Why Checks Aren’t Cutting It

In answer to this Washington Post column, Sending More Than Just a Check, which notes that private volunteer efforts are getting in the way of professional rescue efforts, I have to say my sympathies are with the private folks volunteering — the ones who don’t want to write checks to big corporations.

Here’s why. Remember 9/11, when we all donated as much as we could to the Red Cross, expecting that the families suddenly left without heads of household, incomes, or any way to get by would be taken care of? Only to watch for weeks and then months as they got nothing from what we’d sent? I remember. Millions of dollars were sitting in the Red Cross accounts, donated by people across the country to help those people, and the Red Cross flatly let us all know that it did not earmark donations for any particular crisis, but put it into a pool to be used as it saw fit. The Red Cross does good work. I’m not saying that it doesn’t. And if you donated to the Red Cross, you did good.

The Red Cross didn’t help the people I was trying to help in a timely fashion, though, and I decided then that in future crises, I would find other ways to donate — ways that helped the people I intended to help.

I’ll donate to Habitat for Humanity — in fact, I took Nora up on her offer and did. I’ll donate my time critting manuscripts for people who can donate more money than I can. I’ll raise money for individuals whom I know were affected, and set up ways that they can receive that money directly. I have done or am doing all these things.

But write a check, and leave it in the hands of a corporation that spends almost 300 million dollars a year in administrative salaries and advertising to decide how to spend that check? No. I’ll go the private route, and know that what I donate goes straight to the people for whom it was intended.

I think my reaction is not isolated — I suspect that a lot of other people made the same decision I made following 9-11. I supect what we’re seeing now with private action to help victims is the result of that.

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About the author: Novelist, writing teacher, on a mission to reprint my out-of-print books and self-publish my new ones.

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