Cannabis Community gives back to San Diego

By George Alberts

A major issue that flourishes in San Diego is poverty, which is a harsh reality for many in our community. Unfortunately, there are a large number of locals who can’t look beyond the idyllic weather, beautiful beaches, and array of attractions to notice the ever-growing homeless population or ongoing need for food. Despite a decline in homelessness nationally, an annual count conducted by San Diego’s Regional Task Force on the Homeless found about 8,500 people sleeping on the streets or in shelters across the county this past year, which was about 600 more people than in 2009 – the numbers are real and can be found at

Filling up the Toys for Tots Boxes

Besides the homeless in our community, there are many individuals, families, and fixed-income seniors who face food insecurity, which means that they have little or no food available at home, and at times, don’t know where their next meal will come from. As stated in the San Diego Food Bank – Fact Sheet for 2010: there are 483,000 people who live at or near the federal poverty level. With an unemployment rate over 10%, continuing job layoffs, home foreclosures and high gas prices, tens of thousands of additional people are turning to the Food Bank to help put food on the table. In 2008, the Food Bank fed 200,000 per month. This increased by 52% to 304,000 per month in 2009. In 2010, the Food Bank fed over 342,000 people per month. In the fiscal year 2009-2010, the Food Bank distributed 15.3 million pounds of food, which is the equivalent of 12 million meals. – The demand for food will continue to rise!

Beyond all the crazy holiday shopping, festive events and attractions, it was heartwarming to know that the cannabis community got involved to lend a hand and help out. Throughout the months of November and December of last year, The Green Door Collective, Green Crop Co-Op, IGS Hydroponics, Cheba Hut and a few other businesses stepped up to do their part in giving back to the community.  In a discussion with Hopper from The Green Door Collective, he made a great point that defines the reason why these businesses should make contributions: “These businesses exist for the purpose of filling a need, but if there isn’t a need, then there’s no business. Every business owes its success to their customers.  The way I see it, I have the perfect job because I get to help patients and make a difference, but it’s also important to me to make that extra effort to give back to my local community; this is something I’m passionate about. People like to measure their rate of success, but as long as I have food in my fridge and the bills are paid, then I consider myself successful.” – A very humbling impression from our Chronisseur. These businesses and their owners have so much to be thankful for, and they showed their gratitude by contributing to those that need our help more than ever.

Established in June of 2009, The Green Door Collective has become a very positive aspect of our community.  Not too long after opening shop, Hopper got involved in the Alpha Project, which provides opportunities rather than hand outs to get people back on their feet.  He’s made a good habit out of making monthly donations to this great cause, which gives people a second chance at a better future.  One day, after getting home from work and turning on the TV, he found Mayor Sanders reaching out to the community in a speech, where he pleaded with San Diegans to contribute something, anything, even a $1 to someone in need.  Hopper immediately jumped on the phone and called the mayor’s office to see how he could help. They directed him to Michelle Danks of the San Diego Food Bank and the rest is history –The Green Door Collective became the first collective to organize a food drive in 2009. “It’s important to make a heart-conscious decision during the holidays, but more importantly, throughout the year,” he said. “There are so many different opportunities out there to make a difference and I want to be a part of as many as I can.” Besides the food drive that year, Hopper ran a very successful toy drive for the Toys for Tots Foundation that left a bad taste in Wal-Mart’s mouth. At the end of the drive, The Green Door Collective had a final collection that took place at the A/C Lounge, which also involved neighboring business owners John and Jayne of Jayne’s Gastropub, who contributed large quantities of food and a substantial amount of money to the drive that Hopper happily matched to increase the donation, even their bartender kicked down some dough to help out. “Kindness is contagious. When someone sees you doing something good, they also get in the mood and want to help out too,” he told me. “Even my attorney, Mark Robert Bluemel, and his wife wrote a check to the foundation when they heard about what we were doing.”  More than 100 people showed up and participated in the event, and the amount of contributions for the drive left the marines speechless and very appreciative; they told Hopper that he had OUTDONE Wal-Mart…incredible! It just goes to show that small businesses, especially non-profits, can do more and be bigger than most major corporations.

