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Archive for the ‘Philanthropy’ Category

When Obama first ran for Prexy way back in 2-ought-8, he sounded pretty good. We’d had eight years of George II, and I was pretty much filled to the brim with the bullshit that he’d been shoveling. I figured it was time to put the leadership back in the hands of the Democrats. “What the hell,” I thought, “it would be impossible for them to fuck things up anymore than Georgie and “the hit man” had already done. I even went so far as to send a contribution to the Obama campaign, and that, my friends, is the biggest mistake that any American citizen can ever make.

I had been warned by many people never to make a contribution of any kind to any organization of any type because they will hound you to your grave. It’s true; it’s true, and I’m not singing anything from Camelot. Thankfully, I’m not in my grave…well, one foot’s in and the other’s on a banana peel, but what the hell. I did not keep track since 2008. However, I did keep track of the last four days. In that time, I have received nearly 20 e-mails from someone in the Democratic Party. The first one came from the top dog himself. It read:

“I’ve already emailed you this month. I’m emailing you again because this is important. Take 30 seconds to read this: — Republican outside groups are outspending us nearly 3-to-1. — That’s nearly 3 times as many resources attacking our Democratic candidates. — The most important fundraising deadline we’ve faced is in just 48 hours. Richard, I don’t want to lose this election because we didn’t fight Republican attacks when we had the chance.”

Who is “us?” I will make the unwarranted assumption that “us” is members of the Democratic Party. Guess what, I-don’t-care. You see, I’m one of those people who is embarrassed by a Congress that has done absolutely nothing but pass an Affordable Health Care bill that is neither affordable nor does it cover, in a reasonable manner, the health care for all Americans. Other than that, they have spent their time pissing and moaning over the fact that the passed that bill – which, by the way, leads me to question their intelligence in the first place. Therefore, where it says, “incumbent” on my ballot in the fall of 2016, the other person will be receiving my vote. He or she can’t be any worse than what we have in the various suites right now.

The next e-mail came from Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and the Congressional Representative from Florida’s 23rd congressional district. Debbie said

“If I thought this could wait, I wouldn’t be emailing you. Right now, Boehner is using his corporate cash to creep into TVs across America. All told, we’re facing $30 million worth of attack ads. I don’t plan on letting Boehner win in November. But we’re coming up short of what we’ll need to fight Boehner’s smears. Our critical deadline is in 48 hours. I’m pleading with you to take a moment and step up.”

Right away she pissed me off. Congressman John Boehner may be orange in color, a member of the opposing party, and a real son-of-a-bitch, but he is still a duly elected Congressman from Ohio and chairman of the House of Representatives. How about a little professional politeness here; you could, at the very least, refer to him as “Congressman” Boehner. In addition, remember that Congressman Boehner, for all his faults, doesn’t personally prepare the smears; hell, that’s why he has a staff.

There were a few more in between but then I received this one:

“We’re running out of people to email you, Richard. “In the last two days, you should have received an email from: — President Obama — Nancy Pelosi — Debbie Wasserman Schultz  “That’s how important this is! Democrats are getting massively outspent by Republican groups. And we’re fighting desperately to turn it around. “We need 61,037 more donations in the next 48 hours if we want any shot at giving President Obama a Democratic House for his final two years.”

And it was signed “James.” Who the hell is James? In addition, I must have missed Nancy’s. Oh, sure, she’s written letters to me from time to time, but I don’t recall any recent e-mails. I felt somewhat insulted not to have heard from Nancy. She’s that Congressional delegate who’s always trying to get legislation passed that will help her husband’s business…ooh, not nice!

I won’t bother to relate the texts of any of the other please. You understand the gist of what was going on. However, the subject lines in some of these were priceless: “Richard, I’m begging.” Don’t beg; begging makes you look bad; begging is a poor choice of words. “We’ve got nothing left, Richard.” Hey, what makes you different from the average American citizen? You’ve got nothing left? Tell that to the people who have been scammed out of their savings; tell it to the elderly who must decide between pills to keep them alive and putting food on the table. Another subject heading was “Boehner stunned,” telling all of the wonderful comeback in fundraising, and that, Congressman “Boehner will scream with rage when he sees this e-mail.” I’m quite certain the Congressman has better things to do. This was followed by, “everything has failed;” “we have failed;” “we’ve never failed like this;” “pummeled,” and this you have to hear: “It’s going to take everything we have to answer President Obama’s call-to-action, beat Boehner, and hit our fundraising goal tonight.” And, finally, “Astronomical,” indicating that all is well in the world of Democratic Party fundraising. If you’ve ever heard the expression, “Figures don’t lie, but liars sure can figure,” you can understand my skepticism over this whole thing.

