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Pay It Forward [moved from Philadelphia]

I don't think I do anything exceptional. Once every quarter I contribute to my local foodbank (can I say Philabundance without censure?). My employer then matches me $ for $.

On the day before T'Giving I wrote my check. Today I got the payback I never needed or expected, but it warmed my heart just the same:
"Dear Ms xxxx:
Thank you! Your commitment to the fight against hunger is truly inspiring. Because of you, more hungry people are being fed.
Please accept my deepest thanks for your continued support.
-Sincerely
XXX"

This was not a stamped letter, it was a hand-written note enclosed in a hand-written envelope. So sad that my pittance is worthy of that attention.

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  1. We who care about food in terms of exceptional food also often care about seeing to it that those who are hungry are helped to have their needs met. Thanks for sharing this, and reminding me that I have not contributed this year to Philabundance, even though I do so every year.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Bashful3

      Please contribute. We argue over the prix fixe menus, but should also remember those who cannot afford to feed their families at the holidays.

        1. re: gaffk

          Our local Shop Rite gave the option of donating the free turkey earned with your purchases to the local food bank. It was a no-brainer for me. As tough as things are, I don't wonder where my next meal will come from and I know these worthy organizations appreciate every small donation they receive.

      1. " So sad that my pittance is worthy of that attention."

        Actually, I think that it is great. Someone cares enough to take the time to say "thank you." There is too little of that nowadays, when so many assume some sort of entitlement. I appreciate thoughts, like that.

        All too often, I will contribute to an organization, only to have them call, or send a form letter, next quarter, "you contributed to our cause, and now you need to do it again... " When I am ready and able to do so, I will possibly consider it. Until then, please do not dun me again.

        We contribute to many charities over the course of the year, and both sit on several charity boards. We contribute annually, and on a schedule. When the money runs out, we have to hold off until the next year. For too many, that is not good enough, regardless of how many $50K tables we might have bought. A "thank you" would go a very long way, at least in my household.

        Nice touch,

        Hunt

        6 Replies
        1. re: Bill Hunt

          Yes, I have contributed to this food bank often before, but this is the first time I actually got a thank you (and a hand-written one, no less) that came without a solicitation for more.

          More than the dunning, I think my pet peeve is the charities that send me fleece blankets, gloves, key chains, calculators, etc. Really? If I contribute to your cause, I want my money to go to that cause.

          1. re: gaffk

            First, you have such a good heart, and I'm glad it was acknowledged. Thank you for sharing this story, gaffk. I've already begun a collection from my pantry to take to the community center for the December drive, and always wish I could afford to do more. There are so many charities that need the help.

            (I also wanted to put it out there that the 'promotional' items for the charity might well be donated goods from businesses. When I managed a shop, we weren't allowed to donate money, but could give items for raffle or what-have-you. I could be wrong, but if I remember correctly, those items are tax-deductible at the retail value, and actually earned more of a break for the company than a cash gift would have.)

            1. re: onceadaylily

              Thanks lily, I hadn't thought of that slant on the gifts--I'll stop being so outraged.

              I too wish I could afford to do more, but am happy to do what I can afford.

            2. re: gaffk

              Those are great points. If I need little things, I will buy them. I would strongly prefer that most of the money go to the recipients of the charity. I sit on the boards of several, and we are always aware of what we end up with, for the recipients. Keeping our costs down is always of high importance.

              Still, the thank-you note is nice. I try to send one to every member of each of my four-somes at charity events. One recent guest donated a very nice amount, as he could not secure any lot in the silent auction, and wanted to help our charity. He got special thank-yous, especially as that was a very nice gesture, and took me a bit by surprise - over and above, as he was just my guest, and my friend, and never required, or pressured to make the contribution. Maybe it shows me that the particular charity is a good one, and folk want to donate to it?

              We do keep a database, but ONLY contact the previous participants, when it's time to sign up for the charities' events - never otherwise, and the lists are never sold. These are the same people, who I will be contacting next year, and the next. That is why I will sit on those boards.

              Thanks for the comments, and glad that this organization takes it to heart to say thank you, especially in this day-and-age.

              Hunt

              1. re: Bill Hunt

                Hunt-

                I follow you (OK, I stalk you). You are my CH role model, and if I can ever give to your extent I'd be happy. Alas, I can only give to my extent, but I am still happy to do so.

                1. re: gaffk

                  Gosh, words too kind, and trust me, I am not worthy! There have to be over a million better role models, and just on CH.

                  We all give, as we can. I am so very fortunate to share the "harvests" of my life, and am honored to do so. I only wish that I could also share some real "harvests," but agrarian endeavors are just not in my background, or in my lovely wife's either. Still, we do our best, and my dreams of winning PowerBall revolve around which charities I could REALLY support. We do our best to "pay it forward," as per the title of this post, and only wish that we could do more. Maybe this Saturday's PowerBall???? [Grin]

                  OTOH, my wife contributes over $35M in indigent healthcare annually, and the vast majority is uncompensated. Her hospitals also do many food drives and adopt-a-family programs, even amongst her employees.

