underscored essential worker gifts lead
CNN  — 

CNN Underscored has interviewed experts and found the best options to help you cope during this uncertain time. Find all our coronavirus-related coverage here, and let us know your thoughts here.

Our nurses and doctors on the front lines deserve the gratitude and attention they’re getting, and more. But let’s not forget all the other essential workers out there every day. Police officers, firefighters, grocery and drugstore workers, food delivery folks, postal service staff and garbage collectors — the list of people who don’t have the option to stay #safeathome extends way beyond the medical field.

If you know a few of these unsung heroes, or perhaps are related to one, you may want to give them something to show your appreciation — but what? We did some digging, and spoke with a handful of frontline heroes — a firefighter, a supermarket worker, a police officer, a grocery shopper and an EMT — to find the answers. Along with a heartfelt note, any of these 21 smart, special and sweet gifts will make it perfectly clear just how amazing you think they are.

DoubleNest Hammock by Eno ($69.95; dickssportinggoods.com)

DoubleNest Hammock by Eno

Few gifts say “You deserve to take it easy” like a hammock. “Now that summer is finally here, a hammock would be a great idea for my days off,” says John Shotter, a firefighter in New York City. This one holds two people (up to 400 pounds) and comes with a compression stuff sack for camping trips.

Hero Pin by Old English Company ($8.90; etsy.com)

Hero Pin by Old English Company

One word tells the story: The person wearing this pin is the absolute best. If you’re looking for a little something to show your feelings for a truly selfless person, this pin works beautifully. It’s handmade of gold plating and black enamel, with a comfortable rubber back that helps it stay put wherever they fasten it. Note: At the time of publishing, this pin is available for pre-order and will ship on June 10th.

Atlas Coffee Club (starting at $60; atlascoffeeclub.com)

Atlas Coffee Club

Almost nobody is traveling overseas right now, but this subscription will bring a taste of faraway lands. Fresh, single origin coffee from one of more than 50 countries is delivered monthly, along with a postcard from its place of origin, plus brewing tips and flavor notes. Select whole-bean or ground and light or dark roast. Subscriptions start at three months. Check out our guides to coffee subscriptions and coffee grinders for more inspiration.

Spa Box ($60, originally $90; globein.com)

Spa Box

The ultimate in pampering, this collection of globally and ethically sourced goodies will comfort even the weariest among us. “Something that creates a calming environment at home is perfect,” says Debra Buser, a supermarket worker in Langhorne, Pennsylvania. Your giftee will get a cozy poncho from Turkey, a candle handmade in Burma, dried roses for bath water from Morocco, fair trade lavender bubble bath and fair trade coconut oil.

HedBanz Family by Spin Master ($15.99; barnesandnoble.com)

HedBanz Family by Spin Master

For essential workers who are also parents, a game they can play as a family could be the ultimate stress buster. HedBanz is a riot, and this second edition brings new twists to the old favorite for ages 7 and older. Cool fact: Spin Master has transformed some of its HedBanz head pieces into face shields for health care workers.

You are Essential Candle by Belle Vie ($18; etsy.com)

You are Essential Candle by Belle Vie

Sweet-scented candles can be super soothing. This soy candle is labeled with the absolute perfect message. You can choose from 18 scents, everything from “corner bakery” to chai latte and almond honey.

Tactical Flashlight by Pelican ($69; amazon.com)

Tactical Flashlight by Pelican

A gift that a police officer, utility worker or security guard will appreciate and use is a tactical flashlight. “They’re always a must, but do wind up getting misplaced,” an NYPD officer based in Queens, New York, told us. He recommends Pelican or Olight brand. This model has four programmable modes, is waterproof and clearly indicates when the battery is low.

Green Chef Meal Kit Delivery (starting at $9.99 per meal; greenchef.com)

Green Chef Meal Kit Delivery

Takeout only takes one so far. Keep that essential worker you love fueled for the fight with certified organic, healthy meals that are a cinch to put together. This subscription service caters to a slew of dietary preferences, including keto, paleo, vegetarian and more. Plans are available for two to eight people, and boxes include sustainably sourced sauces, marinades and spices and recipes. Here are more meal plan gift ideas.

Reversible Face Mask by Zainabu ($25; etsy.com)

Reversible Face Mask by Zainabu

If they’re out and about for work — or errands — they’re going to need masks. This handmade mask is constructed of two layers of beautifully printed 100% cotton fabric. It comes with adjustable elastic straps and an adjustable nose bridge strip for a comfortable fit. You can easily slide a filter into the pocket between layers for extra protection, too. We love the colorful fabrics that Zainabu uses and the fact that these fit most faces, including kids. This mask can be hand or machine washed.

