David Bruce: Charity Anecdotes

  • In August 2010, Aaron Simpson, age 18, from Oakham, England, survived a car accident that killed his girlfriend (Kelly Bulmer, age 17) and a friend (James Adamson, age 23). Paramedic Dylan Griffin, of the Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Rutland Air Ambulance, gave Aaron life-saving help. To show their appreciation to the Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Rutland Air Ambulance, Aaron, along with his family and friends, and Kelly’s family and friends, raised £1,600 to donate to the rescue service in Kelly’s memory. They also donated just over £1,000 to the British Heart Foundation. Aaron said, “It was really nice to meet Dylan. There are so many things I can’t remember, but my parents told me how he and the air ambulance crew helped to save my life.I realize if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be here now and wanted to meet him personally to say thank you.”Aaron suffered many injuries and was in Walsgrave Hospital, in Coventry, for two weeks. Dylan said, “I called the hospital the week after the accident to find out how he was doing, but it’s great to meet him in person.” Aaron’s mother, Karen, age 41, said, “We can’t thank the air ambulance service enough for helping to save Aaron’s life.I don’t think people realize the importance of it until they or one of their loved ones needs it.”Kelly’s father, Keith, age 62, said, “As soon as we understood nothing could be done for our daughter, all our thoughts and prayers were with Aaron.We wanted to do something, in memory of Kelly, to say thank you to for saving his life.”Sophie Stevens, fund-raising manager for the air ambulance, said, “We are extremely thankful to Aaron and Kelly’s families for supporting us at this very difficult time. Air ambulance staff are very pleased to see Aaron making such a good recovery but sad they couldn’t make a difference to save the lives of Kelly and James.”
  • Richard Semmler, who teaches calculus and algebra at Northern Virginia Community College, is dedicated to giving money to charity. In 2005, he reached approximately $770,000 in the total amount of charitable donations he has made since graduating from college, and he hoped to give $1 million to charity before he retired. He is able to donate so much money to charity by living simply and working additional part-time jobs so that he can give away half or more of his income. He said, “If I didn’t do all of the things I was doing, I would probably have a new car every two years and I would have a huge house with a huge pool. But I would not do it that way. I want to do it this way.” In 2004, Mr. Semmler made $100,000 and donated $60,000 to charity. His main employer is a beneficiary of his generosity; he has donated $355,000 to fund scholarships there. Another beneficiary of his generosity is his alma mater, Plattsburgh State University of New York, to which he has donated $200,000. Other beneficiaries of his generosity include various evangelical Christian organizations. He knows where his money goes. For example, he donated $100,000 for a Habitat for Humanity house that he helped build. He said, “Most of my dollars go to very specific projects, so I know what I’m funding. I want to see my dollars at work.” By the way, his generosity started with a $25 donation to his alma mater after he graduated in 1968. He said, “That’s the snowball that started rolling. As it did, it got bigger and bigger and bigger.”
  • On 9 November 2011 Andrew Tobias attended the 5thannual Stand Up for Heroes benefit. Among many, many attractions, veteran Andrew Kinard, who is legless and a student in Harvard’s joint MBA/JD program, spoke. Another attraction was Bruce Springsteen performing with the Max Weinberg Big Band. This was followed by an auction of Mr. Springsteen’s guitar. The bidding started at $10,000 and ended at $160,000—in part because of some extra added incentives to bid, including Mr. Springsteen’s harmonica and his shirt. When the bidding ended, Mr. Springsteen went into the audience and handed over the guitar, harmonica, and shirt to the winning bidder and thanked him for his generosity to a worthy cause. Despite all the cool things that happened, however, Mr. Tobias writes that “the coolest thing ever” was when the winning bidder gave away the guitar to the legless veteran, Andrew Kinard. (Mr. Tobias’ advice to Mr. Kinard is “to sell the guitar—he must feel zero guilt over selling it—and use the proceeds to help finance his bright future.”) By the way, the winning bidder kept Mr. Springsteen’s shirt—who wouldn’t?
  • Soprano Emma Eames was often asked to sing at benefits, and occasionally she got annoyed at society ladies who expected much for charity from her but little from themselves. She once made a proposal to some such society ladies who asked her to perform free at a benefit concert: “I will, on one condition. You are all wealthy ladies, far wealthier than I. Now, my usual [fee for singing] is £300. I will contribute that by singing, on condition that each of you will sign for the same amount.” The society ladies said that they would think about it, and they did not bother her again. Music critic Henry T. Finck, a friend to Ms. Eames, wrote in My Adventures in the Golden Age of Music, his autobiography, “The charity of society women too often resembles Mark Twain’s climbing of the Swiss mountains—by proxy.” Ms. Eames was an independent spirit who was not afraid of offending people. She once said to Mr. Finck’s wife, “I love to give parties for the pleasure of leaving out certain persons who want to come.”
  • James M. Barrie, the author of Peter Pan, was very generous in giving to charity. He often gave away copies of his original writings to charities so that they could be auctioned off to raise money.
  • Everyone has heard of CARE packages, but what does the acronym of the charity group stand for? It stands for the Cooperative for American Relief to Everywhere.
  • “If you haven’t any charity in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble.” — Bob Hope.
  • Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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David Bruce: Charity Anecdotes