The point is that if you intend to make a donation to some cause, do it by putting cash in an envelope and send it anonymously. Sure, it will get stolen by the person opening the envelope, but maybe it will go to a good cause. It will also pretty much assure you that you won’t get bombarded as I have and expect to until the day I die…then my heirs will get bombarded…serves ‘em right!

 

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You will have to pardon my ignorance [or not]but there appears to be a somewhat confused political structure in the United States. We want to reduce the deficit but one billion dollars is immediately made available to Ukraine to assist in stabilizing their infrastructure and no one in Congress is heard complaining about it? That doesn’t make a whole hell of a lot of sense to me. Countries that are starving for one reason or another receive aid in the form of rice, powdered milk, and other food products from the United States, yet 17 million children under the age of 18 go to bed hungry each night in our own country. And that doesn’t make a whole hell of a lot of sense to me either. We give billions and billions of foreign aid to other countries, I guess because money talks and bullshit walks, and we want everybody to be our ‘friend.’ Just watch how friendly they’ll be if we reduce or eliminate all that foreign aid in deference to repairing our own infrastructure. They’ll jump on that “Hate America” bandwagon so fast, it will make your head spin.

Please, don’t get me wrong. I have no problem with supplying assistance to countries that truly require our help. One of the major problems, as I see it, is that the aid we do supply all too often does not wind up in the hands of those who need it. Corruption is rife in too many of the countries we boast of helping, but it’s not the country or the people. It winds up in the hands of the military or the despots of those countries who hold the aid hostage over their own people. We just don’t appear to understand that many of the countries to whom we supply aid and assistance have different cultural values and different social mores than we do. If anyone bothered to study America, they would find that culturally we are quite different even within our own nation.

When President Eisenhower signed the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, it was considered to be one of the greatest public works programs in the history of the country. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, “…the Interstate System has been a part of our culture—as construction projects, as transportation in our daily lives, and as an integral part of the American way of life.  Every citizen has been touched by it, if not directly as motorists, and then indirectly because every item we buy has been on the Interstate System at some point.  President Eisenhower considered it one of the most important achievements of his two terms in office, and historians agree.”  There was only one problem with the construction of the Interstate Highway System…the funds appropriated for it did not consider the ‘real’ cost of maintaining it.  The best analogy I can give is that of a major donor bearing the entire cost of constructing a dormitory/residence hall for his or her alma mater. The problem arises when that dorm has to be furnished and the building maintained. Where does that money come from or do we merely let the building deteriorate? The answer, of course, is that monies must be appropriated to maintain the building to the detriment of other things. Therefore, in the long run, the alumnus/alumna didn’t do his or her college any great favors. In my years in higher education, I know of only one situation where monies were given not only for the building, but for its endowment or maintenance. Today, that building is as beautiful as it was the day it was opened. When the Department of Transportation goes to seek the funds it requires to repair our nation’s bridges and roads, Congress and the Presidents who have succeeded Eisenhower always seem to find other, more pressing problems…like giving money in foreign aid…read that as “Giving blood money to keep our so-called friends happy.” Not to get too personal, but I drive under overpasses and over underpasses each day and some of both just scare the living daylights out of me.

There is no question that America has always done its fair share to help other nations, whether it’s by sending our military to help quell world wars; providing food and dollars to help nations get back on their feet following one calamity or another; or by providing expertise in assisting underdeveloped countries to move ahead. That’s us; that’s the way we are. Unfortunately, I fear that we have often times cast our eyes across the seas rather than taking a hard look inward and from coast to coast.