Blooming Color Puzzle by Bgraamiens ($26.99; amazon.com)

Blooming Color Puzzle by Bgraamiens

Much like coloring, puzzles are having a moment these days. It’s a soothing throwback to childhood, helping to focus your mind away from worry. This striking 1,000-piece one is challenging — but not maddening, thanks to the clever way the back of each piece is marked.

CleanKey ($24.99; stacksocial.com)


These days, who isn’t skeeved opening the convenience store door, even with gloves? CleanKey is a genius tool that will make life easier for essential workers, who have no choice but to be out and about all day. Made of a copper alloy that can be cleaned without rusting, it can also be used on touchscreens.

Cookies Con Amore ($24.95; hsn.com)

Cookies Con Amore

These cookies are the real deal: traditional, hand-baked and hand-cut. The Italian treats — almondines, apricot thumbprints, raspberry and chocolate hearts, Italian wedding cookies and jelly-filled hearts — are bakery quality. They come in a gift tin, and the name says it all: Cookies with Love. These will make a delectable indulgence for that worthy worker.

Eucalyptus Bubble Bath by Thymes ($25; thymes.com)

Eucalyptus Bubble Bath by Thymes

Make it clear that they deserve serious time to themselves with this indulgent bubble bath. It’s full of skin-silkening jojoba oil, aloe vera and honey. Mounds of warm froth + a clean, calming scent = bliss.

Deep Sea Sand Art ($95; uncommongoods.com)

Deep Sea Sand Art

“Mesmerizing.” “Calming.” “Inspiring.” “True therapy.” The reviews make it obvious that this handmade piece is a real stress reliever. The metallic sand evokes deserts, mountains, clouds, rain, oceans and smoke as it ebbs, flows and shimmers. This gift will be loved by anyone who is working hard to keep things going during this crisis.

Wonder Woman Necklace by Silversmith 925 (starting at $36.98; etsy.com)

Wonder Woman Necklace by Silversmith 925

Say it with sterling silver: You know there’s nothing she can’t do. A shiny rolo chain in your choice of lengths, made in Italy, sets off the iconic Wonder Woman symbol.

Car Caché ($19.99, originally $24.99; amazon.com)

Car Caché

Charlie Janssen, a grocery shopper and delivery person in Babylon, New York, laments how hard it is to keep what he needs handy and clean. “My gloves, mask, hand sanitizer, phone, sunglasses, everything … slip between the seats, on the dirty floor or fall out the door. Gas receipts I have to save get lost.” Enter this genius accessory that attaches without tools to the front seats, creating an organized catch-all behind the console, within easy reach of the driver.

Shiatsu Massager by Naipo ($36.99; amazon.com)

Shiatsu Massager by Naipo

This gift is the next best thing to a much-needed spa massage, with heated nodes kneading at a pressure that mimics a therapist’s hands. It’s ergonomically designed in such a way that it can be used on tired feet, too.

Essential Oil Diffuser by InnoGear ($29.99; amazon.com)

Essential Oil Diffuser by InnoGear

Aromatherapy is a well-known way to calm jangled nerves, but fumbling with bottles of essential oils can be annoying. The solution is this sleek, wood-grain diffuser that gently sprays a fine mist of a soothing scent. It comes with six high-quality essential oils: tea tree, lavender, eucalyptus, lemongrass, peppermint and sweet orange.

First Responder Personalized Pull-Over ($41.95; etsy.com)

First Responder Personalized Pull-Over

You can’t go wrong with a comfy pullover. “We can never have too many, and customization is a nice touch,” says Brian Block, an EMT in Huntington, New York. This one comes with options galore. You can designate whether the wearer is a paramedic, EMS worker or EMT and pick from 13 colors for the fabric and 41 for the thread.

Heroes of 2020 Keychain ($13.99 for three; etsy.com)

Heroes of 2020 Keychain

Whether used as a keyring or attached as a point of pride to a backpack or purse, this little thank you gift will make a big impact. Each wooden keychain comes individually packaged. These are a budget-friendly way to show gratitude to the truck driver who keeps your packages coming, that sweet bank teller, and the busy pharmacist who always has a smile. The more you buy, the lower the price for each.

A Million Cats: Fabulous Felines to Color ($4.99; amazon.com)

A Million Cats: Fabulous Felines to Color

Adult coloring books have been a thing for years, but they’ve had a resurgence in the last few months as a positive means of dealing with stress. “A friend gave me a coloring book and crayons — and I actually love using it!” says Buser. This one is perfect for a feline fanatic; it’s also available in a dog version.

Note: The prices above reflect the retailers’ listed prices at the time of publication.