More Than Shopping, Truly Giving
Consider it guilt-free shopping, shopping with a purpose, or just a way to get some fantastic, unique treasures. However you rationalize it, shopping at a store that benefits a good cause is a win-win. And fortunately, the western suburbs offer up plenty of options to support a group close to home, or on the other side of the world.
If you have a passion for items from around the globe that aren’t mass marketed, consider stores that support women from a developing nation or in a desperate situation.
To add true international flair to your wardrobe or home, look no further than Ten Thousand Villages, with stores in Oak Park and Glen Ellyn, or WAR Chest Boutique in Naperville.
With items from Africa, India, Indonesia and South America, Ten Thousand Villages is a global hodgepodge of colors, sounds and smells, offering up an authentic international shopping experience. Its buyers travel around the world, ensuring that the artisans get a fair price for their goods while helping them understand American trends and desires. Stores are stocked with home décor, gift items, personal accessories, fair trade chocolates, international music and musical instruments from around the world.
“Shopping here is really the gift that gives twice,” says Claire Leavitt, the store manager of Ten Thousand Villages in Oak Park. “If you want to know more about what you’re buying, we have information on where it’s from and how it was made.”
WAR Chest Boutique is operated by Women At Risk, International, which protects women who have been abused, trafficked or sexually exploited. The store carries home décor, scarves, fair trade chocolates and coffees, and children’s products all made by the rescued and at-risk women from 20 different countries, including the United States.
Most items come tagged with the name of the woman who made the item. “This is because the women are proud of their artwork, but also because we want our shoppers to think of that woman when they wear that particular piece of jewelry or scarf and know that she made a difference in that particular woman’s life,” says Ashley Pitariu, store manager.
Re:new in Glen Ellyn turns fair trade on its side and makes it local trade by training refugee women to make a variety of textiles, such as messenger bags, decorative pillows, baby blankets and table pieces. The high-quality items are made from fabric and leather donated from upscale retailers like Crate & Barrel and Toms-Price.
Located in the back of a building, the location has more than tripled in size in the past five years. Since the retail shop nestles up to the workshop, the chatter of languages provides a musical backdrop for anyone shopping and allows customers to see and hear the women who are creating the objects. The women come from various countries including Bhutan, Burma, Somalia, Sudan, Russia, Tanzania, Syria and Iraq. Some were professionals in their past life, some have a fourth grade education.
“We want them to have a career, not just a job,” says Rebecca Sandberg, who founded Re:new five years ago after living in Kenya. “As they learn, they get a sense of community here that is often lacking in daily life. Some women have met people from their country, a few were even in the same refugee camps.”
All three stores offer online shopping as well as the opportunity to host a private sale in a private home, church or business or at their store. At each location, volunteerswork the retail space, ensuring that proceeds go to the people who create the objects.
“Many people want to do something about the injustice they hear about and the boutiques offer a great way to get involved in the process through a simple purchase which they probably would have made anyway,” says Pitariu.
Close to Home
If you’re looking for a unique item and enjoy the thrill of the hunt, consider one of the many resale and consignment shops which benefit a local charity or organization. Hospitals, emergency shelters, wellness clinics, cancer centers and animal welfare groups all rely on proceeds from affiliated storefronts.
Community Nurse, a health care services group that offers dental and health care to low income families in the western suburbs, operates two storefronts in La Grange: Carousel Shop, which features gently used clothing and household items; and Corner Shoppe, which offers upscale home furnishings.
“Nearly 20% of our agency’s operating expenses are funded by the shops,” says Greg Eklund, director of development. The Courtyard in Hinsdale is a direct affiliate of Wellness House, which offers free assistance to families and individuals coping with cancer. The resale and consignment store features antiques, fine furniture and home décor.
“We are actually a direct partner with Wellness House,” says Marna Slawson, development manager, who estimates 10-15% of Wellness House’s operating budget is provided by The Courtyard. “When someone writes a check, it’s written out to Wellness House, not The Courtyard.”
For many, if not all of these stores, raising awareness is almost as important as raising funds. Store employees are volunteers, adding a cheerfulness and dedication to the job and a true enthusiasm for the designated project.
“The shops help us reach out into our communities,” says Angela Curran, CEO of Community Nurse. “From attracting volunteers and donors, to bringing in customers and patients, everyone that walks into the shop is a part of Community Nurse Health Center.”
Numerous hospitals in the area also run resale and consignment stores – usually focusing on clothing, household items and a smattering of furniture. Proceeds from Pink Elephant in Elmhurst go toward an annual donation designated for special projects, such as the new Cancer Center at Elmhurst Memorial Hospital.
All of the stores maintain stringent quality control, only putting out gently used pieces. Donated items that don’t make the cut may get sold for recycling or donated to a mission organization that gives directly to the poor and homeless.
For great bargains and diamonds in the rough, Goodwill and St. Vincent DePaul shops can be good options. Goodwill has overhauled its stores and shoppers can now find bright lights, clean dressing rooms and a wide variety of merchandise. St. Vincent operates a charming storefront, Déjà Vu, in Geneva in addition to traditional resale shops. Proceeds from both organizations’ stores go directly to the disadvantaged.Edit Module