This past year, The Green Door Collective continued on with their charitable deeds and did their final collection at the Portugalia Restaurant, where the San Diego ASA and a few other organizations got together to host their Holiday Lights Party; they certainly outdid themselves! It was a great turnout and once again, with marines in attendance, Hopper came through with another admirable collection of toy donations.  – There were so many toys that the marines had a hard time fitting them into their van. This was certainly a successful event and it was great to see everyone coming together for a good cause.  Hopper has become a positive image in our community; he provides support and advocacy to those less fortunate and to the organizations that aid them while also challenging others to get involved.  He is currently working with the YWCA’s Becky’s House, which is a domestic violence program for abused women and children, and looks forward to hopefully getting involved with The Ronald McDonald House and Rady’s Children’s Hospital.  He and his wife are also team leaders for their church’s food ministry, which allows him to see the progression of his hard work when they distribute the food they get from the San Diego Food Bank to the families. “It’s important not to put yourself first. You always have to think of ways to make your current environment better. Everybody can do something to make a change in someone else’s life; you just need to find out how,” he said. With that in mind, it’s important to remember that the holidays aren’t the only times others need our help. The most critical time is that first month of every year and Hopper is determined to make it his own with his First Annual Food Fight this month, where 10 collectives are competing to see who can collect the most food for the San Diego Food Bank.  I’m sure the numbers will be astronomical, but don’t let them do all the work. Do your part and remember: “kindness is contagious.”

Green Crop Co-Op canned food drive

Motivated by personal causes, the struggling economy, and hearing that the San Diego Food Bank was at an all-time low on their inventory, Green Crop Co-Op organized a food drive to assist the food bank in November, and a toy drive for Rady Children’s Hospital and the Toys for Tots Foundation during the Christmas season.  Patients wasted no time in getting involved with the cause and flooded the co-op with a surplus of canned goods, non-perishable food, and an incredible amount of toys, which filled up their containers and some of their floor. When I got in touch with Emily, a Green Crop Co-Op staff member, and asked about their food drive, she said, “We couldn’t believe that the food bank was struggling to keep up with the rising number of hungry people and families in our community. We wanted to do what we could to help, but we also didn’t want limit ourselves to just a food drive and organized a toy drive for the month of December as well. It’s very important that we all pick up a little responsibility and help out.” She stressed the importance of doing everything humanly possible to make a difference, “whether you’re donating an hour of your time to a shelter or dropping off a few cans of food, everything counts for something.  No matter how big or small, it always makes a difference in someone else’s life.” Regardless of the negative reputation local law enforcement agencies have given these non-profit businesses, Green Crop Co-Op will continue to thrive beyond what they originally set out to do, which is to serve and help the community in any way they can.

Cheba Hut “Toasted” Subs collaborated with It’s All About The Kids Charity to collect toys for 13 local area groups for the Christmas season. From December 6th–23rd, customers that donated an unwrapped toy for the charity got to spin a WHEEL OF PRIZES. The prizes included free drinks, free desserts, $25.00 gift cards, a free lunch, holiday party trays, and free food for a year! There were also several SDSU fraternities and sororities that competed to see who would bring in the most toys to win free sandwiches for each member and a donation of $100 dollars to the charity of their choice. Being the first restaurant of its kind in California, Cheba Hut has been demonstrating their commitment to our community in the short time that they’ve been open by donating more than 50% of their profits back to local groups.  They have also supported a HUGS not DRUGS campaign, collected canned food, given free food to holiday events, and supported neighborhood cleanup teams. Cheba Hut is proud to be in San Diego.