                  To give from the heart is wonderful, indeed, and we both only wish that we could do more.

                  I applaud your referenced foodbank (Philadelphia?), and wish you, and the others, the best of luck. You are doing good, whether as part of the organization, or as a contributor.

                  Though you have received a thank-you already, let me issue one, from "sunny, but cool" Arizona. Please keep up the great work, as others will appreciate it, and benefit from it.

                  BTW - wife's hospitals have entered into a foodbank deal, with all the unused food items. In a perfect world, nothing would ever be wasted, and all would benefit.

                  Good luck,

                  Hunt

          2. In a time where so many people cringe at the thought that their hard-earned money is going to help those who wait for handouts, I am so happy to read a story like this. Last night a friend and I mentioned the fact that we might be alone on Christmas. I explained that the last time I offered to help at a food bank for a holiday I was rejected and told that money would be more appreciated. I was turned off. Your story has made me want to contribute this holiday. Thank You!

            16 Replies
            1. re: jhopp217

              Yes, unfortunately, food banks and soup kitchens are overrun with volunteers on Thanksgiving and Christmas, but not so much the rest of the year. I can understand being turned off, though.

              I'm glad you want to contribute this year, though. Donations are down and demand is significantly increased in these tough economic times.

              1. re: jhopp217

                Not that long ago, we redid many doors in our home. I contacted a charity, that builds homes for the disadvantaged, and told them of the doors and framing. I was told that they only accepted money to buy doors, etc. from Home Depot, or similar.

                Next, a local charity contacted me with a wish list of items that they needed. One item was four legal file cabinets, and I had four, slightly used ones, without even a scratch on them. I was again informed that they only wanted money, and would buy the items from Office Depot, or similar.

                I donated the doors, and the file cabinets to another charity, which seemed thrilled with them.

                For time, we both sit on many boards, so do not volunteer in a regular manner, but the charities seem to like our presence and input. We try to do our parts, where we can, but I understand your feelings. Though not for my time, being turned away with just what each charity claimed they wanted, was off-putting.

                Hunt

                1. re: Bill Hunt

                  Wow, a charity that builds homes, but does not want quality doors with frames. Don't understand :( Don't want to say they are scammers, but . . . charities I work with will take anything useful.

                  1. re: gaffk

                    Yes, I was blown completely away by the response too. Same for the charity, that specifically requested file cabinets. It made me wonder quite a bit, but still, I was able to find others, that DID want those items, and were very thankful, that I donated them. Guess that I went to the first folk on the list, and fell short of their requirements.

                    Going back a bit, we bought a plot in an urban farm, with another couple. For the veggies, that we could not eat, we donated to a similar group in Denver. On one hand, we were able to support a farm group, and on the other, share the bounty with others. May not have been the ultimate contributions, but we all tried.

                    Please keep up your good work, and others WILL benefit.

                    Hunt

                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                      I work for a non-profit. Though we do not build houses, we have a similar policy of not accepting goods, but only accepting money. The reasons for this are:
                      1. We can not vouch for the quality of a donated previously used item, which could place those we're trying to help in a difficult situation or even possibly in danger.
                      2. Our particular organization deals with the military and must provide equal services to each of those in need. Therefore, it would be unfair for us to give, say, one person a new cashmere sweater and another person a faded sweatshirt.

                      I don't know about the charities that turned away your doors and filing cabinets, but I would not want to assume they are scammers or anything less than legitimate. If that's ever a concern, there are independent charity watchdogs that you can consult, such as Charity Navigator, to determine if the organization is successfully managing and distributing contributions.

                      I certainly understand feeling a bit disillusioned by having any offering turned away. However, please look at the organization as a whole, what their mission is and who they are helping. If it is something that moves you and you feel they are doing good work, try not to turn away because they can not currently accept the specific help that you have offered.

                      (with apologies if that came off preachy)

                      1. re: hyacinthgirl

                        Per Hunt's account the second charity in question apparently didn't ask for funds, it asked for a 'wish list' that included filing cabinets, and then turned them down! It is certainly true that one can check out the charity, but still, the charity should not ask for something it doesn't want, and should be specific if there are limits on what it can take, if for no other reason but to build good will with a potential donor who may want to give cash next time.

                        I am curious if you explain to potential donors UP FRONT (before they offer you goods) why you can't take goods, only the money? and what is the reason? I personally don't understand why the fact that you deal with the military means that you must be 'fair' in what you give, so I have to say if I were considering a donation, your explanation, unless it is more detailed than you give here, would leave me confused. I am assuming that your description that you are a charity is accurate (and that you are not actually part of the government, which indeed must be 'fair' in treatment of military members). Indeed, your example imposes a bit of a judgment as to what would be 'fair': to someone who is cold but can't afford dry cleaning, a sweatshirt might be a more practical alternative than cashmere. But that's another story. For that matter, is your charity *really* able to serve every single member of the military?)

