Give a Gift Worth More Than Cash

It’s easy to get caught up and high-jacked by the drive of consumerism during the holidays. But, it just doesn’t “feel good” to drain your bank on purchasing gifts that your loved ones might not enjoy or appreciate. This 2014 holiday season, we would like to encourage our community to abstain from the Scrooge mood and partake in a more progressive Holiday gift giving vibe.


One way to plant your holiday cash where it will grow and last is to donate to a charity organization in the name of a friend or loved one during the holidays. There are tons of local charity options that will appeal to all types of philanthropist peeps on your holiday list. Here is a small list of  local nonprofit suggestions to help get you started:

CCPR or the Coalition for Cannabis Reform has organized, energized and empowered people to stand up and take action against the United States’ damaging cannabis policies.

51Oakland’s goal is to inspire students learning, creativity and self-esteems by strengthening the roll of music and arts education in Oakland public Schools.

ecology centerThe Ecology Center’s mission is to inspire and build a sustainable, healthy and just future for the East Bay, California and beyond. They transform the ideals of sustainability into everyday practice.


norml.orgNORML, or the National Organization for the Reformation of Marijuana Law, is a group that works hard towards legalization of responsible use of marijuana by adults and is a huge advocate for the cause.

Operation Dignity is a veteran run, service-enriched provider serving homeless veterans and displaced populations of Alameda County.

Service Opportunities for Seniors Meals on Wheels delivers hot meals daily to homebound seniors in Alameda County. They are also in need of volunteers!


alamed coAlameda County Community Food Bank provides food and hope to 1 in 6 Alameda County residents. This year the Food Bank will provide 23. 3 million meals through 240  food pantries and other community organizations to people in need.


Now is the prime time of year to clean out those bulging closets and donate your excessive supplies to someone who will actually use them. We live in a clutter culture but it’s not too late to accumulate some new habits in leu of old things. There is an increasing amount of hurting families this holiday season and it has been difficult for local charities to fill the needs of folks this year.   Great items to donate include: blankets, warm coats, clothing, toys and food. Another way to reuse and create the most amazing gifts is to make them from recycled items that you have gathered during the year.  The most cherished gifts that maintain longevity are often art pieces or practical items fabricated by a loved one.

Bake It:Sugar Cookies

It’s also that time of year to utilize the fruits of our harvest season. One of our Dark Heart Staff  members just busted out a choice batch of delectable jam to give to her friends and family for Christmas gifts…great idea! You also might have some trim lying around just screaming, “put me in some butter or oil!” Add baking to getting baked and you have an amazing combination and everybody enjoys receiving tasty edibles made with love. Medicated or not, homemade sugar cookies all glitzed with icing and sprinkles are a sweet gift. Try this super simple recipe:

Tainted Sugar Cookies:

-1 cup canna butter

-2-3 cups of flour

-1 cup of sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

Just blend, roll out,  cut into your favorite shapes. Make sure you sample your cookies before you frost and package them so you can give an adequate warning according to how potent they turn out.


Volunteering is a great way to get involved in your local community and the reciprocity feels amazing. One easy way to find Holiday Volunteer opportunities is to visit the Volunteer Center of the East Bay website. Places looking for some helpful hands are in need of Santa’s helpers for community showcases, people to help set up and break down food distribution and lots of people to help pass out gifts to local kids and much, much more. Another way to volunteer your time is to help an elder neighbor decorate or even shop for gifts. Also, a neighborhood clean-up during the wet season is a very generous gift to your community.

So get to it! It is the season to share, celebrate and prepare for the an awesome New Year! In the words of the late Maya Angelou, “I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.”

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