In the midst of everything, I was able to get a hold of Scott at IGS Hydroponics, who also contributed to the Toys for Tots Foundation for the first time last year. He and his buddy Mike, who run IGS, were born and raised here in San Diego and have been making sure to do what they can to give back. “We love to help,” he said. “Over the years we have donated large amounts of time, money, labor, and materials to different charitable causes that we believe in, and one such cause was Archi’s Acres in Escondido, California. Archi’s Acres is owned and operated by a veteran of the Gulf War and Afghanistan, Colin Archipley and his wife Karen. The veteran expressed his desire to grow, operate a greenhouse, and be able to work from home. We decided to step in and help. We provided him with a greenhouse at wholesale cost, set up a manageable payment plan, and agreed to help him in any way we could. We donated a massive amount of time, energy, and effort to get Archi’s Acres up and running over the course of several years.” Working with Toys for Tots might have been a first for them, but they’re no stranger to giving back to those that need it most, especially our veterans. “We’re always looking to help out schools as well. We like donating hydroponics equipment to schools because we feel it’s important to educate students about growing healthy food. Sadly, kids these days know very little or nothing at all about where vegetables and fruit come from or how they are grown. I can remember growing my first tomato plant when I was a kid, and unfortunately, you just don’t see that anymore.” Their contributions are incredible gifts that enrich our children’s learning environment. In my opinion, I think we need to support more businesses like IGS because they promote the kind of products we need to live happy, healthier lives.

Since they’ve been open in October of 2009, Cannabis Creations Wellness Cooperative has been busy making donations to various walks and collecting food for Mama’s Kitchen. They’ve done a continuous food drive and will continue their hard work throughout the year. Last year, they collected more than 7,000 lbs of food for the organization.  They also held a raffle back in June and another one for Christmas with all the proceeds going to Mama’s Kitchen. Talking with Erica, who is the driving force behind this cooperative’s charities, was a great experience because she is motivated at tackling as many things as possible to really make a difference in her local community. “We’re a very important resource to patients and they are important  to us, but it’s vital that we look beyond what we have and work towards helping everyone. It’s important that we show people the positivity that can come from the cannabis community. If everyone worked together, the world would be a better place.” – I couldn’t have put it better myself.

Through word of mouth, I heard that the Holistic Café in Hillcrest was in the giving spirit, so I immediately got in touch with Matt, their community outreach coordinator, and discussed what they’ve done, what they’ll continue to do, and what they’ve struggled with.  “We’ve done a food drive and a fundraiser for Mama’s Kitchen before and will continue to work with them because we really appreciate what it is that they’re doing for our community,” he said.  “We organized a food drive in association with the San Diego Food Bank for the holidays; we’re currently trying to organize and get involved with the ‘No H8 Campaign’ here in San Diego to support our gay and lesbian community; and we also believe in supporting our veterans and recently sponsored our friend Wheelchair Willy for the Wheelchair Games. We want to get involved in as many things as we can.”  It was very uplifting to talk with Matt because I could tell he was adamant about helping others. However, there was something he told me that really got under my skin: “It has actually been difficult to find organizations that are willing to work with us or take our donations.  In one particular incident, we tried to donate a gift basket with all kinds of goodies, but it was turned away when they found out where it came from. And later, we were told that they would accept a cash donation instead.”  I couldn’t believe it! You think organizations would take anything they could get, but in this case, I guess a gift basket just wasn’t enough.  Obviously, cash is easier to conceal as a donation from a private donor, but shouldn’t every thoughtful gesture count for something? Matt and the Holistic Café are making strides regardless of particular situations like this.  They are doing a great job in demonstrating the kind of good that can come from the cannabis community.  I tip my hat off to them for their efforts in making a difference.

The cannabis community is devoted to giving back to San Diego. These businesses as well as the SD Organic Wellness Association and SoCal A.M.C., who also contributed to their local communities, have made a great effort with their contributions to help improve the lives of others. With the Holiday season still lingering behind us, we need to make sure we continue the spirit of giving throughout the year. A lot can be learned from donating your time, a toy, or some canned goods in your community. It’s hard to keep up with the growing rate of hunger and helplessness when there is a limited amount of support for this problem. The fact that these businesses have already given back so much in the short amount of time that they’ve been in existence blows smoke in the face of Bonnie Dumanis and others who not only deem these collectives and co-ops as illegal distribution centers for marijuana, but also frown upon the cannabis community that thrives beyond the opinions and social standards of these people who insist on obtaining control of a natural representation of health and healing. Vast improvements won’t happen overnight, but every little bit that you give helps out a lot and makes a difference. So with that in mind, next year, when you hear about a food or toy drive during the holiday season, make sure to get in the spirit and do what you can to help, or be proactive and organize your own! You’ll enjoy the satisfaction you get from contributing to the livelihood of others. If you were in need, wouldn’t you want help?

bringing you that fire! stay tune for more posts.

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