Shopping for a "Good Cause"

Good Cause Gift Shops allow you to splurge while doing more than just increasing someone's bottom line.

 

If you love treating your family and friends—and even yourself—to stylish baubles (jewelry, scarves, handbags), home goods or gourmet foods made by the likes of Stonewall Kitchen and Barefoot Contessa, but you wish the dollars spent did more than just improving someone’s bottom line, have we got the gift shops for you.

Established in 2009-10 in three locations around the state, Good Cause Gifts is a division of the Connecticut nonprofit Futures Inc., which for the past 20 years has provided customized, community-based one-on-one education programs and services for young adults with special needs. It was the first community-based special education school approved by the Connecticut State Department of Education, and offers tutoring through Supplemental Education Services under No Child Left Behind.

"Because of the current economy and the population we serve, we realized we needed to find a creative way to meet some of the unmet needs our clients have, needs not funded by the state of Connecticut or other donations," says Mary McNelis, Futures' marketing manager. "So all of Good Cause Gifts' proceeds, after operational costs, go toward recreational activities for our students, and initiatives for clients who may have other personal needs—for example, some of our families are so low-income they haven't ever celebrated Christmas."

More importantly, the shops give these clients, who work on staff, competitive job opportunities, allowing them to establish a strong presence and earn acceptance in their home communities. "We pay our employees minimum wage," says McNelis. "Given the opportunity, some of them may outgrow us and get hired by other retail stores." She notes that Futures has also taken steps to increase its students' social interactions beyond the shops themselves. "During January and February, customer traffic was pretty slow, so we did vendor shows at some of the state office buildings. We're always looking for additional forms of outreach."

A wide selection of fair-trade goods and locally made items, which change seasonally, are on hand at Good Cause's locations, as well as gifts for which profits go to supporting other local charitable initiatives (cancer research, education, local food pantries). "We're just beginning to sell some of these items, like pink candles for breast cancer," says McNelis. "We're willing to collaborate on any endeavor that helps other members of our communities."

Here's the lowdown on the three Good Cause locations:

BERLIN
150 Mill St.
Berlin, CT
860/828-1752
Hours: Tues. & Wed. 11-5, Thurs. 11-6, Fri. 9-5 and Sat. 9-2

COLCHESTER
119 Lebanon Ave.
Colchester, CT
860/347-5099, x. 500
Hours: Tues., Wed. & Fri. 10:30-4, Sat. 11-2

MIDDLETOWN
158 Broad St.
Middletown, CT
860/347-5099, x. 211
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 9-3, Sat. 10-2

For more info, visit futures-ct.org.

Shopping for a "Good Cause"

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