Introducing Altruette's Letters & Literacy Collection

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

“Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope,” said Kofi Annan. And Room to Read is helping build that bridge for children across Africa and Asia. That's why Altruette has developed our Letters & Literacy Collection, a new line of letter charms that benefits Room to Read. Each charm represents the power of a single letter. It represents your name or the name of someone near to your heart. But it also represents the gift of reading. For each charm sold, we’ll donate a book through Room to Read.

Room to Read began with the goal to bring books to the children of Nepal. Now it works in nine countries across Africa and Asia. So far, Room to Read has established nearly 9200 libraries and published 433 original local language children’s titles in 21 different languages.

We want to help Room to Read to reach its goal of impacting more than 10 million children by 2015.

Room to Read inspired us to create this new line of charms. And as writers ourselves--we spent a decade working together in the magazine industry--we feel a special connection to this important cause. Working as writers taught us so much about the power of language to inform, inspire and shape the debate. Words have power, and they give power to those who use them well.  In honor of the launch, we’ve asked 26 amazing women to share with us the book that’s most inspired them. Over the next 26 days (A-Z), we’ll share with you quotes from these inspirational women (mainly writers themselves) on our facebook page and through @altruettecharms. Remember: Books Change Lives (#bookschangelives)


The Tale of the Traveling Charm Bracelet

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

At Altruette we’re always inspired by amazing causes and the work they do to help others in need. But we’re also moved by stories about friendship. So when we heard this story about a group of women in the NYC area, we couldn’t help but share it with you.

The Girl Group has been together for more than two decades. Over the past 25 years, the nine “girls” (Deirdre Virgie, Danica Nedela, Kathy Hobbs, Alison Cirenza, Andrea Costello, Sharon Kiernan, Diane Greer, Kathleen O'Neill Lynch, Sheila Riordan) have developed close, sister-like friendships. Some met in college, a few grew up together, others met as co-workers and roommates during their post-college NYC days and some were all those things! The group is now spread across the Tri-State area, Boston and Atlanta but they keep in touch through e-mails and phone calls and set off for regularly getaways together wherever and whenever they can.

“During a weekend away at one of the girl’s beach houses in Rhode Island a few years ago, we were talking about the story of the traveling pants and someone mentioned hearing about a group that shared a diamond necklace,” says Kathleen O’Neill Lynch. “And then someone suggested we share a charm bracelet.” It would be the perfect symbol of their tight friendships, they thought, but also a way to highlight who they each were as individuals. Each friend would wear the bracelet for her birthday month and then pass it along to the next birthday girl in the group.

“Would the idea, concocted over wine, ever come to fruition?,” wondered Kathleen. “I was doubtful that this often over-committed, somewhat far-flung group of wives and caregivers, moms and stepmoms, urbanites and suburbanites, Wall Streeters and media types, board members and volunteers, would be able to pull it off.” So convinced it wouldn’t happen, Kathleen bet against her friends. “If the bracelet came together within the year, I would treat everyone to a lobster dinner.” And to her surprise, it did. (She eventually added a lobster charm to commemorate that special dinner.) Andrea, one of the busiest of the bunch, had a gold bracelet her mother had given her and added the first charm to get things going. 

The hand-offs are sometimes in person, sometimes mailed, and frequently late. But that's okay, says the group. As lives have become more complicated, the bracelet has risen to the occasion. It’s transitioned from a birthday bracelet to a support bracelet. It spent time with one friend when her husband had major surgery. Another friend had it during a personal family crisis.  And a few friends have depended on it to help get through the death of a parent. “What started out as a lighthearted way to mark each of our birthdays,” says Kathleen, “has evolved into a symbol of support for challenging times as well. When something in life goes amiss, it's wonderfully comforting to know that the power of the bracelet–which is really the love of these incredibly thoughtful, long-term friends–is close at hand.”

Here at Altruette we are so moved by their story that we are sending them each a charm that represents their favorite charity.

Do you have a “charming story”? Send it to us at 

Introducing Altruette GIRLS

Monday, November 26, 2012

Nov 24, 2012

Altruette is thrilled to announce the launch of Altruette Girls’ our new line that is debuting this month at Nordstrom’s across the country. The collection is exclusive to Nordstrom and this holiday season and is made up of a group of 16 amazing cause partners including:  African Wildlife Foundation,, Girls Write Now, Girl Up,, JDRF, KaBOOM!, National Park Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, Save the Whales, Sea Turtle Conservancy, Special Olympics, Sunshine Foundation, Tailored for Education, (part of,

Each charm does something no other piece of jewelry can: they turn the wearer into an ambassador for a cause she cares about. And like our original collection, each charm benefits a different charity that we love.

Shop the charms on our site or at and Nordstrom stores.



