Friday, February 8, 2008

Donor thank you's from small agencies

A recent exchange on an old post leads me to move some comments from the comment section to a main post. A pantry donor who held a food drive for a local food pantry was very disappointed that they did not receive a thank you for a donation of apprx. 1700 cans of food delivered between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Further, because of their donation, the commenter didn't believe there was a food shortage in Dec. The response from the director of the pantry, I believe, is a worthwhile read for all of us to shed some light on what it is like to manage a small food assistance facility. In the interest of promoting understanding, I'm posting her response here.
Dear Anonymous,

I am very sorry that you didn't have a good donating experience. I am also very sorry you feel that I have not been truthful. To help you understand my point of view, I want to tell you about what it’s like to run a Food Pantry of this size. Although I’m very busy, your comments were rather hurtful and I feel it important to tell you the real facts.

Starting in July we went from receiving 8,000lbs. of food per month from the Greater Chicago Food Depository (our area food bank) to receiving 2,000lbs. In addition to receiving the 8,000lbs of food, I would still purchase an additional 8,000lbs per month. Although hard to believe, that is the truth. In addition to the dramatic decrease in food, we have had a dramatic increase in clients. There have been almost 100 new families each month. It may surprise you to learn that 1,700 cans of food lasts only about two days around here. Not to mention that November and December are insanely busy months. So busy that nothing else other than taking in donations and serving people gets done. Unfortunately, those two months are really the only months anyone even thinks of our Food Pantry. The other ten months of the year we are forgotten. We are very grateful that people think of us in those two months, but people need to eat year round. Not just in November and December.

Regarding your wish for a thank you letter: Thank you’s are very important to us, but our priority must be to serve our clients even when we are short-staffed. Right now I am behind in a lot of work. I still haven’t been able to send Thank You cards for everything. We are missing a valuable staff member and I have temporary help to train and watch over. Last month, I also had to re-certify 500 seniors on our Catholic Charity program. I can go on and on. I am one person doing an immense amount of work. Perhaps these details can help you understand what it is like at a local food pantry. It would be nice to have a donor-relations staff to take care of thank you letters, but we’re small and that’s not in our means. I am truly sorry if I have been unable to send a Thank you note yet. My advice to you is to be patient and perhaps ask yourself a question as well: Did you give because you wanted to truly help people or did you give because you wanted a feel good experience? If you have given from your heart, and wanted to make sure that hungry people had food to put in their stomachs, then feel comfortable in the knowledge that you succeeded.

I work so hard to make sure that people who need this Food Pantry get the best food possible as well as items to meet other basic needs. Their needs go far beyond needing food. Some of these people can’t even afford toothpaste or soap. There are Mothers who come in asking for formula for their infant baby. In November and December I ordered festive bags and made each household a lovely bag of food with all the stuff they would need in order to have a holiday meal. They also received a 12-14lb turkey. If it wasn’t for us most of these people would not be able to have a holiday meal literally. At this time in addition to all the work that I have to do, I am installing software that will help generate Thank you notes. You may not have received a Thank you note by mail, but EVERY single person that’s donates to this Food Pantry receives an official Thank You card at the time of donation. No matter if they donate one small bag of food or a car full. This card has the Township stamp on it with a thank you from the Supervisor and the Board of Trustees. This Thank You card also is a tax receipt for your donation. You may not have received a Thank You letter by mail, but someone in your organization did did receive an official Thank You Card when your items were dropped off.

I hope this helps your understanding of the situation and that you and your group continue to give generously to organizations that help people at-risk for hunger.

Thank you,
Cynthia A. Carranza
Director of the Niles Township Food Depository

House Concert last night...yay!

