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Charity begins with a free gift

Editorial

I’ll never understand the art of fundraising or the skill of some individuals to successfully solicit donations. Take the many non-profit organizations that give you something for a specified donation amount—like a public T.V. station giving you a gift of a Michael Bernard Beckwith motivational DVD for your money pledge.

Many years ago I donated a few dollars to a small, Catholic school in New Mexico. It was doing God’s work by helping provide an education and moral training to young Native American members of the church. I was happy to mail a check for a few dollars to show my support. I hoped my few bucks would at least cover the costs of the mailing appeal (targeted at me) with a little extra for the kids.

In the coming months I received more mailings from the school: Pens, notepads, calendars, lapel pins, plastic glow-in-the-dark crosses, prayer cards, personalized return address labels, and feathered medicine wheel wind chimes. Aside from the fact that all of this stuff was manufactured in China, not by the school children, I wondered why it was necessary to send me “free gifts” in the first place? Included with these free gifts were words of thanks and appeals to send more money.

Of course I have no problem sending the school a few dollars a few times a year to help with its good works, but now I have a top desk drawer at home stuffed with “free gifts.” I have been handing out Pueblo notepads and wind chimes to friends while I place the prayer cards and the plastic glow-in-the-dark crosses in a small basket at the entrance of a local church.

The local church, recognizing the same bounty of “free gifts” received by its parishioners donating to various church charities—yes, even my favorite Indian school—has a basket for churchgoers in which to clean out their desk drawers. In the little basket you’ll find unblessed rosaries, holy cards with pictures of saints, mini prayer books and yes, even a few of those plastic glow-in-the-dark crosses.

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