Home > Rethinking Charity

Rethinking Charity

February 26th, 2009 at 09:03 pm

I watched Oprah last night - did a segment on our city - homelessness, etc. Mostly focused on California - talked about foreclosures as well, etc.

I do know a lot of people losing their homes and such, but as far as I know, none are homeless because of it. So it was eye opening. (Most of the homeless people interviewed said their family/friends didn't know).

That being said - for those who have lost their homes or are on the verge - it is obviously no walk in the park. I bristle at the comments that it's unfair if these people get help and we shouldn't pay our mortgages either.

Anyway, I have a reasonable mortgage and equity. Clearly I have nothing to complain about and clearly I don't regret paying it down. We are in such a good spot. What is their to be jealous or bitter about???

I am certainly skeptical of taxpayer's dollars to help. I think it is just prolonging the inevitable - but that is a whole other thing.

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Another part of the program was super disturbing though. Many foreclosed homes left filled to the brim with stuff. Nice stuff. & it's all going straight to the landfills:

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There was just something so disturbing about that part. All these people left homeless and penniless. & yet houses full of computers, new furniture, and big screen TVs, it all being hauled to the DUMP! This is the legacy we leave from the last few years? A huge pile in the landfill? Is there really nothing else we can do with this stuff??? Ugh!


Anyway, it was very powerful.

My stance on charity is I would do anything to help relatives. I'd help a friend if I can. We don't give a lot to charity because, I have said before, I am not a fan of "organizations." I'd rather help someone I know who needs it.

I also prefer to give time over money. It's more rewarding and I think often, time is more needed.

That being said, my last few posts were about how well things are going. Yes, I would rather get on our feet more before we dedicated any large sum to charity. Certainly *us* first. If we're fine, and our nuclear family is fine, I am happy to give to the community and such.

So, I Am considering donating my stimulus money this year, and our meager interest earnings, to charity this year. Homeless shelter/food banks. We can easily commit $40/month without compromising ourselves at all. I will also consider a larger 4-figure sum at the end of the year - once I make sure our cars make it through the year and we don't have any large medical bills, etc. But with the economy where it is at and so many people around here in so much need, it's a small thing but it's more than we have been doing.

I mentioned I often volunteer time, but that has been by the wayside since having children. Dh volunteers many hours and since he does not work, that seems fair enough. I largely stopped volunteering when I was miserable sick during pregnancy. I considered it a success when I got dh to volunteer so much time (he never volunteered before that point).

I am considering making volunteer work a top priority in the non tax-season. I don't want to get into it right now - I just don't have the time. But it was something I was probably going to put off a few more years, until I could do more *with* the kids. I have had a bit of a change of heart now.

Then again, I am not as convinced time is as needed, with so many people out of work. But something to look into.

Nothing spectacular, but I am definitely going to make charity more of a priority this year.

If I was single, I would also consider helping someone with a place to stay temporarily. They did a segment on Oprah about that as well. I think it was more people with homes, struggling, taking in other people to help them out. I would gladly give someone a cheap place to stay until they could get back on their feet - we have plenty of room. But dh would NEVER go for it. $40/month will be hard to talk him into! But just other ideas to consider. It's hard to enjoy a large house knowing so many people out there are homeless. *sigh*

I still haven't ruled out that we may end up helping a relative or 2. A couple of them might end up needing it. So, you know. It might not be the worst to leave our extra space open for them. Who knows what will happen.

5 Responses to “Rethinking Charity”

  1. disneysteve Says:

    I think both time and money are needed by most charities, sometimes one more, sometimes the other. It is important to know which they are most in need of.

    For example, we contribute a fair amount of money and volunteer a lot of our time to our synagogue. Being involved as we are, we know a lot about the financial situation of the organization. The past year has been very difficult. With numerous congregants having financial difficulties, donations have dropped off significantly. While we have plenty of people willing to volunteer their time, that doesn't help pay the mortgage, the electric bill, the grounds crew, the staff salaries, the insurance premiums, etc. So while volunteers are always welcome, without adequate money, we can't function.

  2. frugaltexan75 Says:

    I don't remember where I saw this now, but I read somewhere about a group where people donate their time to help someone find a job. Then when that person finds a job, they are supposed to donate their time to help someone else find a job.

    So, maybe you could do something similar. Find someone who needs a job, then work with them to find a job - with the caveat that once they find a job, they need to help someone else.

    All that stuff in the houses - why didn't they Craigslist it or Ebay it? Was there any mention of estate sales? Isn't that what they usually do to farms when they go in foreclosure - have a farm sale? Shouldn't it be similar for normal households?

  3. whitestripe Says:

    yeah i was thinking the same thing, if these people are homeless, why wouldnt they sell all the stuff in their house first? it might give them some extra money.

    im not against charities at all, but if you have relatives that need help i would probably do that first.

  4. Analise Says:

    I'm with you on making charitable donations a priority, especially given the current need. Retirement has made it possible for me to donate time in addition to funds, something that was not possible when I worked. We would definitely help family or friends if they needed help due to a genuine emergency.

    I'm trying to understand how people could just walk away and leave their possessions behind, without even making an attempt to deal with it. Giving belongings away could be accomplished by calling Goodwill... they will come to your home to collect items. Selling a TV for even $5 or $10 could generate some cash that is obviously needed. Even calling neighbors and telling them to come help themselves is better than just leaving it. The thought of all this going to landfills is distressing.

  5. monkeymama Says:

    Good point Steve - it seemed in the boom cash was flush and time was really needed. We seem to be in a place where that has reversed a bit. The cash has become more valuable. Maybe both.

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