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Message from the Executive Director

Winter brings to mind the comfort of good food shared over a table with family and friends, a walk in the crisp cold air and the blast of warm air as you come inside, and gratitude for being able to experience it one more time.

These past 20 months have reinforced my gratitude for the small things which make the day a bit brighter and the big things that make the world a bit kinder. The Senior Meals and Meals on Wheels continue to fill over 800 of our neighbor’s stomachs each day with a hot, healthy, delicious meal like the Southwestern Bowl (pg 2). While the Fall Prevention Team, including Maria (pg 5), continues to keep seniors moving and the Energy Team brings the gift of power and warmth (pg 3).

The most important part is the connection to others that happens every day. There is nothing I’m more grateful for than the experience of sharing life with others and watching our seniors connect with each other.

As you enter the holiday season and new year, what connections and parts of life are you grateful for? What would you miss if it wasn’t here any more? What action will you take to make the day a bit brighter and the world a bit kinder?


Recipe of the Month

Southwestern Vegan Bowl   Serves 6 | Cook Time: 60 Min | Prep Time: 15 Min

Step 1: In a large saute pan, heat canola oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, peppers, garlic, sweet potato and tomato. Cook for 10-15 minutes, until onions begin to look translucent.
Step 2: Add rice, lentils, spices, vinegar, stock and water. Bring to boil and reduce to simmer. Cover and cook for 45 minutes or until lentils are fully cooked.
To Serve: Toss with kale, black beans and cilantro. Garnish with lime wedges.

This one-bowl meal is loaded with vitamins A, C and K, is high in fiber and low in sodium.
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 cup chopped red onion
2 cups chopped green bell pepper
1 chili pepper of your choice, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup diced sweet potato
1 cup chopped tomato
1 cup brown rice
1/2 cup green lentils
1/2 cup red lentils
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon fresh ground pepper
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 cups no-salt-added vegetable stock
2 cups water
4 cups chopped kale
1 cup cooked black beans
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, minced
4 lime wedges


Make a Meatless Day: By eating meatless one day a week it not only can improve your health, but it can help the environment. Try including plant-based proteins like beans and legumes.
Get more of the Sunshine Vitamin (Vitamin D): Vitamin D plays an important role in bone health. Try spending 5-10 minutes in the sun, 2-3 times per week.
Practice Mindful Eating: Be present and in the moment when eating. Use all of your senses and savor each bite.
Focus on what you can eat and not what you can’t: Try focusing on adding in more nutritious foods to your plate instead of what you should avoid.
Try new plant-based recipes: Research shows that plant-based diets, such as ones that include plant-based proteins, are associated with lower risks of heart disease, obesity, hypertension, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers. Try a new recipe once a week using vegetables, grains, legumes, or fruit as the main entrée.

Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) Update

Winter can be a stressful time—especially if you are one of the many people who anticipates a spike in your utility bills during the colder months. Historically speaking, it’s not unusual for many people to see higher utility bills in the winter as a result of staying indoors more, turning on the lights earlier, poor insulation, and cranking up the thermostat.
However, recent developments might cause an even bigger spike in heating and electric bills than people are used to seeing. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many people to spend even more time at home than they would otherwise. Further, inflation trends have prompted the government to warn households to expect increases in their heating bills of up to 54%. Fortunately, for those willing to put in the work, there are steps you can take to weatherize your home, cut back on energy use and, in doing so, reduce your electricity bill:• Make maintenance a routine. As it turns out, the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach might actually be costing you money. Things like dirty furnace filters can reduce the efficiency of your HVAC system, causing it to use more electricity and drive your heating bill up.

  • Health & Safety. This winter season is a great time to check your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms to ensure they are working properly or if they need to be replaced. Smoke alarms should be installed in all bedrooms and sleeping areas. Carbon monoxide alarms should be installed within 15’ of the entrance to all bedrooms and sleeping areas.
  • Check for heat loss. Most people would probably be shocked to find out how much heat they lose from unexpected places. To mitigate your heat loss, consider sealing around your doors and windows, insulating your water heater and pipes, and checking for drafts around your outlets and vents.
  • Get smart about your thermostat. If you keep your thermostat turned up around the clock, you may be missing out on valuable opportunities to reduce your electricity bill. If you’re able, throw an extra blanket on the bed and turn the heater down by a couple of degrees overnight. Alternatively, consider investing in a smart thermostat that you can program or control remotely from your smartphone. Many of these devices have features that allow you to turn your heat down while you’re out of the house, or during set hours (such as while you’re at work).
  • Adjust your habits. Day-to-day activities consume a surprising amount of energy. Consider the ways that you can adjust your heat usage by making small changes to your daily routine. For example, you might wash your laundry on cold rather than hot, or hang it to air-dry rather than using the dryer. You might also start reducing your showers to every other day and only running the dishwasher when it’s full.

If you’re feeling anxious about your utility bill this winter, it may be time to get help with the weatherization process. Spectrum Community Services is committed to improving the quality of life for low-income families, seniors, and individuals in Alameda County. Through financial assistance, and services, our goal is to support community members in building healthy, safe, and independent lives. Visit our other pages for more information on our senior meals program or to download a copy of our energy assistance application.


Year-end Charitable Giving And IRA Qualified Charitable Distributions

As the 2021 tax year winds down, owners of individual retirement accounts (IRAs) might consider combining the 2021 tax benefits of charitable giving with a qualified charitable distribution from your IRA. If you are at least 70 ½ years of age, you can make an IRA distribution of up to $100,000 to a qualified charitable organization and the distributed amount is excluded from your gross income for federal income tax purposes. In addition, the distribution will count towards your required minimum distribution amount for the tax year.

Year-End Tax Planning
Charitable CARES Act Contribution
Tax Deductions:
$300 for singles
$600 for married couples








For the distribution to count as a qualified charitable distribution, you must meet the following requirements. First, you must have a letter of acknowledgment from the charity recipient of your charitable contribution. Second, the trustee of the IRA must transfer the funds directly to the charitable organization (the distribution cannot be made to you first). Third, the charity recipient of the qualified charitable distribution must be a 501(c)(3) organization that is eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions.
The following charities, however, do not qualify for qualified charitable distributions: Private foundations; Supporting organizations (i.e., charities carrying out exempt purposes by supporting other exempt organizations, usually other public charities); and Donor-advised funds, which public charities manage on behalf of organizations, families, or individuals.
For 2021 as well, taxpayers that itemize deductions will benefit from a higher tax deduction limitation for cash charitable contributions. As part of the 2020 CARES Act and year-end legislation dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic, Congress increased the adjusted gross income limit for cash contributions to qualifying public charities for the 2020 and 2021 tax years. The deduction limits are now 100 percent of adjusted gross income (up from 60 percent of adjusted gross income prior to the CARES Act). Therefore, if you make cash charitable contributions in 2021 (other than qualified charitable distributions), you may deduct the full amount of the charitable contributions against your adjusted gross income for federal income tax purposes. Taxpayers who exhaust their 100% deduction limit can carry forward additional charitable contribution amounts for the next five years.
Consult your tax advisor about making qualified charitable distributions and other charitable contributions, as the rules surrounding their deductibility are complex.
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