I, like most other people in our wonderful country, bitch and wail, and moan and whine about this not being done or that not being done, and I do nothing about it. I cast my ballot at every election, not for a single party, but for the candidate who I believe can do the best job. Yet, time and time again, I wind up being disappointed. I’m firmly convinced that there are people in Washington who believe as I do and as you do…but you and I are also different so perhaps I’m making an unwarranted assumption here. Do we all agree that there is a poverty issue in the United States? Do we all agree that our educational system needs an overhaul? Do we all agree that our roads and highways are dangerous and in need of repair? Do we all agree that too much is expected of our military whenever a skirmish breaks out somewhere? Do  we all agree that not everyone should receive a college education? There are hundreds of “Do we all agrees…” but who wants to prioritize them? Who says we all agree? What’s important in Massachusetts may be pretty damned low on the Minnesota, Montana, or Mississippi agenda? Is one state more important than the other? Wow, talk about questions!

I hope that I’ve given you some food for thought. If you still have some fire in your belly, stand up and shout. Make your voice heard in Washington…or as my dear old Dad would have said, “Make yourself a real pain in someone else’s ass!”

 

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This is the time of year for inaugurations, state of the states, state of the union, town meetings, and, of course, the Grammy Awards. It’s that period where we take stock of what we have or haven’t, how we’ve done during the past year, and what bullshit we will perpetuate or inaugurate on the unsuspecting public during the next year. Therefore, in keeping with this time-honored and non-sensible performance, I shall present my own state of the mind for the upcoming year and for time in perpetuity, a.k.a. Bishop’s banal diatribe….

…My fellow Americans, illegal immigrants, alien terrorists on US soil, and children of all ages…to put things mildly, the Union is not in very good shape. There is too much violence in our own nation, whether on our college and university campuses, our local schools, our shopping malls throughout the land, the streets of our inner cities and – more and more – in neighborhoods where violence has not existed before. This is both unacceptable and intolerable.

After months of discussions with the FBI, CIA, NSA, DOD, PTA, DARPA, CASE, CUPA, NRA, BSA, GSA, 4-H, ICOP, and several private contracting firms, we have reached agreement that, beginning, immediately…that means tomorrow for those of you nodding off…American soldiers and sailors, in pairs will begin patrolling every avenue, street, road, and drive in every city and town with a population of more than 500 people. Schools, from kindergarten to high school will have a pair of armed military in each and every classroom. Writ of habeas corpus is immediately suspended for the foreseeable future, and the penalty for any crime which inflicts any kind of harm on any American citizen will be punishable by immediate death. I have been reading, watching, and being told of too many crimes and I’m sick to death of it. We have ‘deevolutionated’ – okay, I made it up – back to cave man tactics as a society and, therefore, those who wish to act like Neanderthals shall be treated as they were back in the Neanderthal period. When the nation evolves back into a 21st Century society, with the mores expected of 21st Century men, women, and children, we will…slowly at first…begin to eliminate our police state.

Our plan calls for the withdrawal of all American armed forces from all bases throughout the world. I am sick to death of watching planes land at Andrews Air Force base to unload the coffins of young Americans who have died on foreign soil for no particular reason other than to make a small group of fat cats in our own nation get fatter. Just as we never see John Boehner smoking or drinking, so now, we will never see military caskets being brought home from foreign lands. In addition, we will not tolerate any attempt by any nation or combination of nations to invade – overtly or covertly – our land. We are open to free trade between our nation and others. However, the days of the US as world cop are over. If nations wish to make war among themselves or with other nations, have fun. If any nation should consider the use of nuclear weapons as acceptable, then and only then, will the United States turn the offending nation to glass. Granted, this will end the world as we know it, but what the hell, you started it, and we are fully prepared to end it.

Our native form of speech is American. While it was English for a while, it has been bastardized by various groups who now use such words as “whatevah,” “selfies,” “hinky,” and other bullshit words which have no place in a civilized society. Students using any slang in the classroom may be immediately bitch-slapped by a teacher or either of the two military peace keepers in the classroom…or all three. We will return to speaking a combination of correct English and American beginning tomorrow. Before immigrating to this country, those from other nations must demonstrate a proficiency in the English/American language that is free from native accent.

Beginning tomorrow, all citizens with assets of over five billion dollars will be required to establish foundations to benefit the less fortunate. The initial investment will consist of one billion dollars. I have requested and received consent from Messrs. Warren Buffet, William and Melissa Gates, Harry Reid, and Eric Cantor to select a board of no more than fifteen people of their choosing to administer this fund.