                        I used to work in the non-profit world. If there was a reason we couldn't accept something (say, for example, local laws prohibited us accepting leftover food) that would be very well explained. If we couldn't use something, we'd carefully explain why but give at least three other suggested charities that we thought could use it. If we weren't sure, we took the goods and tried to find a good use for them. In terms of good will, it seems that telling people you need filing cabinets, but then won't take them...well: that particular charity lost a real opportunity to turn a one-time donor into someone they could build a long-term relationship with: a relationship they are going to want when Hunt wins the lottery. (:-)) Just saying.

                  2. re: Bill Hunt

                    The food pantry where I work doesn't seem to refuse any donation of any sort, unless it is for stuff it never accepts, like old clothes. I suppose this is to avoid bad feelings like you experienced. Quite often on my workdays, I encounter extra office furniture or other stuff that I assume will ultimately be redonated somewhere else. Even when people donate expired foodstuffs, the food is accepted, but not given out to clients. Policies for acceptance of items are set at the top. There is a reason for refusing, and you might not agree with it, but it might be valid for that particular charity. However, the charity isn't garnering goodwill for itself.

                    On one time volunteering, most food pantries and other charities are closed on major holidays. A soup kitchen probably will be open, and I imagine they have regular volunteers that don't have to be trained, and who show up dependably. Also, remember that charities are probably screening their volunteers these days. Things are different than they used to be.

                    If there is a food charity in your area that has a good reputation, I recommend finding out what sort of donations they can use, and donating that. There will be a drought of donations from now on until later in the year. A donation in February would be most welcome.

                  3. re: jhopp217

                    Why were you turned off? Too many untrained volunteers can actually turn into much more of a headache than a helpfor any organization, particularly if the volunteers don't have any intentions of returning.

                    1. re: LeoLioness

                      That's true.

                      I worked at a large shelter as Director of Operations years ago. We had many volunteers who were ordered by the court for community service. We had to screen and train them all.

                      I can also say that I wrote notes to every single person that donated money to our program. It's the finest way to show appreciation. And I know I made my grandmama proud with each one.

                      We had wish lists that we sent out in our newsletters. That's a great way to find out what's needed most. New underwear was always on the list.

                      1. re: LeoLioness

                        No Volunteer Resource Mgr. involved? I was one for 15 years.

                        1. re: HillJ

                          Training people takes time, and it's not often worth that time when a.) there are already trained volunteers available and b.) the trainee has not made a committment to any further volunteering. It is entirely possible for there to be too many volunteers at an event. When that happens, you then have to focus on them doing their jobs, which can take away from the task at hand.

                          It's great that people want to donate time, but it's understandable that regular/already trained volunteers would be preferable to those who need training and who don't plan on coming back after the holidays.

                          1. re: LeoLioness

                            Thankfully not all organization feel that way about new recruits and have the VRM leaders to handle incoming volunteers planned well in advance of higher need/events. All trained volunteers start at the beginning. I've seen how comfortable orgs. get with that and then limit who can join up. You're sometimes saying good bye to funders when you say no thank you to time givers. They are often one and the same person. I recognize the dilemma well but every charity has it own way of doing things. Thankfully not all orgs. would take your tact about training. You know food pantries come in all sizes. The one here in NJ rotates volunteers of diff training levels and counts on them to recruit community partners and collection events. Without the pay it forward attitude that comes from opening the doors to new sources, county and corporate funding alone would never cover the need. Easy? No. NP's are never easy. A volunteers point of view about the experience can be very diff than what the staff sees.

                            1. re: HillJ

                              Uh, okay? I still think it's weird to be so oversensitive that you would get upset if you are told your one-day offer of service can't be accommodated, that was my point. It makes me wonder if the donation of time was for the cause or for more self-serving purposes.

                              1. re: LeoLioness

                                LeoL, it sounds like you've seen your share of volunteer support that works and doesn't. That's cool. I've also worked closely with volunteer teams and networks for fifteen years. Attended my fair share of national conferences, etc. I would never place a volunteer offer on hold or turn a volunteer offer away-I'd opt for a more suitable fit perhaps but that's just my VRM hat. I respect your perspective, LL.

                                1. re: HillJ

                                  In my current position, there is too much training and background checking involved to accommodate people who want to work for one day on the fly.

                                  I've only been in the volunteer/volunteer management arena for 12 years, so perhaps the next three will make me change my tune.

                                  1. re: LeoLioness

                                    Ha! Aren't credentials fun. We still run checks and file them. We train and retrain quarterly. Much continued support to your site, LL.

                    2. You rock. Great little story and nice that they took the time to respond.

                      1. Just bumping this up to remind all to pay it forward.