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A wicked meaningful Rhode Island gift guide

Jessica David, president of Local Return and a principal of Good Worth Working For LLC, has created a holiday gift list with a distinctly Rhode Island accent.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

For years, Benny’s provided Rhode Islanders with one-stop holiday shopping — stores where you could find a hot wiener tree ornament, a video of a crackling fireplace fire, plus some antifreeze.

For the past three years, in this post-Benny’s era, Jessica David has helped to fill the void by offering Rhode Map readers suggestions for some wicked meaningful holiday giving. And this year, Benny’s co-owner Arnold Bromberg is making a guest appearance, highlighting ways we can shop local this season.

On a national level, the New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof compiles an annual list of holiday gift suggestions. But David – a former Rhode Island Foundation vice president who is now president of Local Return, principal of Good Worth Working For LLC, and a Harvard Divinity School student – fashions a list with a distinctly Rhode Island accent.


”Local gifts are the best gifts,” David said. “Rhode Island has so many nonprofits and small businesses which offer meaningful services, experiences, and products. They need our support year-round. And our money does way more good circulating through the local economy than going to big-box, out-of-state corporations.”

So she suggests:

🎁 The Tomaquag Museum Shop offers beautiful, meaningful products made by more than 25 Indigenous artists – available in the museum or online.

🎁 Public libraries are a gift to all of us, so it’s only fitting that we look to libraries during gift-giving season. Providence Public Library offers their own merchandise, and the Rhode Island Library Association has a really righteous Rhode Island Red sticker.

🎁 Teatro ECAS is the only Latino repertory theater in New England. A season subscription makes a great gift; they’re planning a great line-up for 2024.

🎁 The Nonviolence Institute does works throughout Rhode Island to not just prevent and heal violence, but also to build a Beloved Community.


🎁 Building Futures creates equitable paths toward economic prosperity through apprenticeship. Your gift would help support their proven pre-apprenticeship program to prepare young adults for family-sustaining careers in the trades.

🎁 Parks, parks, parks! Support your local park organization. Some of the organizations hosting fun, creative programs in our capital city are the Partnership for Providence Parks, the Roger Williams Park Conservancy, and the Downtown Providence Park Network.

When asked what he would suggest for holiday gifts, Bromberg at first cited a Benny’s staple for Rhode Island winters: “Get a shovel and some ice melt,” he said. “It can’t hurt.”

He noted some stores still sell Benny’s T-shirts and sweatshirts, including Newport Original, Where is Rhode Island, and Nico Scout.

Bromberg suggested supporting local nonprofits such as the Rhode Island Community Food Bank. And he suggested shopping at small local businesses such as Milkcan Industries, Frog & Toad, and Green Ink Boutique.

”They are independent businesses,” he said. “The big-box stores and Dollar Stores end up looking all the same. You can go to these places and find unique things, and all of it is locally made and hand-made. And it’s a different shopping experience where you are talking to the people who actually run the business. Elsewhere, you are looking for someone to help you, if you can find them.”

This story first appeared in Rhode Map, our free newsletter that also contains links to other important Rhode Island stories, information about local events, and more. If you’d like to receive it via email Monday through Friday, you can sign up here.


Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at edward.fitzpatrick@globe.com. Follow him @FitzProv.