Gifting For Good

The Denver Foundation

Social enterprises in Denver make it possible to shop with a purpose.

If it's better to give than to receive, is it best to choose gifts that give twice? We think so. Fortunately, Metro Denver is home to dozens of businesses operated by nonprofits-known as social enterprises that make it possible to find unique, beautiful, and thoughtful gifts while supporting mission­driven organizations in our community.

Once you know about social enterprise shopping, it's hard to look at a mall, a catalog, or a website the same way. We hope this guide to community­oriented businesses and gift ideas will help you shop with a purpose during the holidays and all year long.


Handmade, locally sourced, earth-friendly products 

A few years ago, EarthLinks settled into a new home in the Sun Valley neighborhood, setting up a workshop, an herbs and botanicals room, a classroom, and a garden that blooms throughout the year with plants and flowers. Best of all, nearly everything grown on-site ultimately winds up in the ever-growing EarthLinks' product line. 

The entrance to the building is a retail shop where EarthLinks goods are sold; it's a treat for the senses and a must­visit for anyone who loves natural gifts and body care products. Raw, golden honey; birdhouses made from reclaimed barn wood and gourds; hand salves and lip balms; and lovely candle holders pressed with delicate flowers are an1ong the very affordable gifts offered. When you purchase a product from EarthLinks, you're helping to support a work program for men and women experiencing homelessness. Participants learn important skills and create Earth-friendly products that sustain the people and the planet. In addition to learning how to craft and garden, participants can go on nature retreats to break the cycle of boredom and chaos in their lives.

EarthLinks' products are good for the earth, good for the community, and a good choice for anyone on your gift list: That's what we call a win-win-win.

Art Restart

Custom greeting cards  with original art

Art Restart sells greeting cards with original artwork created by members of The Gathering Place, Denver's only daytime drop-in center for women,  children, and transgender individuals who are experiencing poverty or homelessness. You can select your favorite artwork and customize cards online-including adding a company logo for your personal or business good tidings. The artists receive 5 percent of royalties while the remaining net profit provides sustainable revenue for The Gathering Place. The nonprofit provides a variety of programs and services to help meet basic human needs, as well as housing a beautiful art studio that provides a safe and supportive environment for members to be expressive, gain confidence, and build income, as well as be part of a community.

Art Students League of Denver

An inclusive art community where individuals of all ages and abilities channel artistic expression

At the Art Students League of Denver, there is no set curriculum. You are free to explore whatever attracts your interest, and every student has the opportunity to study with regionally and nationally recognized artists. Ongoing classes and workshops at the Art Students League give students hands-on experience in a wide selection of media. With year-round offerings, you can gift a loved one with the study of art by purchasing a gift certificate to the Art Students League of Denver in any dollar amount. Certificates are applicable to an annual membership, courses, classes, and workshops.

Crystal Joys

Handmade items crafted by members of the developmentally disabled community

Most of the jewelry at Crystal Joys is handmade with love. Pendant necklaces that balance your energy as they spruce up your outfit. Bracelets and earrings made with every conceivable combination of crystals and gems, each with their own properties and meanings. The goods here feel special, especially when you con.sider that the bulk of the inventory is made by adults with intellectual and physical disabilities who are paid to build skills and a sense of community, as well as wearable works of art. Prepare for reverse sticker shock: Crystal Joys pieces are so affordable you'll want to get something for everyone you know. Visit locations in Olde Town Arvada, Longmont, and Fort Collins, all operated by the social enterprise Sample Supports.

City Wild

River rafting, rock climbing, team building, facilitation, and more

CityWILD is best known for its outdoor programs for middle school and high school youth who face significant challenges in their homes, schools, and communities. But cityWILD also provides outdoor adventure recreation to the public at greatly reduced costs. All proceeds go to support cityWILD's tuition-free Youth Leadership Progran1. Individuals and groups can book adventures with city WILD, a fully licensed, permitted, and insured outfitter with quality services and below-market-rate prices. Gift certificates are available. What better way to enjoy the outdoors than to have fun while supporting young leaders.

