Archive for the ‘donations-in-kind’ Category

Vacations for Animal Lovers

May 13, 2016
Pariah dog sleeping at Ephasus in turkey

Pariah dog sleeping at Ephasus in turkey

My passion is  working with animals.  From  before I could read, I knew volume #7 of the Encyclopedia Britannica had the dog pictures.  I used to love  pulling it out and looking at the dog pictures.  Growing up, I lived in a very middle class suburban (Skokie) neighborhood, where, if people had dogs, they were behind fences.  If I saw someone walking a dog, I went crazy. Part of this obsession was because my parents wouldn’t let us have a dog until we were  mature enough to take care of one.  My father  owned his own business,and my mother  had four kids  under 7 years old. Looking back, I  totally understand the logic.  What happened, however, was that my sister and I  took every dog book we could find out of the library. We finally got  our first dogs when I was  nine-years-old.  We  taught that dog all sorts of things.  I took every opportunity I could find to work with dogs. I learned to groom dogs.  I have also titled my pet dogs in performance.  When you work with dogs, you learn your limits.  At one time, I wanted to own a kennel and have a bunch of my own dogs.  When I started working in kennels, I learned that it is  hard to give quality time to more than a few dogs. So many dogs need homes, and many without homes need advocates. What could I do?  If I fostered a dog, I would be cutting into the quality time I spend with my own dogs. and it would change the dynamic in our household.  So, I looked for opportunities where I could help others who  care for pets needing help.

Reception at Lilongwe SPCA. in Malawi

Reception at Lilongwe SPCA. in Malawi

There are many ways to help when you  can’t foster or adopt another pet.  Most shelter and rescues need help with accounting, marketing, and fund-raising, as well as recruiting  other volunteers.  Here in Chicago, I volunteer as a court advocate for  This means, when someone is charged with an animal related crime (neglect, cruelty, or dog fighting are the common ones), I go to court to make sure the judge knows that the community has an interest in this case.  Mostly, it is just being there.  We let the  prosecuting attorney know  we are there, and they make sure the judge knows we are there if the  courtroom is crowded. The police making the arrest also know that we are there.  This makes everyone take animal crime more seriously. Another thing I do is support pet rescues, especially pet rescues in  developing countries.  Now, due to the internet, where you can google ‘animal shelter/country, you can get linked up with  animal lovers in  most places.  In many places, you can even volunteer. I volunteered , via Cross Cultural Solutions, to work with a community based group in New Delhi, India, and some people told me about Frendicoes.  Friendicoes mostly does trap/neuter/release, and has a small shelter.  Virtually all the animals they have are pariah dogs and cats:  that is, they are true street  animals, and really not suited to be pets. Several years ago, I visited Turkey. Via networking, I was able to get in touch with  the people who run the Forest Sanctuary, outside Istanbul.  They had about 100 dogs at the time we visited.  Western Turkey is becoming very urbanized, but the Turks, for the most part, never  kept dogs in their homes.  Also, like impulsive people all over, many  buy dogs and tire of them.  Those involved in rescue are very pragmatic.  They do trap/neuter/release (and one reason for the  protest over loss of park land in Istanbul several years ago was not just  over loss of open space to a shopping mall…but loss of habitat for the street dogs and cats), but also care for  dogs at the Forest Sanctuary outside of the city. They work with a Dutch rescue, and ship many dogs suitable for homes to Holland. I’ve also  visited  ‘shelters’ in Hoi An, Viet Nam ( , and both Lilongwe and Blantyre, in Malawi.  They all welcome volunteers.  Soi Dogs, in Thailand not only needs volunteers, but  people who can accompany a dog (as a courier)  from Thailand to the USA.  The Sighthound Underground and Galgos del Sol also need couriers, and you can volunteer to work in the Galgo kennel in Spain. There are also  animal shelters in more ‘vacation oriented’ places.  can put you in touch with  many shelters needing assistance.  So can Norah Livingstone:  World Vets:  has volunteer opportunities in  Central America and southern Asia.  If you are more the type who  just wants to observe, or maintain habitat, Earthwatch programs, many involving habitat conservation or observation of animal behavior, overseen by scientists. Meeting  other animal lovers and sharing information is a great way to spend vacation time.

The Armchair Activist, Revisited.

September 5, 2014

In the early 1980s, I met a very interesting woman named Margaret Asproyerakas.   We had been recruited —as volunteer organizers, to recruit other activist to  protest at several Regional  Primate Centers.  We were protesting cruel treatment of animals,and, in our case, the experiments of Harry Harlow (& in fact, they keep replicating these horrible ‘experiments’) but the movement  brought together a disparate group of people with  varying concerns:  treatment of animals in zoos, circuses, rodeos,  factory farms, animals being bred for fur,  people concerned about the environment and habitat loss, animals being captured (and bred) for the pet trade,  the steel jaw leg-hold trap used by hunters, and  product (and medical drug) testing on animals.  In the end, we got about 5000 people to each of the regional primate  centers to protest.  Hardly successful at all, but  it at least got us in contact with each other, so we could help each other.

