To the Editor:
This holiday season (Christmas) you should consider being a help and not a hindrance with your charitable handout. I would like to think that the faithful would not fall prey to the fraudulent at this festive time of year. Not only children have Christmas wish lists, but so do criminals.
I have worked in the area of urban youth ministry for 18 years through the vehicle of the Jesus Party and have seen my fair share of sad stories. I am not comfortable with just tossing gifts out the front door of our ministry to every Tom, Dick, and Harry that shows up looking for holiday assistance. I always take into consideration the generosity of the giver, and I go to great lengths to protect the integrity of the donation.
These are hard times for the giver, as well as the receiver, and I want to do everything I can to assure people that their giving becomes a blessing and not a blunder. There are people who go from church to church and organization to organization registering for help. I have been in homes that have received more turkeys than they have room for in their freezer. I have watched people snatch up clothes for their children without even looking at sizes to assure they fit, only to find the clothes in the trash.
I have heard of people trading donated gifts and food boxes for cigarettes and beer. I have watched donated food go by the wayside because the people receiving the food did not have the ability to prepare it or did not have interest in it. I have found in some cases it would be more useful and appreciative to drop off a box of frozen pizzas, potato chips, ice cream and a case of soda pop then to give someone who does not how to cook ingredients like flour, sugar, eggs and pie filling and tell them to do something with it.
People should also consider a few things when giving gifts to the poor, like battery-operated toys for which poor people cannot afford to replace the batteries: those toys are short lived. In the beginning of my ministry, I would buy up all kinds of discounted knock-off toys, such as Barbie-like dolls, to pass out to the neighborhood children only for the hair to fall out or the left leg to fall off before New Year’s day. In this case, quality sure does beat quaintly.
A great deal of thought should go into our purchases; for example a bicycle is not the ideal gift for a kid that lives on the fifth floor downtown—and if you do plan on buying one, get a lock to go with it. People work hard for a living, and some people make a decision to skim from their prosperity to be charitable. It would be intolerable for their giving to be swallowed up in greed or a misuse of funds.
The local Salvation Army does a wonderful job at checking with other organizations in town to make sure that they are assisting people who are not being taken on by other agencies. I would suggest that rather than stuffing a few bucks in someone’s hand who is standing in traffic claiming to be unemployed for the holidays that you make a donation to a homeless mission or a soup kitchen.
I think it might be more effective to try to come out of your comfort zone and make your Christmas contribution personal by blessing someone in need by opening up your home and your resources to a needy family that you know or someone has told you about. Some bright lights, fun songs, good food and wholesome fellowship can go a long way at an affordable price.
Don’t be a fool, don’t be taken by fraud, be frugal and have yourself a fraudulent-free Christmas.
Rev. Doug Taylor
The Jesus Party