Fulfilling My Passion for Africa

Monday, March 05, 2012

How a Young Woman Found Herself and Her Future Career in Africa 

By Amy Rizzotto, Major Gifts Officer, African Wildlife Foundation

Like many of my peers at the George Washington University, I was dedicated to the idea of studying abroad during my junior year. Hungry for a challenge, I decided to stray from the pack and avoid Europe altogether. When it came time to apply there was only one place I wanted to go: Senegal.

I packed my bags and headed off to Africa. I was only 20. But it was in Senegal that I truly came into my own as a person. Being truly out of my element for the first time—tasting new food, experiencing a new culture, hearing unknown languages, and living with a host family—forced me to figure out who I was. So often our surroundings define us, and it’s easy to blend into our environment. There was no blending in for me in Senegal.

Beyond the personal confidence and identity I found during my time in Senegal, I also fell in love with a continent and its quandaries. It was in Africa that I decided I wanted to focus my future on Africa. Many African economies are beginning to experience the kind of growth rates we have previously only associated with East Asia. The International Monetary Fund projects that Africa will continue to grow at a rate of 6% in 2012—on par with many rising economic players in Asia. (Incidentally, much of the recent burgeoning development in Africa has largely been fueled by investment from China.)

As someone who believes that development should be achieved in a socially sustainable and environmentally conscious manner, I do worry that there are some drawbacks to this type of growth. There are also the omnipresent effects of climate change—desertification and deforestation being two of the biggest threats. Africa is rich in natural resources and human capital, but still suffers from exploitation and avarice. Most African countries have been independent since the 1960s, but there are new powers pulling the purse strings that need to be kept under the international microscope.

Five years after my first trip to Africa, I’ve landed an Afrocentric job with a dream organization, the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF). At AWF, I constantly encounter development and conservation paradigms like those I’ve already mentioned. Our biggest challenge as an organization, however, is to debunk the notion that conservation and development are diametrically opposed. Conservation is by definition the protection, preservation, and reclamation of natural ecosystems and the biodiversity they support. Development, meanwhile, is essentially taking concerted actions that will lead to economic growth and a raised standard of living. AWF has developed a unique conservation model wherein people are the most important agents in the conservation of their wildlife and wild lands.

Too many conservation organizations take people for granted in their programming—but AWF understands that its conservation goals are unattainable without community agency and buy-in. Our efforts focus heavily on capacity building and community empowerment. We seek to make conservation and development go hand in hand by ensuring that people benefit from our endeavors to protect Africa’s biodiversity. For example, we preserve the integrity of natural wildlife corridors, which are essential to the survival of migratory animals like the African elephant, wildebeest, and lion, but we also work with communities to develop conservation enterprises—such as high-end eco-lodges—that allow locals to gain an economic benefit from having this wildlife nearby. From Rwanda to Kenya to Zambia and elsewhere, we’ve created multiple such win–win situations for wildlife and people.

In addition to our efforts to address the complex human–wildlife dynamic, AWF is the only conservation organization that is solely focused on Africa. It is headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya, and upwards of 80% of our employees are native African. AWF has also been rated a four-star organization by Charity Navigator 10 years running—a feat fewer than 1% of nonprofit organizations can claim. These pride points make my job as a major gifts officer for AWF much easier.

Professional fundraisers are only effective if they genuinely believe in the cause they represent. I'm so fortunate because my values couldn’t be better aligned with those of AWF.

Intrigue, enemies and suspense at Girls Write Now...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

This is our first report from one of our favorite guest bloggers, Ximena Castillo. She's a writer and student and intern at Girls Write Now, and was Lee's mentee in the program. She'll be periodically reporting for Altruette from the frontlines!

Girls Write Now - an organization dedicated to mentoring the next generation of female writers - had had its first official workshop for the year this past Saturday. Basked in the October aura of Halloween, it would honestly seem silly for this month’s workshop to be anything but crime fiction.

Adding to the mentees excitement was the fact that most of these girls were meeting their year long mentors for the first time today. As a mentee alum, I can understand the anticipation these girls felt as they descended on midtown that day. Admittedly some did arrive late, and one on a walker, but kudos nonetheless, for no disrupted train service nor torn tendon had kept them away.

One of the exercises at the workshop was to create a character. But not just any character - a detective. A crime fighter with strengths, weaknesses, enemies, and of course an eye for justice.  Also, they were asked to create an interesting scene; one where the guilty suspect confessed to their crime. The girls came up with tales of sorrow, guilt, and vengeance. 

