Monday, April 28, 2008


I have my first date with Kelly now that she's living nearby! Yaayyy!!! We meet at Cornerstone Coffeehouse this Thursday at 6:30. Sweet.

Then Friday is dinner & Hershey Symphony with Mom A.

Too bad in the 4 more work days between now and then, I have more to do than I know what to do with. Yuck. I think I'm in a better frame of mind than I was last week tho, so hopefully tomorrow I will continue to chip away at it and get a significant amount done.

Oh and also, I've almost finished the knot ugly shrug from Stitch n' Bitch: The Happy Hooker, a very wonderful crochet book. Mine is light blue. I've already sewn it together, and it fits! I just need to finish the borders. Next I am making the cowboy hat pattern from the same book, for which I will use the two HUGE skeins of white I have sitting around, altho I can only find the one skein at the moment, so I need to look for the other one. Check.

But anyway, I wanted to talk about donations. Here are the things that I would like to give my money to, in no order:
Trinity Lutheran Church
Camp Nawakwa in general
Camp Nawakwa Imagine campaign
Juniata College in general
Juniata College Concert Choir Hockley Endowment
American Cancer Society

Things I have given money to in the last year:
Trinity Lutheran Church
Camp Nawakwa in general
Juniata College in general
American Cancer Society

It's been probably about a year since I donated to WAMU, so hopefully next time WITF has its campaign in the fall I'll donate. WXPN I haven't been listening to as much, but it's basically the only radio station I listen to when WITF is playing classical music and I'm not in the mood for that. Plus I'd really like some stickers for my car. Is that a bad reason to donate? I seriously get 99% of my news from NPR, listen to podcasts, and basically do everything Kai Ryssdal, Scott Jagow, or Robert Siegel tell me to do. And I probably haven't bought a CD in the last year or more that wasn't endorsed in some way by WXPN. I feel like WXPN is an important way to support the arts, and NPR is the only news I can stand to listen to - television news broadcasts make me lose hope for humanity, and I'm too lazy to read a newspaper every day, so radio is what I've got. I just want to make a smallish yearly donation here so that I can listen every day and wear a sticker in my car window with pride, and no guilt that I'm not contributing to this important, independent, non-commercial, public source of news, arts, and general knowledge.

The American Cancer Society I feel like I'm at the level I want to be at. I help with various fund raisers throughout the year in a minor capacity, and raise maybe $80 each time, and usually contribute a bit of that myself. This is a huge charity that I feel is a very important cause because SO many people have cancer and/or have close friends or family with cancer, and it's rightly the focus of TONS of medical research and zillions of non-profit organizations. However, I don't feel like cancer research is under-funded at all, and so I rather suspect that we're moving towards a cure for cancer about as quickly as medical research can move at the moment, so I'm happy with the level to which I'm currently involved in this area. I think there are a whole lot of people, including a few I know (Sis & Mom A, Aunt Patty & sons), who do an amazing job raising a lot of money for cancer research, and I feel like my role giving some support to those people is the right role for me, and the right amount of giving for me. If I'm able to increase my giving this year, I want it to be to Juniata and Nawakwa.

So here's my reasoning on increased giving to Juniata and Nawakwa, both of which are great places at which you can find a lot of upper-middle-class people and a handful of students/campers from more adverse backgrounds. Why do these mostly already well-off kids need money from me? Well, first of all, Juniata is actually a lot less rich than most small liberal arts colleges, despite its solid growth rate and success. It ranks low when you look at alumni giving versus tuition for where it gets its funding, and I think if that can change, then it will build up a more diverse student body. And no matter who the student body is, by helping Juniata give them the kind of education and amazing life experience I got there, I'm helping to create the cancer research doctors, intelligent politicians, and humanitarians of the future. So part of my belief in Juniata is my belief that a dollar donated to my alma mater might even do more over time than a dollar donated to another charity. Who knows! The possibilities seem endless.

My theory for Nawakwa is pretty similar, altho more close to home: obviously this camp in the woods has had a HUGE impact on my life; just witness who I'm married to, recent and near-future weddings I'm attending, and a healthy chunk of my closest friends. I think that experience is very important in growing strong kids, families, relationships, and helping people to realize what a great place Central Pennsylvania is. When I donate money to Nawakwa, I'm not just benefiting myself and my future kids, but also helping to grow the type of caring people who I want to live with here in PA for the rest of my life, and who will continue to make the world a better place long after I'm gone. So when I think about donating to organizations like Juniata and Nawakwa, I think of it as more of an investment fund that I'm hopeful will live up to the huge potential I know they have.

Of course I give time to these organizations as well, and that probably feels even better than giving money. Time is mainly what I give to Trinity Lutheran Church; I think I agreed to be on the arts committee in the fall, and hopefully in the fall I'll be able to start helping with the Youth Group a bit, so I think with a little in the offering plate here and there and buying tickets to fund raiser events for various groups I'm pretty comfortable with my giving level there, too. I plan to be involved at Trinity for the rest of my life, and I plan to raise my kids there, so I feel like I have a pretty huge investment already.

With all of that on my plate, I think that's about as much charitable giving as I can handle. I have thought a lot about it, and I think it's more effective for me to give as much as possible (time and money) to a limited number of organizations than to try to give a few dollars to every fund that knocks at my door. It's not that I think my chosen organizations are better than the millions of others out there; it's just that I think in order to be the most effective, I do need to pick a few and stick to them. When it comes to areas I'd like to increase, I think I want to focus on Juniata (increase monetary giving), Nawakwa (increase monetary giving & volunteerism), and Trinity (increase volunteerism), for their potential social capital and ongoing, long-term future benefit I see in them, both for Central Pennsylvania and beyond.

Paul is about to register for his first HACC class on his way to getting his Bachelor's degree, and that will be the other vastly important area of investment for us. We would REALLY love to buy a house soon, but whether that will be next year or in a few depends on how Paul ends up taking his classes - more spread out or more quickly - and how our financial situation looks once he's settled into a course of action. It also depends on the housing market...if the economy starts speeding up again, we might be tempted into grabbing a house before all the interest rates go back up. We'll see. I see all these decisions as an investment in Central Pennsylvania, since we plan to live here for the rest of our lives. With any luck, we'll influence our community in positive ways.

Notice I have no desire to donate to any political campaigns. While I might eventually like to run for local office, I'm way to disillusioned with the current system to feel like my money is going to any sort of good use by donating to a politician. First things need to change with votes and letter-writing. And the influence of public media like NPR, I hope. And the continued flow of well-educated liberal-arts college students into the system, also helping to change the system.

So anyway, basically I'm feeling pretty hopeful in general. What do you think? Am I too hopeful? Too idealistic? Or fairly reasonable? What organizations do you give your time and money to, and why?