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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

How Should the Poor Look?


The Salvation Army, where I work, utilizes a direct mail service for a significant portion of our fundraising. Donations are solicited through the mail in this way to help us meet the needs of many in our county.  I received the following brief note in response to one of our recent mailings:

Dear Jeff,

I am not donating at this time because on Friday morning I saw 10 or 12 people waiting outside your building.  None of them looked like they were going hungry.  I shouldn’t judge people, but I have a hard time donating my hard earned money if the people getting it are “free loaders.” 

This is my response:

August 26, 2014
Dear ________,

I received the note you sent in response to our direct mail request for donations and wanted to take a few moments to address your concerns.

You wrote, “…I saw 10 or 12 people waiting outside your building.  None of them looked like they were going hungry…

Those 10 or 12 people were there for our ‘bread line.’  We receive bread and produce from a couple of area stores and gardeners to be given to our clients.  This is distributed to them without any qualification or restriction.  If they express a need, they may have it.  This ‘bread line’ is offered in addition to our more substantial food pantry – for which there are certain qualifications and restrictions.

I’m not exactly sure how one can tell by visual inspection whether a person is poor enough to be eligible for our assistance.  How should the poor look?  Should they look like bedraggled homeless people, unshaved and unwashed?  While there are some who fit this stereotypical picture of a “poor person,” the majority of our clients are the working poor.


Most of our clients work – some of them two or three jobs.  The sad fact is that minimum wage jobs do not pay enough to support a family. Some of them are unable to work – either because of illness or injury. Some of them are seniors who live on a very modest income, and use the food we provide to stretch their resources. They are not freeloaders. They are struggling every day. I appreciate that you work hard to earn your money - others, however, work hard and are still barely able to make ends meet. 

If you have some time available, I’d like to invite you to visit our building, so that you can see what we are doing here.  I’d like for you to have the opportunity to speak with our caseworker and to see our food pantry.   If you are interested, please give us a call.


Sincerely,

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