Finally, to add to the mood of the day, there was crime fiction author Katia Lief, who read a chapter from her novel You're Next. It was a tale of sorrow, intrigue, fear and a murderer who was 'just plain psycho.' The main character was a woman, an ex-cop, who wanted nothing more or less than to feel the simple joy of living, after that right had been stolen from her husband and children. It was only the first chapter, but the fear and suspense was chilling. As much as I hate to admit it, you couldn't help but find yourself attracted to the homicidal mind of that murderous maniac.  

And so, Katia encouraged the girls to do the same: to write a first chapter that keeps the reader involved; because "you have to bring the interest to the first page...if you get to what’s interesting half way through the play, your audience will have left by intermission." 

For their first workshop the girls heard great literature, received great advice and have made mentors for life. And it's only just begun! These workshops will continue throughout the entire school year and in all honesty, I don't think any of us can wait! 

Geena Davis teams up with Altruette to create the See Jane charm

Monday, October 10, 2011

Geena Davis has a major problem with what's on TV. Or rather, what's not on TV or the big screen. Since the end of World War II, boys have outnumbered girls in top G-rated films three-to-one. Today, males represent 80.5% of professional characters in family films, women less than 20%. But in reality, women account for 50% of the workforce. These disparities feed into gender stereotyping to a point where women's goals and aspirations diminish. Research has even found that there's a direct correlation between the amount of media a girl is exposed to and the number of career options she thinks she has. The more she watches, the fewer she thinks she has. Davis hopes to change these statistics and the way young girls see themselves portrayed in the media. 

While watching TV with her young daughter, she took notice of the absence of female roles. Upset by what she saw, she took action. Davis founded the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and See Jane, its programming arm. The Institute collaborates with the entertainment industry to conduct research to bring change in the portrayal of girls and women in media. The primary focus is to break stereotypes and promote gender balance in entertainment for children under eleven.

To help support Davis and See Jane's efforts, Altruette is launching its latest charm, a vintage TV, to raise funds and awareness for the organization's work in educating and influencing change in women’s roles in the media. To celebrate the new addition to the Altruette line, Davis helped us celebrate on Thursday night at Fred Segal's ZeroMinusPlus in Santa Monica. Check out the new charm at

Pack Your Backpack and Sharpen Those Pencils...

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

As kids head back to school around the country it's a time to celebrate education but also a time to reflect on the challenges many teachers, students and families face during the school year. It's also the perfect time to highlight the amazing work of our cause partners that are working to improve the lives of kids and teachers around the country.
For many teachers, buying their own supplies has sadly become the norm. We think that's a sad state of affairs, especially given the fact that many teachers are paid so little. And that's why we love DonorsChoose. Through their website ( donors can search for and fund specific 'wishlists' created by public schoolteachers around the country. And once your classroom makes use of their new (video camera, microscope, you name it) you'll get a photo and signed card from the kids who have directly benefitted from your donation thanking you. We think funding a project and gifting that special teacher in your life with our DonorsChoose charm is the perfect way to kick off the school year!

Girls Write Now 
Lee has been mentoring New York teenage girls through this amazing high school program for the past two years. The program matches NYC women who are professional writers with girls from the NYC public school system who aspire to become writers. Mentors meet once a week with mentees to work on school assignments or personal writing projects. In addition, once a month GWN sponsors day long 'seminars' in which mentors and mentees alike explore different genres of writing (if you really want to embarrass Lee ask her to show her work from the 'slam poetry' workshop!) The notebook charm ( supports Girls Write Now - and as Lee (who wears it everywhere) will tell you, is a great way to spread the word about this fantastic cause.

Music and learning go hand in hand. Studies show that if you learn to read music or play an instrument, you'll become a better student. At OrchKIDS, there's no question that's the case. Inspired by El Sistema, the Venezuelan orchestral training program, OrchKIDS pairs vulnerable children from Baltimore with the resources of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra to provide musical training as well as help overcoming the challenges created by poverty. Our saxaphone charm ( comes in both silver and gold - and makes a perfect gift for your favorite music lover!

Check out these great causes - as well as our 25+ other non-profit partners at Happy Back to School!


A Good Summer Read

Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Altruette kicked off summer on the National Mall today, where we helped our cause partner First Book, the United Way, and Target package 150,000 new books in 50,000 backpacks for children in need. Volunteers from all over the country gathered under sweltering skies for a successful afternoon of community service. As the organizers at the United Way pointed out, if the books in the reading backpacks were laid side-by-side, they would stretch more than seven times longer than the National Mall. Now that's impressive!!

Despite the heat, it was a perfect summer day in our nation's Capitol. And we LOVE summer. Who doesn't? Ice cream cones, swimming, and lots of sunshine. And for many, it's the perfect time to relax on the beach with a good book. But for a lot of kids in low-income areas, summer isn't a time for reading. And unfortunately, that leads to a real drop-off in test scores and academic success when they return to school in the fall, which puts these students at a huge disadvantage.