• Chicago, Illinois, resident Carlo Garcia says, “One day this idea popped into my head: How hard would it be to give back to charity every day? What’s stopping us from doing that? Because I don’t make a whole lot of money, I had to look at my finances and see what areas of unnecessary spending I could cut.” He decided to do just that, recording his efforts on his blog titled Living Philanthropic. Putting his idea into action, he started making small changes to his life, such as not buying Starbucks coffee but instead drinking the free coffee at work so that he could donate to charity the money he used to spend on Starbucks coffee. And so, on December 22, 2010, Mr. Garcia had not bought Starbucks coffee for over 230 days. Each day, he donates amounts of money ranging from $5 to $200 to non-profit charities. He says, “You don’t have to be rich and famous to make a little bit of good.” Whenever Mr. Garcia makes a small donation to a charity, the readers of his blog often also make small donations to the same charity. These small donations add up. For example, Mr. Garcia once gave $10 to the charity Alex’s Lemonade Stand (which raises money for childhood cancer research); the followers of his blog donated an additional $567. One person who has been inspired by Mr. Garcia’s microphilanthropy is Julie Gosselin, a professor in Ottawa, Canada, who says, “It changed my outlook about charity and giving. It made me think of giving a little bit less but more regularly, and developing a life ethic about giving to others. It doesn’t have to happen around Christmastime; people need things all year long.” She adds, “We have to help each other. Me having a little bit less is far better than people having none.”

• In Buffalo, New York, Waldemar Kaminski ran a food stand in Broadway Market for over 50 years. He invested his money in the stock market, grew rich, and anonymously gave away millions of dollars. After his death in 2006, many recipients of his charity came forward. Anne Gioia, co-founder of the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation, a medical facility to which Mr. Kaminski gave many millions of dollars, said, “He didn’t want anyone to know him, but I just had to thank him. Now I think we should shout it from the rooftops.” Mr. Kaminski donated $1 million for an endowed chair in pediatrics for the facility; he also donated $1 million to build a two-acre park for the campus of the facility. Ms. Gioia said, “He felt that if you died a wealthy person, you had not lived a worthwhile life.” He gave to many other charities as well, and he also helped individual families with college tuition and with mortgage payments. One of his nieces, Marsha Kaminski, who lives in Oakland, CA, said, “It wasn’t a handout. He was supportive and helped them maintain their dignity. If they were helping themselves, he wanted to help, too.” She added, “He didn’t need the material things for happiness. He enjoyed just being with people and doing what he could for them.”

• Some charities send free gifts to people they hope will donate or will continue to donate money to them. (These are known as “guilt gifts.”) However, as you would expect, sometimes theses gifts backfire and get the recipients angry at the charity. An actress friend of Guardian columnist Michelle Hanson received a gift of slippers from a charity she supported. Angry, she sent the slippers back. When she received a letter asking if she had received the slippers, she grew angrier and sent the letter back. Then they sent her a gift of gloves. This didn’t help; after all, the actress had been hoping that the money she had given the charity would be spent on helping the needy, not on providing her with slippers and gloves that she didn’t want or need.

• Vinoba Bhave worked with Mahatma Gandhi to win independence for India, and after the assassination of Gandhi, he was regarded as Gandhi’s spiritual successor. He started the bhoodan yagna, or land-gift movement. Walking throughout India, he asked wealthy people to donate land to poor people. Many people did this, donating millions of acres of land to be used by the poor. In one case, a poor man gave one-thirteenth of an acre of land because he had started a job at a factory. Vinoba Bhave returned the land, saying that the man was poor and ought to be given land instead of donating it.

• A beggar requested alms of R. Israel, the Zaddik of Pylov, who felt sorry for the beggar and gave him some coins. But as the beggar was going away, R. Israel ran after him and gave him more money. Some witnesses were puzzled by this, and they asked why R. Israel had given extra money to the beggar. R. Israel explained that he had felt sorry for the beggar and had given him money, but then he had realized that the reason he had given the beggar money was not charity but instead to make himself feel better. Since Jews are required to give charity, he had then given the beggar the extra coins that really were for the beggar and so really were charity.

• Rabbi Haim Eliezer Waks immigrated to Israel, where he advised the Jews to engage in agriculture rather relying on halukah(charity raised outside Israel for the Jews living in Israel). Some of the Jews pointed out that the halukahwas steady, whereas agriculture is uncertain. Rabbi Haim asked, “What will you do if the halukahmoney suddenly stops?” They replied, “We are not worried about tomorrow.” Rabbi Haim told them, “Then you are like the wicked person who says, ‘Why should I be concerned about the tomorrow of the World to Come? I live only for today.’”

• Rabbi Gamliel believed in giving charity cheerfully. After all, he explained, money given to the poor is not lost. God guarantees the money given to the poor, and he returns with interest in the next life what is given away in this life.

• “If there are poor on the moon, we will go there, too.” — Mother Teresa.


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