Follow the Money
I appreciate David Weinstock's comments (Letters, Nov. 19) on charitable giving and his dissatisfaction with having 62 percent of his contribution going to direct services. Decades ago, I worked for the San Mateo County, where employees were encouraged to give under the umbrella of the United Way. When I realized how much of my donation was set aside for administrative and fundraising costs, I pulled out of the program.
Today, we have some excellent organizations to help us make the choice of where to donate money. My favorite is Charity Navigator (www.charitynavigator.org), which provides extensive data on how thousands of charities divide the pie. You will find exactly how much of your dollar goes to direct services, fundraising and administrative costs. You can even check the salaries of the CEO and other staffers. I find this information very helpful in easing my concerns around the efficacy of charitable giving. Other organizations that provide similar information include Charity Watch and Give Well.
Here is a true life, heart-warming story, with a local artist as the hero.
For more than a decade, my front porch was graced with a whimsical junk-art sculpture created by Patrick Amiot of Sebastopol. For those of you who know and love Patrick's work, you may appreciate how attached we had become to the Duck. The little gray duck with the driftwood body, orange paddle beak, fuse and cue-ball eyes, antique iron feet painted orange and one license-plate wing was stolen from us several weeks ago. We were devastated. Over the years, it had become our family mascot. We patted its head coming and going, and there was many a time when one of us would sit and tell our troubles to the Duck.
After it was stolen we felt robbed of our neighborhood trust and the innocent enjoyment of sharing yard art with the public. Theft leaves such a wake of cynicism. We knew the thief would never be able to love the Duck, and all it represented, the way we had.
But—lo and behold!—this morning, my husband could not believe his eyes. There, alone in the lovely rain on the sidewalk in front of our home, stood the Duck. Then it struck us. I had written to Patrick to bemoan our loss, and wondered if perhaps he had made more than one sculpture. The duck sculpture we found this morning was just a tiny bit different, and was signed and dated. He must have made more than one and out of the joy of sharing his art, secretly delivered it to us.
With teary eyes, whoops of joy and many photos and texts later, our entire family has been told of the return. We have decided to feature the Duck as our Thanksgiving centerpiece! We are so very thankful for the generosity of spirit shown by Patrick and his family. It renews our faith and lessens our cynicism. As many of us know, Patrick and his wife, Brigette, have donated their time and talent to benefit our schools in Sonoma County for many years. We are so grateful to them for their wonderful public displays of uplifting, unique art in our community.
Turkey Day Without Turkey
This week, President Obama will pardon two turkeys to promote the turkey industry. Every one of us can exercise that same pardon power by choosing a nonviolent Thanksgiving observance. It's a most fitting way to give thanks for our own life, health and happiness.
The 240 million turkeys killed in the United States this year have nothing to give thanks for. They are raised in crowded sheds filled with toxic fumes. Their beaks and toes are severed. At the slaughterhouse, workers cut their throats and dump them into boiling water, sometimes while still alive.
Consumers too pay a heavy price. Turkey flesh is laced with cholesterol and saturated fats that elevate the risk of chronic killer diseases. Labels warn of food poisoning potential.
This Thanksgiving, I won't be calling the government's poultry hotline. Our Thanksgiving dinner may include a Tofurky (soy-based roast), mashed potatoes, stuffed squash, chestnut soup, candied yams, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie and carrot cake. An internet search for "vegan Thanksgiving" and a visit to my local supermarket will provide me more recipes and delicious turkey alternatives than I can possibly use.
Shame on Marin County's fire and police departments for using scare tactics to frighten the elderly into voting for Measure A. Implying that there would be no ambulance or emergency services available if they failed to vote caused A to pass by a couple hundred votes. Spending over $300,000 of taxpayer money to shove this through comes out to over six dollars a vote.
More than likely they will select their old buddy Motorola in the "open bidding" because of pre-determined design specifications which favor Motorola's overpriced, soon-to-be-obsolete, incompatible equipment. We're talking about $72 million here, plus $15 million to clean up their last mess.
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