Our neighborhood house concert to benefit the Niles Township Food Pantry was last night. It was a great deal of fun and I highly suggest this as a fundraiser, awareness builder and all around good time! We had tremendous hosts and a great group of people. Justin Roth was our talent for the evening. A brilliant musician, a generous person, and someone who just couldn't be a nicer guy all around. Here is where you can find his music, by the way:

He generously went 50/50 with us on his usual fee which allowed us to raise about $200 for the pantry in addition to the mound of food taking over my guest room that people dropped off throughout the week. It was a small affair due to weather and illness, but many donations were sent in beforehand and the intimate group was very fun. My favorite part of the evening (besides drinking with friends, seeing a favorite musician live and up close, etc) was passing out a thank you note with food pantry facts on it and hearing people in conversation groups saying things like "Oh my God...I had no idea!" Here are the facts:

• In July ‘07, support from the Greater Chicago Food Depository went from 8,000# of food per month to 2,000# due to a huge reduction in federal aid.
• NTFP supports about 900 households (1600 individuals)
• There were almost 100 new families per month in the latter part of 2007
• 1,500 cans of food only lasts about two days
• The vast majority of community support comes in the Nov and Dec. Donations in the other 10 months are almost non-existent.
• NTFP supports people in Niles, Skokie, Morton Grove, Glenview and Lincolnwood.
• The pantry is located at 5255 Main Street in Skokie.

Thank you to everyone who participated and donated!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Bono and Al Gore: World Economic Forum Annual mtg

It is my pleasure to provide this link since I feel poverty and environmental sustainability are pretty much the same issue. Here are Bono and Gore, the Big Dudes of each of the issues, in a joint interview. It's awesome to see them presenting together! These two have seen the importance of working together to save the planet. They speak about the fact that the brunt of the climate crisis is going to be felt by the developing world and all the good work will be undone if we don't focus on sustainability, too.

Notable moments from the interview...
Good news about poverty from Bono:
-29 million more children in Africa going to school due to debt cancellation
-2 million Africans on AIDS drugs due to the work the recent administration in Washington
-46 million bednets distributed
Bad news:
- MDG's look like they are not going to happen
- Commitments made by the G8 summit to fight poverty in 2005 will not happen

Best quips:
Gore: "I've recently begun to fear I may be losing my objectivity on Bush and Cheney"
Bono: "Father Al, I am not just a noise polluter, I am a noise-polluting, diesel-sucking, ethane-emitting, gulf stream-flying rock star"

Half the Sky update on China weather crisis

From Jenny Bowen, exec director of Half the Sky:
"You are phenomenal!

I feel so honored to be a part of what has become a worldwide effort to help the children through this terrible time. We have not had a chance to put a number on your commitment to the children but it’s already far beyond what I imagined just a few days ago when I told you what we had learned about their plight. You are proving beyond doubt that the world cares about China’s orphans.
The weather gave us all a bit of respite today. Together with our friends at the Ministry of Civil Affairs, we’ve been talking to the institutions in the hardest hit areas and have posted a longer list of needs on our website at ttp:// The list is too long to email now. Many of you have asked, so I’ve begun also posting anticipated costs for the relief effort at each site, as we begin to get estimates."

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Altantic Monthly article about Poverty in China

Since I plugged Half the Sky, it's fitting I do an entry about poverty in China. In the current Atlantic Monthly, there's a detailed article about why much of China lives in poverty...with some disturbing correlations with rich American lifestyle. In a possibly oversimplified summary: China has a ton of money in their national savings...but the public never sees it in infrastructure or care of the population. To keep national growth from running away uncontrollably, they invest their savings largely US Treasury notes. Here is the article:

...and here are some interesting quotes:
"Chinese leaders have deliberately held down living standards for their own people and propped them up in the United States. This is the real meaning of the vast trade surplus—$1.4 trillion and counting, going up by about $1 billion per day—that the Chinese government has mostly parked in U.S. Treasury notes. In effect, every person in the (rich) United States has over the past 10 years or so borrowed about $4,000 from someone in the (poor) People’s Republic of China. "

"Some Chinese people are rich, but China as a whole is unbelievably short on many of the things that qualify countries as fully developed. Shanghai has about the same climate as Washington, D.C.—and its public schools have no heating. (Go to a classroom when it’s cold, and you’ll see 40 children, all in their winter jackets, their breath forming clouds in the air.) "

"Better schools, more-abundant parks, better health care, cleaner air and water, better sewers in the cities—you name it, and if it isn’t in some way connected to the factory-export economy, China hasn’t got it, or not enough. ...The average cash income for workers in a big factory is about $160 per month. On the farm, it’s a small fraction of that. Most people in China feel they are moving up, but from a very low starting point."