HOLIDAY GUIDE 2011: Sure they're perfect for your pals -- but these presents also give back to the community
HOLIDAY GUIDE 2011 It's the gift-giving season, and each foil-wrapped bauble tells a tale. There's the love-you-this-much of a parent's infamous peach cobbler pie, the damn-I-just-took-your-breath-away of a winter getaway to the Bahamas. There is the who-are-you-again? of Aunt Shirley's yearly package of black dress socks. But then there are the let's-change-the-world gifts, the ones that are not just about the recipient but that nonetheless land in the giftee's hands with a heft that speaks of their worth to the community. Toasty as a chestnut roasting on an open fire, no? Giving that warmth can be as simple as copping a T-shirt, book, or card from one of the do-gooder nonprofits and shops listed below. And remember, even if you're not the thin sock-loafer type, you can always improve your own karma by snail-mailing a heartfelt thank you note to Shirley.
Everyone seems to make the same tired New Year's resolution: lose weight, live healthier, blah blah blah. At the Niroga Center, however, you can spring for a yoga package for that uncreative loved one that will not just help brighten their inner light, but will go to stoke the spark of others who are struggling to make ends meet. The center offers affordable, high-quality yoga instruction, and puts particular focus on at-risk and underserved individuals, teaching yoga to incarcerated youth, high school children, and cancer survivors. For the holidays, you can donate any amount of money to the center, which will fund their donation-based classes and classes that teach yoga to the underprivileged. You can also purchase yoga classes to start someone's year anew for as low as $10.
1808 University, Berk. (510) 704-1330, www.nirogacenter.org
With a salesfloor awash in papel picado and other crafts from Chiapas, Casa Bonampak believes in preserving Mexican traditions, and that reconnecting with culture can transform and heal. All in all, it's a feel-good (and community-building) place to do your holiday shopping. The shop's all-woman staff works directly with Mexican and Latin American artists to sell unique jewelry, luchador masks, and handmade cards, with most items ranging from $4 to $13. The store has also been dedicated to promoting local Latin artists in the Bay Area for 15 years. With so many gorgeous handicrafts crammed into the Valencia Street storefront, Casa Bonampark is a great place to support culture on either sides of the border.
1051 Valencia, SF. (415) 642-4079, www.casabonampak.com
GUARDSMEN CHRISTMAS TREE LOT
The Guardsmen, a group of Bay Area men who work together to help at-risk children and organize educational and outdoor activities for inner-city youth have organized this forest of fir every year since 1947. Now as way back then, the proceeds from the lot support the organization's doing-good year-round. Post-Thanksgiving, a corner of Fort Mason is transformed into a winter wonderland with trees as tall as 15 feet decorated with ornaments and wreaths. The all-volunteer guardsmen staff can assist you in picking the perfect holiday tree with which to surprise your apartmentmates — you can even arrange to have one delivered to your home. Coupled with events like crab feeds, wine tastings, and opportunities to take photos with Santa, picking up some beautiful boughs for the family never felt so good.
Festival Pavilion, Fort Mason Center, 38 Fort Mason, SF. www.guardsmentreelot.com