That's where First Book comes in. The majority of low-income families do not own a single book for their children. First Book is working hard to change that statistic by providing more than 18,000 free and low-priced books per day. (They've donated a total of 80 million books to date!) And that's why Altruette is a big believer in First Book's mission.

So what can we all do this summer to encourage less fortune children in our neighborhoods to read? Donate a book (or two!), volunteer at a local school, or find a great organization, like First Book, to support.

It's the best way we can think of to add a satisfying chapter to our summer!

Altruette Launches New Hummingbird Charm for The Nature Conservancy

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Altruette is thrilled to announce our newest partnership with The Nature Conservancy and to introduce our latest charm, the stunning hummingbird. 

On Earth Day, many people and organizations turn their attention to going green. But The Nature Conservancy is focused on the environment each and every day of the year. 
It's the leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The nearly 60-year-old Nature Conservancy, which works in all 50 states and 30 countries, has preserved more than 119 million acres of land and 5,000 miles of rivers worldwide.

Altruette is so excited to be launching the hummingbird charm to raise funds and awareness to help the Nature Conservancy continue its great work. While we've been busy designing the charm, we've also been spending time studying up on the mighty hummingbird. And we've learned some pretty amazing facts. Did you know the little bird--with wings that are just under two-and-a-half inches long--can migrate more than 2,000 miles from central Mexico to as far north as British Columbia, Canada? And they can rotate their wings in a circle, allowing them to fly forward, backwards, up, down, and sideways. (We've been told that they're the only bird who can do that!) They also have the ability to return each year, not just to the same region or the same garden, but to the exact branch they nested in the year before. (We wish we had that sense of direction!)

While the hummingbird is fascinating to watch as it performs its mid-air acrobatics, it depends on a healthy environment to thrive. Fortunately the Nature Conservancy is working to protect the hummingbird and many other species through its Migratory Bird Program. It's just one of the projects TNC focuses on throughout the year, reminding us that Earth Day should be every day.

So make sure to click on our hummingbird charm and pay closer attention next time one hums past you in your garden. 
We've fallen for the hummingbird and we think you will too.

Getting Kids Off the Streets of Baltimore is Music to our Ears

Saturday, February 05, 2011
A music instructor changed his life and now he's changing the lives of others.

Dan Trahey couldn't afford to play the clarinet or the flute during elementary school. Both instruments needed to be rented or bought by parents and his folks didn't have the resources. But the music director lent him a tuba-an instrument that the school owned and didn't expect the kids to buy because of its cost. And that act, says Trahey, "was a changing point in my life."

Years later, Trahey has become Baltimore's posterchild for paying it forward. His tuba skills offered him free entrance to summer camp as a kid and eventually paved the way for him to attend the prestigious Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins on scholarship and Yale for a master's degree in music. A few years after finishing his degree at Yale, he found himself playing in the Orquestra Nuevo Leon in Mexico City and that's where he learned about El Sistema, a Venezuelan organization that has transformed the lives of hundreds of thousands of children over the last thirty years, turning street kids into conductors along the way. (The program developed acclaimed conductor Gustavo Dudamel, the current music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.) "It dawned on me at that point that there was no one from [Mexico] playing in the orchestra or attending the orchestra. The same was true in Baltimore. Most big city orchestras don't reflect the people of their city and that to me is a big problem," he said.

Inspired, Trahey made his way back to Baltimore in 2007 to run a version of El Sistema at Peabody Tuned In. It was at that point that his work caught the attention of Marin Alsop, the head of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the first woman to direct a major American orchestra. She had recently won the MacArthur Foundation "genius grant" and wanted to put some of her prize money toward creating an El Sistema community program.

So in 2008, with Alsop and Trahey at the helm, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra launched OrchKids, an organization inspired by El Sistema. Today OrchKids is working with 230+ children in some of Baltimore's toughest neighborhoods and it serves as a model for similar nonprofits around the country. "We start as young as we can," with children from Pre-K up through third grade and are expanding every year to include more children. "Music is all about muscle memory-if you don't practice all of the time, you won't get it. And development of your ear is key at a young age."

The kids spend part of their school day and their afternoons––the most dangerous time for children to be alone, Trahey points out––in OrchKids' workshops, exploring different instruments, learning how to read music and eventually how to play their instrument of choice.

The program's strength is in its execution. "We are consistent and we become part of their main family," says Trahey. The hard work is paying off. The kids are engaged and eager to play their instruments and are missing fewer days of school than the children who aren't enrolled in the program. And that's music to our ears!

How can you help OrchKids reach more students? You can support the organization by giving directly at or you can wear or give the Altruette saxophone charm that's dedicated to OrchKids.