In 1970 I was serving in the U. S. Army; stationed at Ft. Riley Kansas. About that time the United Community Funds and Council of America was renamed United Way of America. While in company mass formation, we received a sales pitch to designate an automatic payroll deduction to that charitable organization. Some of us declined. There were perhaps five of us in that category. Later, those of us who had declined were called into the Day Room to discuss it further. A lieutenant I was unfamiliar with explained that the brass felt it important, a point of pride if you will, that our company be a 100% unit.

While the details of this incident elude me, we did have exposure to a list of the charities involved and understood plainly that United Way was an umbrella organization; and therein lies the rub. In our discussion of the issue, coercion and pressure was suspected and alluded to.

I pointed out to the lieutenant that, while I was willing to support some of the charities on the list, I objected to others for various reasons; some simply on moral grounds; including that some worked directly against my own political beliefs or economic best interests.

I said it was like asking me to stab myself in the back.

How much this incident and my refusal to sign on the dotted line played a role in the subsequent downhill slide of my military career I cannot say, but since that time I have heard stories about corporate or workplace pressure being applied in pursuit of donations to the United Way.

Charity is Big Business. It is a major portion of the overall economy. Church, Charity, and all the so-called Non-Profit Organizations are, from time to time, rocked by scandal. On an individual level, some employment positions within these organizations are very well paid, and sometimes even hereditary; practically belying the meaning of non-profit.

The money actually put to use for the purpose intended is often only a small percentage of the overall operational budget; dependent upon the particular organization.

Charity is good, but let’s not make a career out of it.

Some charities are driven by greed, some by guilt, and still others by wishful thinking. After all is said and done: they never will find a cure for death.

My objection to donating to the United Way campaign is the same basic argument against bundled cable television programs. Know and know well that I have never owned a television; nor will I ever. But for those who do: while you may think you’re paying for Sesame Street (on cable) you are in fact subsidizing RuPaul.

I suppose it is some kind of rule in life: in order to give one must first get. Charity is the practice of the rich. It was never in my nature to be a Capitalist. I did all my charity work from my youth along the way. That is why I have nothing to give now. If I had a nickel for every fool I’ve ever met… and capitalized on it… then perhaps I’d be in a much better position to give charitably now.

And speaking of nickels: I got one the other day, along with some personalized return address labels with my name printed on them. These were bundled in a solicitation from a charity. It is strangely ironic to receive a nickel from “The March of Dimes”. I called them on the telephone to ask that my name be removed from their mailing list. They have yet to comply with my request. My motive for doing so is pure: since I can’t afford to support them, at very least I can save them the cost of the mailing, printing the useless labels, and, of course, the included nickel. They ignored my request to stop sending me this nickel of guilt (or what ever they call it) so I tossed out the first few for some future garbologist to find; but today I just decided to keep it.

I did some On Line research to see if there was a central clearinghouse or other contact I could use to have my name removed from the mailing lists of these charities. There may be some but they are hardly all inclusive. (See: BBB, DMA) They basically ignore you. It’s more about them than it is about the people they purportedly help.

Far too many veterans’ charities fail even the BBBs’ (Better Business Bureau) sniff test.

I find it most irritating to be nagged by these overpaid professional beggars. On the street there is what police call aggressive pan-handling. A subtle mugging if you will. A hairy, dirty, wild-eyed and smelly stranger who just won’t take “no” for an answer. The threat is implied.

I have given (what little I could) to, and have even considered tithing to, The Milwaukee Rescue Mission. (MRM) My sympathy (empathy) lies with homeless, unemployed men; call me selfish, if you will. These Christian workers deal, on a daily basis, with people most folks wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole; or would even cross the street to avoid.

Charity begins at home. I make no other recommendations. Not for cancer, not for veteran’s, not for a church, (especially not for televangelists), and, obviously, not for The United Way.

About The Twentieth Man

Age 69
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