Angel trees are in many places in our communities: churches, malls. Each ornament on the tree has a child's name on it, and a list of gifts the child would like for the holidays. Human "angels" take the tag, go shopping, and return some of those gifts wrapped and ready in time for the holidays.
A new start-up company is trying to update the model.
"CommuniGift" is an online platform, designed to make finding and shopping for needy children and families easier.
It works a couple of different ways.
First, your family could "adopt" a family in need. Users log in to www.CommuniGift.com and choose the brightly colored tab that says "Adopt a Struggling Family."
Then you can browse the type of family you'd like to help. Perhaps a military family, or a single parent household.
This reporter chose North Carolina, family with autism. The first name on the list is the "Henry M family"
Here is how the family is described on the site:
"Family of three in Chapel Hill with 6 year old boy, Henry M, with Autism. He would love Legos, especially Star Wars sets or Lego City sets. He is a very advanced reader and loves books, particularly series like Magic Tree House, The Indian in the Cupboard, and A to Z Mysteries. Henry has been asking for a remote control plane with a video camera but would be thrilled with anything that flies. His parents are supportive of his growing interest in rocketry and robotics.
The mother, Karen, is a New England Patriots fan and would like a long sleeved Patriots tee (small), pajamas (small/pink), and a Die Cut/Embossing machine for crafting. Father, John, who is from Spain, has asked for a Paella pan and large men's long sleeved tees."
All families are recommended by an existing non-profit. What makes the site different is that a user can buy gifts for the family via Amazon right on the site.
"From tracking down a reputable non-profit to purchasing and delivering the gifts, the process of adopting a family offline can take weeks," co-founder Thomas Doochin said. "Through purchasing gifts on our website, donors can directly support a family, facilitating the most transparent giving on the web. We're the first site that makes it this simple and efficient to adopt a family."
Users can contribute any number of gifts to the family's wish list. When a gift has been purchased, it is removed view.
SHOP FOR YOURSELF, HELP OTHERS
The site also allows people to support needy families by shopping for your own family Users are prompted to create a page and then shop for gifts. A percentage of your purchase is directed to families in need.
The site launched last week, and is a start-up company, run by three University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill sophomores, Taylor Sharp. Thomas Doochin and Jake Bernstein.
The three have received mentoring advice from area entrepreneurs and innovators. Judith Cone, Special Assistant to the Chancellor for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, and former Vice President of Emerging Strategies at the Kauffman Foundation helped the group connect to local resources and alumni. UNC alums Dennis Whittle, founder of Global Giving, and entrepreneur and philanthropist Jim Kitchen also provided advice.