Monday, October 23, 2006

Pondering Begging

I think fundraising has sunk to, descended to, fallen to creative begging. People seem to want you to donate funds to their causes by doing nothing to provide even a semblance of earning the money.

What prompts this pondering is the practice of having gangs of beggars swarm around cars at busy intersections. Now these folk claim to be raising funds for various youth groups, churches, cheerleaders, bands, etc.; some have on roadworker vests; some have white shirts and ties; some hand out leaflets; some hand out candy. All of them have buckets with slots in the lids and they shake them at stopped cars, dodging in and out of stopped traffic in a weird dance to collect funds. I put up the windows and lock the doors.

There is no opportunity to engage them face to face in any kind of dialogue. It's take the money and run. Now, the VFW and KoC also beg, but they are outside stores and don't shake buckets at you. They are there in person to talk with anyone curious enough to ask about their programs.

But this new process of collecting from those stopped in traffic I find repulsive. What are the kids supposed to think? All we have to do is to go out into traffic, shake buckets at drivers, and get the money we need for our cause? It's not a lesson these adult leaders need to teach. How about having them earn their way to camp, or band uniforms, or the state finals?

At the great risk of causing much moaning and groaning among my younger reader(s), in my day, in times past, we raised money by selling something, or providing a service. How about a carwash? I said I wasn't much of a joiner anymore, but years ago I was heavily involved in church youth groups, scouting YMCA, ball teams. We put on breakfasts, and got the food donated, and helped cook it. We washed cars, sold peanuts door to door, had bake sales, and auctioned off our time to bidders who put us to work for a day. We raised money and didn't beg for it.

One year I was a student intern at a UCC church in Reading, PA. Student interns always got the youth group to lead. We planned some activities that would take money to accomplish. One suggestion from the kids was that we have a No-Bake bake sale. I was so naive. What is that, I asked? You just ask those in the congregation to donate whatever they would spend on ingredients for baking goods for the sale to us. Then they don't have to bake, and we don't have to man tables selling the stuff. I said that sounds like begging. We did it last year, they replied. Not this year, I said. We got people to bake; we did a little publicity; we staffed the tables with kids; and made more than twice what they made begging. The kids also got to meet a lot of church members they otherwise never would have. The church members got to see their youth working and not begging. Working for money works.

Some final ponderings: I guess these corner beggars have learned a few things from the homeless that used to frequent the same intersections. Where have the homeless gone? I used to see the same guy several times a month at the same intersection. I never locked my doors when I saw him. Did the bucket shakers run him off, or scare him or crowd him out? Maybe he got a bucket and joined them.

BRB is Write


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