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Terry DeVine column: The most efficient charity

This is the month of the year when I feel sheepish for not doing more during the other 11 months to help those less fortunate than myself. Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates gives $100 million to fight AIDS in India and millions more annually to U.S.

This is the month of the year when I feel sheepish for not doing more during the other 11 months to help those less fortunate than myself.

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates gives $100 million to fight AIDS in India and millions more annually to U.S. charities, and that's admirable.

But I'm reminded the majority of giving in our country is done by the average Janes and Joes who send in checks for $5, $10 or $20, and drop the loose change from their pockets into a Salvation Army kettle or a plastic jar at the local convenience store.

There are more needs than ever this year, and there are many worthy organizations right here in Fargo-Moorhead. We need to support them.

I've always supported the Salvation Army. I know why after reading an article in the December issue of Reader's Digest titled "The Bucket Brigade."

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It called the $2.1 billion enterprise the "most effective in the United States" and the most admired and most successful charity in the land. It doesn't get any better than that.

The article said the Salvation Army lived up to its well-earned reputation in the wake of the 9-11 terrorist attacks -- and its trucks, bearing the distinctive red shield, were once again symbols of order in the midst of death and destruction.

I called Maj. Jose Tamayo, leader of the Salvation Army in Cass and Clay counties for the last five years, to see what he thought about the article, which should raise additional millions for an organization that dispenses 84 cents of every donated dollar directly to charitable services, an extraordinary flow-through rate matched by no other group.

Tamayo modestly pointed out the Army makes a mighty effort to hold down administrative costs, but said there are many needs in Fargo-Moorhead.

He said the Christmas bell-ringing campaign, with a goal of $400,000, has raised only $54,000 as of today. He was clearly troubled by that.

Tamayo said volunteers -- lots of them -- are needed at 23 different locations in Fargo-Moorhead. Every site manned by volunteers saves the organization $60 a day, which is plowed directly into programs.

He urged volunteers to call Adopt-a-Kettle coordinator Don Grant at (701) 232-5565. He'll explain how easy it is to help out for an hour, a day, or longer.

Tamayo said the No. 1 fund-raising kettle in 2001 was at Northport Hornbacher's, which was manned by Fargo North High School students.

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"We have a strong donor base and they've always come through for us, even though we've struggled the past two years and had to extend our campaign into January," said Tamayo. "We believe the community supports us because they know what we do. Our faith in God has always come through for us."

He said the Salvation Army now feeds some 175 people daily, and has seen a significant increase in requests of assistance for rent, utilities food and lodging.

Salvationists, with their 9,222 centers in the United States, served 38 million people in 2001. For nine straight years, the Army has held the No. 1 spot on the "Chronicle of Philanthropy's" list of the country's most popular charities.

It must be nice to work for an organization that simply asks people, "What do you need?" -- then goes out and does its best to get it for them.

Remember that the next time you walk by a bell-ringer or get one of the Army's mailings.

Readers can reach Terry DeVine at (701) 241-5515 or tdevine@forumcomm.com

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