Holiday gifts that give back

Give a unique gift for the holidays. By Martha Shade, CNN

(CNN) -- The holiday season is a lot different this year, but it's still a time of love, giving and gratitude. So why not start some new holiday traditions to maintain the good cheer? Here are some gifts you can put together during this time when so many are apart.

Teaching kids (and grown ups) the joy of giving

Gathering friends or family together to assemble a gift box for a needy recipient could be a new, meaningful holiday tradition that you start this year.

Kynd Kits are an activity for the whole family. You choose a cause or group of people important to you, and then request the corresponding kit.

Each kit will contain items specifically requested by people in those groups. You assemble the pieces together, write a card, then send it off. Among the recipients you can choose from this year: first responders, healthcare professionals, the homeless, LGBTQ people, autistic youth, foster children, Meals on Wheels recipients, the elderly in care homes, and children undergoing treatment at St. Jude Hospital.

Cleantheworld.org has a similar business model. And if 2020 has taught us anything, it's how important hygiene is to staying healthy. Finding soap and other cleaning items can be tough for a homeless person, so why not order a hygiene kit, assemble it, and then send it off to someone who really needs it?

If your family would like to help a foster child this holiday season, Together We Rise is helping kids without permanent homes by providing colorful bags to tote their items around in. (Many foster kids lug their worldly possessions around in trash bags.) They send you a panel to decorate, which you then send back. They attach each artwork panel to a duffel bag, which is stuffed with a teddy bear, a blanket, a hygiene kit and a coloring book.

A family art project can brighten up the walls of a long-term care facility. The Foundation for Hospital Art will send you a kit, complete with pre-drawn canvases and art supplies. You color it in, create one panel of your own design and send it back with the pre-addressed UPS label.

If you can knit or crochet, consider ordering a kit from Knots of Love. Their hats support patients going through chemotherapy, burn victims, brain surgery patients and head trauma patients.

Shopping for a child in need

The Salvation Army's "Angel Tree" program is online this year, making it easier than ever to shop for a child in need. Just enter your zip code, add the requested items from their registry to your cart, and Salvation Army does the rest.

Make 2020 a little merrier for small businesses

If there were ever a year to "shop small," 2020 would be it. Small businesses are suffering and any gift purchased from one spreads cheer twice: first to the seller and then to the lucky recipient.

Many small stores have an online presence or happily accept orders over the phone. Curbside pick-up options are also plentiful this Covid season.

Online retailer Etsy is a great resource for holiday gifts, be it a handmade face mask, an antique tea cup or a "Schitt's Creek"-themed "Rose Apothecary" candle. If you've got a friend who loves manga or a particular movie or TV show, chances are you can find a small business making fun, custom gifts with that theme.

And if you want to spend your money at a local bookstore but don't want to leave the house, consider buying from bookshop.org. They partner with independent book sellers across the country to send your dollars to stores that really need it.

Supporting Black-owned businesses

If you want to support Black-owned businesses this Christmas (or any time of year) the website and app https://www.supportblackowned.com/ helps you find shops and services all over the US.

The EatOkra app helps you find Black-owned restaurants and food services (buying a gift card helps keep small eateries in business).

You can also search Instagram by using the hashtag #SupportBlackBusiness.

Larger retailers doing good

Finally, many larger retailers are giving back this season. If you just want a name brand gift sure to wow a picky tween or teen, many stores and brands partner with charities to give back over the holiday season.

Some companies even make it a yearlong mission to do good.

If you are looking for a present for someone worried about the environment, Patagonia gives a portion of all profits to environmental causes.

Sock company Bombas donates a pair of socks to a needy person, for every pair sold.

And what Christmas stocking couldn't use a fuzzy pencil case and some unicorn-themed erasers? Yoobi sells colorful pens, pencils and stationery, and for every item purchased, they donate a school supply to a child in need.

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2018 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

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