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Celebrating 6 Years: Ten Thousand Villages Helps Buyers Shop Ethically

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The simple act of buying a greeting card is more meaningful when you buy it from Ten Thousand Villages

That’s because Ten Thousand Villages located in our own Riviera Village, is a non-profit store that sells products handcrafted by artisans in developing countries who would otherwise struggle to earn a living.

Read the back of some of the greeting cards at Ten Thousand Villages and you’ll learn: “This card was created for you by women who have escaped sex trafficking in the Philippines. Your purchase provides jobs that enable these women to support their families.”

Other cards were handcrafted by young adults orphaned by the Rwandan genocide or diseases such as AIDS and malaria. Each of these cards are signed by the artisans that made them. Newly re-opened with social distancing measures in place, Ten Thousand Villages is open to the public Friday through Monday 11 am to 4 pm, with convenient curbside pickup available every day from 11 am to 4 pm, and VIP appointments offered Monday through Friday (visit

From cards to kitchen items, home decor, jewelry, children’s goods, and more, the fair-trade products at Ten Thousand Villages are sold with the goal of improving the lives of unemployed artisans, most of whom are women. The products are environmentally sensitive and reflect the cultural traditions of their country of origin. Colorful placemats, baskets, and baby blankets, for example, are made from recycled sari cloth in Bangladesh. Bombshell jewelry, including earrings and necklaces, are wearable symbols of peace made from repurposed brass once used as bomb casings in Cambodia. The concept for Ten Thousand Villages began in 1946 when Edna Ruth Byler, a member of the relief agency Mennonite Central Committee, traveled to Puerto Rico where she met a group of women struggling to feed their children.

Having lived through hard times during the Depression, Edith knew the importance of dignity and a way to help oneself. Byler saw the pieces of fine embroidery these women created but had no place to sell. She brought the embroidery home and sold them out of the trunk of her car to friends, explaining how each purchase meant a woman gained a brighter future for her family. Mennonite Central Committee recognized the long-term value that sustainable income opportunities would bring to impoverished villages and facilitated Byler’s travels to India and other countries to seek out more handicrafts.

Byler’s actions blossomed into a global fair trade movement, culminating in 1996 into what’s now called Ten Thousand Villages. The genesis of the Riviera Village store – one of only two in California — began when five South Bay friends seeking to make a difference in the world formed a non-profit organization to raise funds to become part of the Ten Thousand Villages family. Hollywood Riviera resident Tom Hoffarth, one of the founding members, has seen the store become a favorite for South Bay locals since it opened in June of 2014.

“Shopping here is a sensory experience, a place to come and decompress while you touch, smell and see all the beautiful products and learn about their origins,” he said. “People want to shop with consciousness and to be part of something bigger, something that helps empower disenfranchised people from around the world. The energy in the store is serene and uplifting because that’s the essence of our products and even the people who work here.”

Indeed, the workers at Ten Thousand Villages come across as enthusiastic because, as volunteers, they truly believe in the store’s purpose. Ten Thousand Villages’ stores nationwide are run by more than 1,000 volunteers, with paid positions for store managers (full disclosure—my wife, Suzy, is a volunteer). You can help break the cycle of generational poverty and ignite social change by buying your next birthday, special occasion or thank you gift at Ten Thousand Villages.

Bring in this newsletter for $5 off your purchase of $5 or more (consumables excluded). And be sure to enter this month’s raffle for a $25 Ten Thousand Villages gift certificate. You can also sign up to become a store volunteer. Ten Thousand Villages is located at 1907 S. Catalina Avenue, Redondo Beach. For more information, browse their website (tenthousandvillagesredondo.com.), call 310-465-1600 or email