Denver Voice

Quality publication helps those experiencing homelessness and poverty

Every month a new issue of Denver Voice is distributed and sold by nearly 100 street vendors, men, and women who are experiencing homelessness. Vendors earn $1.50 of the $2 cover price. The Voice is part of a national network of street papers that help individuals work toward self-sufficiency while raising awareness about the realities of homelessness in local communities. The paper has earned praise for its high editorial standards, quality writing and photography, and community outreach. If you don't want to risk missing an issue, and also like the idea of providing this nonprofit organization with a steady source of revenue, you can subscribe for $120 per year. Each Denver Voice issue will come in the mail, bringing good stories and good feelings. Gift subscriptions are available.

Emily’s Spa

Salon and spa services

Beauty and wellness are big business in Denver, which means they're sources of employment for hundreds of highly skilled stylists, manicurists, massage therapists, barbers, and others who make us look and feel good. At Emily's Salon, a program of Emily Griffith Technical College, students hone these arts through practice in an appealing, spa-like environment. Whether you need a quick mani-pedi or a luxurious 90-minute massage, Emily Griffith students are prepared to pamper you at a fraction of what you'd pay at a conventional salon. Gift certificates are available. If you decide to get one for yourself as well as those on your gift list, know that you're helping a future aesthetician, cosmetologist, or massage therapist work toward a rewarding and stable career.

Hope Tank

Mission-driven, Colorado­centric buutique

There are lots of places to buy unique gifts along South Broadway, many of them small businesses that support the local economy and the thriving Baker neighborhood. But Hope Tank is the only one with a bona fide mission. In this eclectic store-which carries quirky socks, Colorado-centric T-shirts, jewelry, bath and body products, unusual toys for kids and adults, and much more-every sale supports a revolving roster of nonprofits that do good work in the community. Better still, you'll find lots of merchandise made by local crafters, artisans, and companies. In addition to being a great place for gifts (especially for baby and bridal showers), Hope Tank is also a fun place to bring out-of-town guests looking to experience and take home, a bit of Denver spirit. Take some time to learn more about Hope Tank's quarterly call-to-action campaign.

Mission Wear

Environmentally conscious, upcycled, reusable products

Mission Wear is a social enterprise that supports the employment and skills­training of women who are in recovery from domestic violence, addiction, sex work, incarceration, and homelessness. Using recycled and donated fabrics, the women craft a variety of stylish bags, including tote bags, backpacks, and purses. Mission Wear goods are available in many area Whole Foods. To see the full inventory, shop the online store.

VSA/Access Gallery

Art that benefits adults with disabilities

Often, knowing the story behind a painting, photograph, or sculpture gives it that much more richness and depth. At VSA/ Access Gallery, every piece tells a story. All of the artwork is created by youth and adults with disabilities who participate in VSA's community programs. A dynamic space in the Santa Fe Arts District, VSA/ Access Gallery hosts regular exhibitions; sales benefit the artists directly as well as the organization itself. Artists are also available to create commissioned works, a fact that explains why art created by VSA/ Access Gallery hangs in offices, retail stores, and homes throughout Metro Denver and across the country. Join this artistic movement while helping others attain financial sustainability through creative work. Also, don't forget to pop in during the Santa Fe First Friday Art Walk!

We Made This

Hand-sewn textiles crafted by locally resettled refugees

Founded by the African Community Center, one of the state's three refugee resettlement agencies, We Made This is a sewing program and social enterprise that brings women together every weekday. The program invites refugees, most of whom have been in the United States for fewer than five years, into a safe environment where they connect with others who've had similar experiences. Goods from We Made This are mainly sold at local craft and farmers markets. Participants keep 55 percent of the profits; the rest covers expenses. At the end of the program, which lasts about six weeks, participants graduate with a certificate, a new set of skills, and a circle of connections and job referrals in a city that's now slightly more familiar. Follow We Made This on social media to find out about upcoming sales, which happen roughly once a quarter.

Pamper and train your pet. Help other animals.

Animal shelters rescue sick, injured, and neglected animals, provide shelter and veterinary care, and help homeless pets find new homes. Many also operate retail stores and offer services that support their missions, which means you can spoil your four-legged friend while helping to end animal suffering.