Beginning tomorrow, welfare families will be required to perform twenty hours of community service to be eligible for benefits. Babysitting services for children under the age of six will be provided by the National Board of Children’s Services. All adults over the age of 18 who are not attending school or college and who are unemployed will be required to participate in this Civilian Community Service Program. Those who refuse will be shot.

I could go on, but if you believe this sounds dictatorial and impossible, you’re right. That’s not the way America operates. Would we like to see our children and grandchildren more protected in our schools than they have been over the past half century? Of course we would. Does that mean patrolling the corridors of our classrooms with armed members of the military? No, not in this country…not yet… not anymore than we consider having our military patrol our streets.

Can we demand that people speak English? No, we can’t demand this. In American schools, English is the language of choice. Those unable to grasp this concept should either learn our language or return to where they won’t be burdened with having to learn it. I have always been embarrassed when I’m in Canada, not to be able to speak French, and I generally apologize for my inability to do so.

Can we demand that our billionaires use their monies to help others who haven’t been as fortunate? Of course we can’t. People like Mr. Buffet and Mr. and Mrs. Gates, just to name a few, are already doing more than their fair share to help others. As far as Harry Reid and Eric Cantor are concerned, well, you take your pick as to which one is the greater idiot.

No, I can’t give a state of the union address. We have checks and balances in this nation that protects the general public from the manner in which I sometimes express myself. But…we have many problems in this country that do need to be addressed. We seem to pay lip service and crocodile tears when a shooting occurs at an elementary or high school, a college or university, a theater or a mall, or on the streets of Boston, Chicago, or Detroit. In reality, we haven’t done a damned thing to prevent similar tragedies. We put thousands of troops into Iraq and Afghanistan, but I don’t see the same effort being put into eliminating the cartels in Central and South America, and they are killing probably more Americans daily than are being killed on the sands in the Middle East. Our problems are myriad and many, and rather than face them head-on, we quibble; we squabble; we have elected officials who are more interested in loyalty to party than they are in loyalty to America. These are our real terrorists because they refuse to let the nation move forward. As the late Thomas P. O’Neill, former speaker of the House of Representatives, said, “Country first; state second; party third. Or, if you prefer, how about Rodney King’s, “Why can’t we all just get along?” Take your pick…either one works for me.

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There are too many people with big egos living in America today…and there are too many charlatans who are more than willing to play to those egos and to take the money of the egotists.

Have you seen the number of ads for this cream or that treatment to make you look younger? Perhaps it’s me but I don’t understand why we all can’t be who we are. Why do we need to spend thousands of dollars – not covered by insurance by the way – to make ourselves look like who we are not? Since these are the types of people who would sue my ass big time if I mentioned their names, I’m not going to give them the opportunity, but you know who they are; you’ve seen the commercials; you’ve seen the before and after photos that, while they may not be retouched, they are certainly posed in a different manner, clothed in a more attractive fashion, and lit in a more complimentary way….ah, the tricks of the trade!

I don’t understand this desire to look like you’re 40 when, in fact, you’re damn near 80. We’re not who we are on the outside. What makes us us, is who we are on the inside. You may be the handsomest guy on the block but it will soon become apparent that you’re a son-of-a-bitch the minute you open your mouth or take some kind of action that shows your true colors. Women who may be gorgeous to the eye may also be beautiful on the inside but there are others who, when the make-up, false eye lashes, hair extensions, and other ‘additions’ are removed, show what makes up the real person.

One night I was sitting at dinner with a member of the Babson College board of trustees. I have no idea how it came about but I began speaking of my mother. In her later years, I told this lady, mother began to lose her hair. My aunt, who was a hairdresser, asked mom if she’d like to have thicker hair. While I never considered my mother to be vain, she was excited at the prospect. Evelyn, my aunt, would give mom some kind of hot oil treatment and sure enough, mother’s hair grew much, much thicker. When she died, it was with a full head of hair. The trustee asked if she could speak with my aunt about restoring her hair. When I asked her why, she grabbed her hair and lifted it straight up for everyone to see. “This show you why?” she asked. I’ve seen billiard balls that had more hair than her head. I mean, it glistened. All I could do, along with the rest of the people at the table, was roar with laughter. Talk about someone who didn’t give a damn what people thought; it was wonderful. This lady was a well-known philanthropist and a member of the boards of several organizations and businesses. She was who she was; she didn’t care what others might think, and, I absolutely loved her for it. Unfortunately, my auntie Ev was gone from this earth so putting hair back on this trustee’s head was moot.

