Monday, December 15, 2008

Please Sir, I Want Some MORE...

I made rather “Scrooge-ish” comment on Duward Discussion this morning. Jamie posted information regarding the Toys for Tots children’s Christmas drive falling short of their needed goal. Instead of being a Scrooge in her space, I should have chosen to use this space, my space, to let loose (not on the organizations but on the abusers of them – well, maybe a wee bit on the organizations as well). For this, Jamie, I apologize.

One holiday help-line in my community was called the Santa Toy Fund. There were many others including Salvation Army, BCAC, the Christian Center, and several local churches supporting needy families. In addition, Goodwill and Salvation Army made sure the clothing needs were met. There were multiple food pantries as well giving handouts. All you had to do was prove your need – being a welfare recipient was one way, low income another, and the real biggie was receiving AFDC assistance (Aid to Families with Dependent Children).

Many years ago, I was a single parent bringing up three little boys. I realize this was many years ago… not 2008 when our economy is in the pits. [Believe me, today I am extremely grateful for where I am and what I have.] Waaaaaaaay back then, I worked full-time and earned a whole $5.25 an hour. I paid for childcare for my youngest two boys at what was then the Girls’ Club. I paid part of that bill by working the bingo game at the Girls’ Club every other Sunday. During this learning and growing period of my life, there was a Christmas season when I really knew I could not provide much at all for my sons. So I applied for help from the Santa Toy Fund. And you had to apply! And prove that you were needy – in my case, I had to show them some pay stubs. If I remember correctly, you also had to state whether or not you were requesting assistance from another ‘giving’ organization. I am also assuming many people lied and said “NO”; because saying “YES” meant you would receive little to nothing from this organization. So, I got my notice from the Santa Toy Fund that I could pick up my package at such-and-such a place, on such-and-such a day and time. As I stood in line, I did my people-watch thing. Wow! Some of those kids had on NFL or NBA winter jackets – even back then those jackets were NOT cheap! And those kids over there had on those $100 athletic shoes (no way could I call them sneakers or tennis shoes)! What was going on here?? The icing on my cake of indignation was when the gal standing in line in front of me said to the gal in line behind me something along the lines of: I wish this line would go faster, I got other places to go to pick up stuff. THEN… the gal behind me said, “Yeah, me too.” You could have knocked me over with a feather!! Then I got really angry about this. Some people really knew how to work the system. Things haven’t changed much, have they? And I was taught that honesty truly was the best policy… I guess not. My cynicism was born [yes, there were a few other contributions to this cynicism].

Fast forward to this year, 2008. Every year at holiday time, I send a check to the Salvation Army. This year, I wrote the check, the Salvation Army cashed it and sent me another letter that, in essence, said: GIVE MORE!!! Some way to say Thank You. Yes, I do realize these are all computer-generated letters. I get them all year long, but chose to give during the holiday season. All this is getting out of hand. So, I wrote the Salvation Army saying as much. I also asked them to take my name off their mailing list. I will give what I give, when I chose to give it. How much money would they save in postage (even thought it is bulk mail) and paper costs (paper, ink for their prints, etc) if they didn’t portend the neediness of their cause? [More kudos to my cynicism.]

OMG… this could go into a whole other dimension of do all those “free” things that needy organizations send us (personalized note pads, address labels, cards, etc) make us feel obligated to send donations??

OK… I have let off steam. Yes, Jamie, there are indeed so many needy families out there – but how do we know who really is needy? I really need to know that my donation is going to someone who really, really needs it – not to someone who can afford to wear a $150 (I tacked on some $$ for inflation) pair of athletic shoes. Again, I apologize for broadcasting my cynicism in the wrong place.


  1. I think it's very sad that so many people have learned how to work the system and end up taking it for all its worth. It rather takes away from the what warm fuzzy feeling of doing a good thing.

    I am totally amazed at the number of things that my mother gets in the mail from organizations looking for donations. I've often wondered why they didn't use the money that they spend making and mailing these things out to better their cause instead as I'm sure it's not cheap even with bulk mailing and bulk buying. The number of t-shirts from Veteran's organizations alone is astounding.

  2. Carol,

    One thing I do is to check the percentage of any organizations budget that actually goes to the supposed purpose of that organization. If it is more than 25%, that is a danger sign unless they actually advertise that they are really lobbyists.

    In this age of having to pay personnel and advertise because so few people can afford to volunteer, 25% is more than enough. Otherwise, they exist to pay salaries not provide services.

    This is one of the reasons that with a few exceptions, such as Doctors without borders, that I put a lot of focus on food banks and local charities rather than the big national funds.

  3. i don't give to any of them. nope. i gave that up years ago. the salvation army is the worst of them. those guys outside the stores? they work on commission.

    but i DO give. i give right where i see it. i send soldiers home for the holidays if they can't afford to go. i buy groceries for needy families that i know of myself. i pay electric bills that would cause problems to the people that can't pay them. stuff like that. but i do it when and where i want. period.

    smiles, bee


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