Humane Society of Boulder Valley

The Humane Society of Boulder Valley is home to a 3,000-square-foot Training and Behavior Center. Their professional trainers help more than 5,000 clients every year build a foundation of positive behavior and strengthen their bond with their pets. Trainers can help your dog learn to sit or become an agility athlete. They can also help manage separation anxiety issues. The Humane Society also offers behavior consultations for your feline friends. Grab pet food, supplies, and toys in the gift shop, too!

Denver Dumb Friends League

The Denver Dumb Friends League "Sit ... Stay ... Shop" retail spaces, located inside the nonprofit's Denver and Castle Rock facilities, carry everyday pet supplies including permanent collars, ID tags, leashes, carriers, toys, bedding, and pet food. You can also pick up gift cards that friends and family can use toward pet adoptions or merchandise.

Women’s Bean Project

Lovingly handcrafted gourmet food and jewelry

The Denver-based Women's Bean Project packages and sells soup and baking mixes and other dry food products to stores across the United States and online. The organization is designed to provide a safe and accepting work environment where women can learn the skills required to achieve gainful employment. With each purchase, you're helping a woman break the cycle of poverty. Gobble up gourmet bean soups, chilis, cookie and brownie mixes, bread mixes, salsa and spice rubs, marinades, dip mixes, instant teas, organic fair trade coffees, and sweets.

That’s The Ticket

Create memories and sustainability for local arts groups.

In today's "experience economy," tickets to live performances and concerts make great gifts. Buying tickets and subscriptions is also a great way to support our local, nonprofit arts companies, most of which generate roughly 50 percent of their operating budgets through ticket sales. Metro Denver's thriving performing arts scene offers options for every taste, including the traditional and classical via Opera Colorado, Colorado Ballet, and the Colorado Symphony. More edgy, socially engaged work is always part of the season at Curious Theatre Company, which garners national attention for its original, often politically and socially engaged plays, and Su Teatro, the largest company in the region dedicated to Latino themes and playwrights. Productions from Phamaly Theater Company feature adults and children with disabilities, which always makes for theater experiences that are both uplifting and thought-provoking. No matter which companies you support, you'll contribute to the cultural life of Metro Denver, and that's a gift, too.

Coffee Break

Good coffee isn't hard to find in Metro Denver, and, increasingly, neither are businesses that support the community with every grind, shot, and pour-over. Here are a few cafes that serve the community as they serve up tasty drinks and scrumptious treats.

Prodigy Coffeehouse

Located in the Elyria-Swansea neighborhood of Denver, Prodigy Coffeehouse aims to help youth who experience barriers to career success. The goal? Demonstrating that through social enterprise, values of education and occupation can be intermingled with employment and accelerate the learning process. Located in an old automotive shop and adorned with murals by local artists, Prodigy Coffeehouse helps its young staff develop a disposition for innovation. As staff members acquire essential skills, they increase their social capital and earning potential. Not least, Prodigy offers really great lattes, cappuccinos, and snacks.

Strong, Smart & Bold Beans

Stop by Steam on the Platte to pick up a latte as well as specialty coffee products at Strong, Smart & Bold Beans, a coffee cart run by Girls Inc. When you buy products from Bold Beans, you're supporting meaningful part-time employment for teens as well as the nonprofit's young entrepreneurship program. The cart includes specialty coffees, teas, gift cards, and merchandise; all products are also available online.

Spring Cafe

A bustling business near the Colorado State Capitol, Spring Cafe is a place where you can meet your international neighbors and learn about global cultures. Founded by the Spring Institute for Intercultural Learning, a nonprofit serving Denver's immigrant and refugee community, Spring Cafe uses its coffee shop as a classroom, employing refugees and providing training programs designed to prepare them to enter the customer service industry. Check out the to-go lunch options, local pastries, organic coffee, and snacks featuring recipes from Burma and Argentina. Spring Cafe also offers catering and regularly holds community events.

  • Community Impact
  • Economic Opportunity