If you really want to know how someone looks, go to a gym at five o’clock in the morning. Men and women stagger in with no make-up, hair that looks like it hasn’t seen a brush since yesterday – a lot of the women wear headbands or bandanas; the men just the cowlicks stick where they are. These people don’t give a damn about what they look like; they care about how they feel. They come to the gym to sweat and stay healthy and they couldn’t care less about what others think.

I look at wrinkles on people as signs that they’ve lived life more fully than those who parade around with “a pound and a half of make-up on their face.” My high school and college classmate, George, has so much hair, he could probably grow it out for ‘Locks of Love.’ Me, I’m a bit different. My wife died of cancer; although she did not go through chemo, her hair fell out. I shave my head as a tribute to her and every time I shave, I think of her and all of the fun times we had together [In case you’re interested, I also talk with her every night]. She didn’t care too much for make-up, and yep, she had the wrinkles to prove it.

As I said earlier, we are who we are; what we look like makes little difference. We’re loaned this shell we call a body for a very short time in the whole scheme of things. As hard as we might try; as many face lifts as we may get; as many crèmes as we may use, we might change what we look like, but we can never change exactly who we are. It’s not what we look like or how we dress that makes us. It’s what’s inside; it’s how we treat others; not how we treat ourselves that shows our true beauty or ugliness.

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It’s no longer enjoyable to give or receive Christmas presents.

Like you, I think, I’m not crazy about Christmas promotions that begin sometime in late September. Also like you, I recognize that need for merchants to sell goods, make a profit, even create jobs to help keep the economy growing, but I truly believe pushing some of this crap that you never see advertised at any other time of year is just plain tacky, tacky, tacky. For example, when else do you find ‘Clapper’ ads being pushed so hard, or the plush animals with all of their pockets? Want to drink fizzy flavored water, buy the stream dream or whatever the hell they’re calling it this year? I must admit that Chia Pets don’t appear to be big this year, but energizer bunnies are getting another shot in the arm.

This year, Christmas ads are vying with health care promotions; thus, it would appear making it unnecessary for writers to develop scripts too complicated. While there may be rules and regulations regarding how many minutes of advertising can be crammed into an hour of programming, I get the gut feeling that those rules are suspended between Halloween and the Super Bowl.

The one market that has yet to be tapped by the advertising agencies or the manufacturers is the over 70 group. Since some are saying the, “Seventy is the new fifty,” there must be a Christmas market there somewhere.  You can’t really sell them a “year’s supply of…” anything because while you’re preaching youth to these folks, the fact of the matter is they could go anytime…and they know it. Since so many seniors are computer literate, selling board games (a) isn’t particularly profitable and (b) can easily be found as an “app” somewhere. Pushing a Nook or a Kindle also becomes a complex issue when dealing with seniors, most of whom will tell you they “…like the smell of paper and ink” that a book gives them, and what do you say in a thirty-second spot to counter that one. Gift cards are great but for how much? Is the degree of importance measured by the amount of a Walmart card? Not only is it a gift card – which shows just how little you think of me” – but to what store…”you know I never shop there” – which means you’re just going to regift the card anyway. Understand something very, very clearly: When you are searching for a gift for a senior citizen, there is a ninety-nine point nine percent chance that you will screw up!

I sort of came to an agreement with my three kids years ago, after they were married and had children of their own…I won’t give to them and they don’t give to me. I will give only to the grandchildren and because I have no idea what they like – our ages being as separated as they are – I give money. Obviously, it can never be enough but I figure that’s their problem, not mine. If I have a rough year, they have a rough Christmas…my answer to their downturned-little-mouths is a very silent, “tough shit; get over it!”  I say that the agreement to give or not with the children versus grandchildren only, because the kids will sometimes try, but then, they don’t know my tastes, nor do they know that I really don’t need anything. I’d rather they put what money they spend on me into reducing their mortgage or buying something extra, like a good steak, for their refrigerator…”I don’t friggin’ need anything.” That’s not to say I have everything I want. Sure, I’d love the winter home in Boca or the Grand Caymans. The jet to get me there and back would also be nice, but who the hell is kidding whom. At my age, I like my bed at home; I don’t like flying anymore; and Boca in the winter is just as bad as it is in the summer – it’s God’s waiting room and who wanted to be reminded?

