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Hero of the Week Award: November 2, First Responders

2 Nov

Hero of the Week

Amidst the horrific devastation that Hurricane Sandy wrought in the Northeastern U.S., thousands of men and women are quiet heroes. “Just doing their jobs,” these first responders and supporting personnel help to make sense of the chaos. They work hard to minimize the impact of the storm on the lives of millions. Fire fighters, EMTs, police, and others band together, efficiently doing the work they have trained to do.

Natural disasters bring untold consequences. The wind damage and flooding that are obvious blend with fires, power outages, injuries, separated families, and a host of other problems. First responders rush into the bedlam, often risking their own health and safety, to make things better for everyone. They deserve our thanks and praise.

In light of the coming election, it is worth noting two things that should be evident but are often overlooked. Almost without exception, these are government jobs. They are paid for by our taxes and are a perfect example of why individual investment in systems that serve everyone are so important. Local governments alone cannot cope on this scale, so having well-funded, organized state and federal systems in place is also critical. Michael Brown, infamous failed FEMA director under George W. can whine all he wants about the “too speedy” response of the Obama administration. It was, in fact, a perfect example of how governments at all levels should work together to make the best of a bad situation.

It is also worth noting that most of these first responders have union organized workplaces. The fact that they are well trained, well equipped, provided with guidelines for work hours and safety, and paid something remotely close to the value of their work arises from that simple fact. The Scott Walkers of the world can complain all they want about the evils of public unions. All those served by these brave people should strenuously object, wondering what their fates might have been in an underfunded response model. Elections have consequences, and what Sandy could have done is a good illustration of where  some politicians want to take this country.

Thanks again to the heroes who serve quietly and powerfully. Your dedication, commitment, and service are shining examples of our nation at its finest.

Honorable mention this week goes to Bob Crowder, a long-time Florida Republican. Crowder, sick of the loony Tea-stained fringe that has taken over his party, mounted a primary challenge to Rep. Allen West, one of the worst of the bunch. (Now THAT takes some doing!) Crowder lost his bid to unseat West in the primaries. This week, he did something remarkable and powerful: he endorsed the Democrat, Patrick Murphy. Murphy would be a great Congressman, and taking down West would be icing on the cake. Crowder, who is the sheriff of Martin County, sums up his view nicely.

As a Republican for over 30 years, I’m embarrassed by the radical fringe that has taken over the party. Sadly, Allen West is their poster child, and the hateful, divisive comments he’s made throughout this campaign make it clear to me he’s the wrong choice for our district.

Thank you, Sheriff Crowder, for standing up for the best candidate and putting the needs of your fellow Floridians ahead of mere partisanship.

Wednesday Word of the Week: March 30

30 Mar

Repair The World

This week’s word is: CHARITY.

public provision for the relief of the needy – Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary

In the wake of a tragedy like the Japanese tsunami, the interests of the American people turn to charity. Seeing horrors on that scale summons up a strong desire to help, to provide some form of relief. It happened during the Haitian earthquake, the Indonesian tsunami, and hurricane Katrina as well, at least to some extent. It can be wonderful to see this instinct to provide aid manifest itself.

If you’re like me, you may want to help but be unsure of the best way to make your contribution. With each disaster, a new flurry of websites, tweets, Facebook pages, and text-your-dollars options materialize. How can you know how that money will be spent? The best option for those inclined to give is to participate in a community of giving. Find a place that meets your goals and values and channel your contributions through that resource.

There are many ways to donate and contribute. A wise donor will plan in advance rather than waiting for a crisis. Knowing your options before-hand will prepare you to contribute in the most beneficial way when the time comes. When looking for an organization to serve as your charitable partner, there are a number of things to consider.

  1. Why do you give? If you have specific causes that you support, you should direct your giving accordingly. If you have a more general sense of charity and want a trusted partner to push your money in the right direction, totally different organizations will be appropriate. For most people, a mix of the two might make the most sense.
  2. What is your capacity for giving? Budgeting may not be fun, but it is very important. Have a sense of how much money you can give over the course of a year and develop a donation strategy that fits. This will help keep you from overextending yourself, force you to focus on the giving that is most important to you, and allow you to politely turn down solicitation calls. If an organization that appeals to you is not in your plan, you can always adjust or collect their information for another giving year.
  3. Who can support your intent to give? There are thousands of charitable organizations of all sizes, missions, and services. Finding the best match for your goals can be daunting. Do some research to find the best partner for your giving. Charity Navigator is a great resource for getting information. Your workplace may also have giving and matching programs; talk to your human resources officer. Your local library should be able to assist you as well.
  4. How much of your donation goes to your intended causes? No organization can give 100% of donations to the causes it supports. Running a strong charity requires staff, facilities, and fundraising; all of this costs money. From my quick research, any organization that returns 85% – 90% to the cause you support is doing well. You should also be aware of the status of your charitable partner. If it is not a certified not-for-profit organization, the 10% that doesn’t go to the cause may just be lining someone’s pocket.
  5. How do the values of your charitable partner align with yours? This is very important and not always apparent. Many charities are associated with religious organizations or other groups which may not share your values regardless of how well their official cause matches your donor intent. A great example is the Salvation Army. Although the work they do is valuable, they are virulently anti-equality toward the LGBT community. The United Way, for example, is much more open and supportive. That makes a difference to me in who will get my donations.

The best advice from most experts – both financial planners and charitable organizations – is to donate a comfortable amount regularly rather than make sporadic, responsive donations. This gives your charitable partner cash-on-hand to respond immediately to a disaster rather than waiting for money to flow in. Most reputable charities will have a way to donate additional money to a specific cause as needed. (The Red Cross is a great example.) Increasing your contribution to a trusted partner is a better option than impulsively clicking on any donation link that you might see. Sadly, many miscreants exist who would love to reroute your donations to their own pockets.

COMPASSION

sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress with a desire to alleviate it – Merriam Webster’s Online Dictionary

Compassion is a wonderful human trait. When we respond emotionally to a crisis, however, it is worth stepping back and being sure that our giving has value.

  • There is always need. Find ways to give regularly to important causes.
  • When a disaster strikes, give in a smart, informed way.

Remember, too, that you can give in ways that don’t cost money. Give of your time and energy as well. Tikkun olam: Repair the world. Each of us should do what we can to make this a better world for everyone.

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