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[whitespace] Carved Log
Captain's Log: This 1,500-year-old golden cedar log was formerly part of a floating dock at the Port of Oakland. A group of youths under the guidance of master carver and PAL co-founder Shane Eagleton carved it into a healing pole to be erected on the site of the former Fort Ord.

Give the Right Thing

This year, toss the tea cozies and give presents with some purpose

By Tai Moses

MY PAL ALASTAIR is feeling anxious and depressed.

"I'd like to go Christmas shopping," he says gloomily, "but I'd just screw it up." The economic downturn isn't the only reason for Alastair's plummeting consumer confidence. He is also acutely aware that the silly gifts he could get away with in Christmases past are going to seem pretty lame in today's world of terrorists, bombs and anthrax.

For Alastair and others like him, here's a short list of six worthy Bay Area organizations that can offer your loved ones the kind of meaning that money can't buy. All donations or memberships to these groups are tax-deductible.

Gorilla My Dreams

The Gorilla Foundation in Woodside is the home of the world's most celebrated gorilla, Koko. She knows more than 1,000 words in ASL and has a charming sense of humor to boot. Besides being a pioneer of interspecies communication, the foundation works tirelessly to protect declining gorilla populations in Africa and is currently involved in the construction of a natural gorilla sanctuary on Maui. A gift membership ($20) is a perfect gift for a budding environmental activist: it comes with the Gorilla Journal newsletter and "Kokomail"--weekly updates on the foundation's projects and gorilla news from around the world. (www.koko.org)

Slumbering Lumber

Each year, nearly 30 million tons of recoverable, usable wood end up rotting in landfills. The nonprofit group PAL (Protect All Life), which is headquartered in Half Moon Bay, salvages and recycles trees and lumber and turns them into fantastic one-of-a-kind public artworks, often created by at-risk youth. PAL healing poles stand at the Presidio and Shoreline Amphitheatre. A gift membership to PAL at any level from Friend to Visionary includes the foundation's semiannual newsletter plus advance invitations to interactive art and environmental events and projects. (510.834.8257; www.recycletrees.org)

Pony Up

For far too long, our equine friends have gotten a bad rap in the smarts department. As any horse lover will tell you, yes, there is a brain under that mane. Dr. Evelyn B. Hanggi, president of the Aptos-based Equine Research Foundation, has made stunning discoveries in the field of cognitive research, putting horse intelligence on a par with that of dolphins and dogs. The goal of her noninvasive research is to improve the lot of horses worldwide and make human-horse interactions a lot less painful for everyone. This is a small, hardworking organization funded entirely through donations. They aren't set up to send out gift cards or newsletters, but they do mail copies of articles about their research to those who make donations. (www.equineresearch.org)


How many times have you sheepishly mumbled, upon giving someone another useless gift, "Well, you never know when this might come in handy." In this case, that shopworn adage could actually come true. A class in first aid or CPR from the American Red Cross could be of use someday, somewhere--and in the process make your loved one the literal life of the party! It's fun to learn this stuff and it doesn't take long. (Santa Clara Valley Chapter, 408.577.1000, www.redcross.org/ca/scv; Santa Cruz County Chapter, 831.462.2881, www.sccredcross.org)

Talking Trash

No doubt you've seen the ubiquitous oval sticker, white letters on a black background, which pops up on surfboards, car bumpers and guitar cases around the world. And doubtless you've wondered, what is up with that? This year, give the gift of a pristine environment. The anti-litter crusader Pack Your Trash is one of the original grassroots organizations and has succeeded where many others have failed: making trash-picking cool. The group's collection of Pack Your Trash-wear has expanded to include spaghetti-strap tanks, baby doll tees and hooded sweatshirts, all emblazoned with creative renditions of the classic Pack Your Trash credo. The sale of these products funds future Pack Your Trash events, in which volunteers (you can be one!) clean up local beaches, parks, lakes, rivers and streams. Or opt for a $30 membership, which includes the T-shirt of your choice, a sticker, a certificate and a membership card. (www.packyourtrash.com)

Tool Ties

For the handy guy or gal in your life who has always coveted Jimmy Carter's baseball cap, the one with the Habitat for Humanity logo on it: You can buy that cap, or one very like it, at the Habitat gift shop, which also carries a variety of giftables from books and jewelry to mugs and housewares. Profits from the merchandise go to build affordable homes for low-income folks. With Habitat's Gift from the Heart program, you can make a cash donation and Habitat will send your honoree a card announcing that a donation to Habitat has been made in his/her name. A $10 donation buys a floor joist; $20 a 50-pound box of nails, and $40 goes toward five gallons of paint. (www.habitat.org/ourhouse)

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From the November 15-21, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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