When Joan was alive, I would give a gift in her name to the Make-a-Wish Foundation. It was her favorite charity. If you asked her why, she wouldn’t have been able to give you a good reason, but she loved what they were doing. She may have seen a story on television or something that impressed her. To me she would give a gift in my name to the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge to help benefit the Dana Farber Cancer Research Center. I have lost so many friends and family to that insidious disease that anything that can be done to find a cure makes me happy.

Christmas is a great Holiday. It’s also a great Holy Day. Sure, scholars can prove six ways to Sunday that Christ was not born on December 25th. I don’t care; that’s the day we have chosen to celebrate the birth of Christian’s Lord and Savior. My rabbi next door and my Jewish friends at the gym all wish me a Merry Christmas and, tomorrow being the first day, I will wish them a Happy Chanukah. Our faiths may differ but I’d like to believe we all have faith. My prayers may be a bit longer around the Christmas Holiday, but that’s not to say that my faith is weaker throughout the rest of the year. It seems at Christmas I just like to spend a little more time talking to the Big Boss. Gifts don’t seem as important as prayers that He somehow help to unscrew this screwed up world.

My gift to myself is to watch White Christmas and a few other movies on that day. It’s a day when I cry some because Joan is no longer here to celebrate with me; and I cry some because I have a wonderful woman with whom to celebrate the holiday. I’m a pretty lucky guy when it comes right down to it. I pray that you feel lucky too.

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About this time every year for the past several years, I become somewhat emotional as well as pissed off at my body for letting me down. This year I guess I have an excuse because of the torn Achilles, but if it’s not one thing, it seems to be another. I’m speaking of the fact that I am no longer able to volunteer for my favorite charity, The Pan-Massachusetts Challenge (PMC) which will be held this first weekend in August. The PMC raises money for the Jimmy Fund and the Dana Farber Cancer Research Center. Since its beginnings in 1980, the PMC has raised over $375 million.

“What is this PMC?” you ask.

Oh please, don’t get me started. The PMC is a bike ride; it’s not a race; it’s a bike ride! For many, it’s a two-day ride from Sturbridge, Massachusetts to Provincetown, MA. Don’t bother to figure the mileage; it’s 192 miles. Don’t worry, these folks stop at the Mass Maritime Academy in Bourne for a sleepover before crossing the Bourne Bridge which is one of the two entrances to Cape Cod. Over the years, shorter routes have been added to accommodate the number of riders who want to be a part of this great organization. I guess here might be a good time to tell you that every penny raised by riders goes directly to the charity. Administrative costs come from a separate foundation – and the fact that there are overworked and underpaid slaves in the office who are beaten severely on a regular basis [just kidding]. There are now over a dozen routes to ride the PMC, and many are single-day rides.

My commitment to the PMC spanned over 10 years, not as a rider but as a volunteer. It began before my late wife, Joan, was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer, and it lasted after her death in 2008. It is impossible to describe the feeling, the emotions of preparing to volunteer, just as I’m certain it’s impossible to know how the riders must feel as the train, both separately and in groups, for the ride – training includes a one-day century ride; you’ve got it…100 miles in a single day. Obviously, not everyone puts themselves through that kind of a regimen, but there are some 7,000 plus who do.

On the day of the ride, emotions run high. There’s a great deal of hugging and kissing, well-wishing and yes, a great many tears. Many people ride with pictures attached to their jerseys; for others, it’s a list of those for whom they’re riding. Helmets are adorned with animals of all kinds, usually representative of a toy that was someone’s favorite. There have been times I’ve invited friends to “just come over and watch.” Every single one of them has later admitted that he or she has cried tears of joy for what they saw as genuine dedication and commitment on the part of the riders as well as the volunteers.

