility and they also get a fun plush toy with it. So, adopt a panda in their names, and when it comes time to open those gift boxes, a nice soft stuffed panda will bring them joy.

Present Perfect: Charitable Gift GivingFor a local alternative, sponsor an animal at our very own Audubon Zoo or Aquarium. It starts at a mere $15 for frogs or fish, and you can sponsor your own tiger, too. As a nice touch, if you’re doing it in someone else’s name, give them
something from Mignon Faget’s Animal Crackers collection. Featuring everything from tigers to elephants to our beloved – and endangered – alligators and pelicans, these pendants, bracelets and key rings provide tangible evidence of your charity
to those around you, and may even inspire others’ philanthropy. 

If you’re shopping for stocking stuffers, something small with a big impact is the way to go. Stop by the Botanical Garden Gift Shop at City Park and pick up one of their new Popp Fountain Christmas tree ornaments, whose sale proceeds go to the restoration of Popp Fountain. They also have City Park logo car magnets, which benefit the park. 

Another fun option for stocking stuffers is always music. This season, forego the iTunes gift card and  opt for a local compilation with Putomayo Presents: New Orleans Christmas. Old holiday classics get a vibrant and fun twist as only New Orleans artists can create, with offerings from the Ellis Marsalis Trio, Big Al Carson and John Boutté to liven up any holiday party. Give this gift of music, and a percentage of sales goes to Habitat for Humanity and Musicians Village.
Christmas ornaments are certainly a gift that keeps on giving. 

Present Perfect: Charitable Gift GivingWell-made decorations of porcelain or fine metal have the potential to become family heirlooms, passed along from one generation to the next.  Give someone something special and create a lasting memory with ornaments that celebrate New Orleans’ rich history. The unique designs at Adler’s Fine Jewelry feature an array of motifs, and the limited edition Mardi Gras ornaments benefit hurricane recovery. The historic ornament series commemorates Mardi Gras past, and was created in collaboration with historian Henri Schindler.

All ornaments are affordably priced between $25-$40, so you can afford to snatch up a couple and spread the Rex, Proteus or Comus love.

Hop on the eco-train this holiday season with reusable multi-purpose shopping bags.  Made locally, its-laS-tik totes come in a rainbow of metallic and solid colors, and shoppers can even create their own custom bag. Pick up the Flambeaux bag, a fiery red shopper big enough for all your groceries, or the Garden District, a navy print tote cute enough to bring with for an afternoon lunch with friends. A portion of proceeds from the sale of every bag benefits Hope House. They are available atwww.whatsurbag-usa.com.
For that person on your list who’s always impossible to shop for, consider a simple charitable donation in his or her name. Ask your friend what their favorite foundation is and on Christmas, wrap a beautiful hand-written note in some nice paper to give them. While it may not be a new cashmere sweater or jewelry, this kind of gift lasts a lifetime.

There is truly nothing more rewarding than giving gifts that give back. Philanthropy is a timeless way to show those around you how much you care, not only about your loved ones, but also the great community. Even though the holidays are about charity, the real spirit of giving extends year-round. And nothing’s more au currant than that.