The year after Joan died, I was asked to be part of the very brief speaking program that precedes the start of the ride. It was tough, one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. As I looked out at that sea of riders, I had trouble holding it together. These people were riding so that there wouldn’t be any more Joan’s or Jimmy’s. There they were…cops and teachers, college students and investment bankers, Red Sox wives and then-Senator John Kerry; there were husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, and just about any profession you can name, including many of the doctors, nurses, and administrators from Dana Farber and the Jimmy Fund…now that I think of it, I wonder who the hell was minding the store?

Now that I can no longer be an active part of this event, I do a bit as a supporter of a couple of riders. I’m proud to support them and I’m proud of my association with the PMC. If you’d like to learn more, please go to http://www.pmc.org and learn more about this wonderful program. Oh, and if you’ve got an extra buck or so, don’t be afraid to become part of the PMC. I guarantee it’ll feel good to give to such a worthy cause.

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This is a season of giving. It’s not merely a case of giving to loved ones, to family and friends but also a time when we are asked to consider those less fortunate. This is a good thing. We get to do something to help someone else and, quite frankly, we get to feel good about ourselves because we did so. Before you make a gift to any charitable organization, however, it’s a smart move to determine exactly how much of that donation is actually helping and how much is going for overhead.

There are any numbers of charity watchdog organizations that can help you make your decisions about which charity is really putting its money to work and which is merely helping to stuff the pockets of a few executives. For example, when Todd Bassett was heading the Salvation Army, his salary was $13,000 and ninety-three cents of every dollar was being spent directly to benefit those who needed it. With Israel Gaither at the helm, the salary jumped from somewhere between $79 and $243K and I have no information regarding how that changed the 93% figure, but you can bet your bottom dollar it made a shift. You might want to check out Charity Navigator, The American Institute of Philanthropy, or The Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance.

I will not give to the American Red Cross. I figure that any organization where the CEO is making a salary of over half a million a year and has a number of other perks is not really my cup of tea. In addition, I’m not crazy about the United Way for the very same reason. My gifts are important to me. I want them to mean something, both to me and to the organization that receives my limited resources. My late wife loved the Make-A-Wish Foundation. In lieu of Christmas presents to each other, I would give to Make-A-Wish in her honor and she’d make a gift to a charity of my choice. Don’t get any big ideas here; the gifts might be anywhere from $10. to $250, but if you give enough over the years or if you have a couple of extra bucks in your pocket – oh stop laughing; it’s not a joke – why blow it when you can help someone else. Of course, the ultimate gift is the one you put in the plate on Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning. Churches need help all the time. It’s not a ticket to heaven, but if you know your priest or minister and enjoy what he or she has to say, it’s a damned darn good cause.

When I read about charitable organizations that pay their executives exorbitant salaries and give them so many extra perks, I just wonder about the wisdom of the board of governors or trustees. Have they lost sight of the purpose of the organizations? There aren’t many people with managerial skills who are worth more than half a million dollars a year. In addition, the executive who wants that kind of money should be subject to some very serious scrutiny by those about to hire him or her. If that salary includes allowances for clothing, travel, housing, etc, then certainly it becomes a different story. However, if there are separate allowances for those costs, look out!

I’m in a very good place. I don’t have the worries that too many younger people have. My three kids each have three kids. My children worry about their mortgages, college tuition, and other major expenses. That’s behind me; my worries concern property taxes and medical bills. As a result, perhaps I’m being a bit paranoid about giving to charity. Each year since retirement I’ve tried to donate one month’s worth of retirement income to various charities. It doesn’t always work, but that’s the goal that I’ve set for charitable giving each year. Before anyone gets my bucks, however, there are two simple questions that must be answered:

  1. What percentage of your gifts go to directly benefit the recipient and what percentage is going for organizational overhead?
  2. What is the salary of your organization’s chief executive officer and what is the salary of the chief financial officer?

Two very simple questions, and if the answer to the first one is that less than seventy-five cents of every dollar goes to the recipient, you’ve lost my money. If I don’t like the salaries of the two people mentioned, you’ve lost my money.

You may not be as fussy as I am about where my charitable contributions go. But, perhaps you should be asking yourself, “Am I really helping those who are deserving or am I just lining the pockets of another greedy son-of-a-bitch?”

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