Remember, this was the early 1980s.  Before the internet.  Successes?  It  became gauche to wear fur, many companies stopped testing products on animals and started promoting themselves as ‘cruelty free’.  Zoos started  addressing  the stress of their  inmates, and finally, in 2014, many zoos are no longer keeping elephants if they can’t keep a social  group.

No, we haven’t affected Sea World or the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, and puppies  are still being bred like livestock.  People in developed countries are more aware, however, and we  don’t seem to be as radical as we once appeared to be.  I remember in the early 1990s, I was on public transportation, and I had a button that said  “Dolphin Safe Tuna” on my bag that Starkist was handing out.  Someone asked me, “Do you think it’s really Dolphin safe?”    “I am not sure”  I replied, ” But  this is a response to is all the regular folks, housewives, kids, just people, contacting the company.  We made an impact. They know it is an important issue to us.”

Margaret had an idea for a brochure. It would be printed on an 8.5 x 11 ” piece of paper, on both sides, that could be folded over and stapled together.  It was just 12 little pages. Now,  this was the days before laptop computers as well, so I suggested that we get all the ideas together and type them out, and then put them together.  Margaret did copy right it (1984), but she wanted it to be simple enough for any animal welfare group to copy.

The first page—the cover, was a little cartoon of a bird, a dog, and a cat  around an armchair, with some  copy that   said: “Animal rights activists disable pirate whaling ships, liberate animals from laboratories, disrupt annual baby seal hunts, airlift burros from the Grand Canyon…as much as we may want to help, there may be no way for us to participate in these forms of activism. So…presenting ARMCHAIR ACTIVIST  Easy, inexpensive, close-to-home ways to make a positive difference for animals.”

We left page 2 blank, so any group could copy the brochure and  put information about themselves on that page.  On actual page 1, we started our ideas.  We called it “A penny for your thoughts”: We suggested contacting local animal shelters to find out what they felt was important, and learn from the national groups what  their issues were—and to write letters.  We encouraged  people to write their elected officials as well. These days, it is so easy to email, but back then, we encouraged the sending of  postcards—especially if you were writing the head of a company,  With a postcard, not only did you NOT have to look for an envelope, it forced you to be concise, and every one from the people in the mail room to the CEO’s  secretary would see it and be affected.  This had a huge impact on so many companies.  It still does.  Now we also have and The  petition site—and  it is so much easier.

We told people to put their 2c in, and when they saw something to say something:

to zoos with  jail like ‘habitats; circuses  which promoted unnatural behaviors and very confined housing;  rodeos;  street fairs that offered pony rides and petting zoos, or allowed  giving away of pet animals;  carriage horses—having to work in terrible heat and cold, in very stressful traffic conditions (I mean, how  romantic is that?), cattle trucks;  live poultry markets; dogs tied up outside stores or left in  parked cars (always an issue…still…), pet shops;  school science classes that demanded experimentation on live animals, including frogs and guinea pigs; initiation rites (swallowing goldfish).

We asked people to check hardware stores to  request they not sell steel jaw leg-hold traps, or glue traps  for mice.  We encouraged people to keep prestamped postcards to  write to sponsors of TV shows that  made light of animal suffering.  We protested  sweepstakes that gave away fur coats ( how many of you  remember Bob Barker on The Price is Right?  Not only would he not be a party to giving  away furs, he ended the show by saying, “Please spay or neuter your pet!”  That became part of Drew Carey’s  contract with the show as well).

We asked people to monitor the classified ads in the Sunday papers and call  people who  offered free puppies and kittens (these days, I would ask you to flag the idiots  who post on Craigslist—they post in pets , farm & garden, & general for sale).  Free pets generally end up either being neglected or  tortured…still. The person who won’t go to an animal shelter & pay the fee—which  generally includes shots & neutering, will also balk at paying for veterinary care and even  dog food.

We encouraged people to watch the editorial pages of local papers, and challenge inaccurate information.  Keep in mind  that many localities in the US still ban Pit Bulls—when  Pits are not the problem—the owners are ( see Malcolm Gladwell’s essay, “Troublemakers”).

We encouraged people to SPREAD THE WORD:  to ask local clergy to address compassion towards animals, or offer to speak to your own congregation, or  boy or girl scouts, or a classroom.  Some newspapers allow people to  post free personal ads, and we encouraged people to  advise pet owners to spay or neuter their pets.  We asked people to order  brochures on these topics , or make up their own, and post them on public bulletin boards. We encouraged  people to  volunteer their time and talents, either directly working with animals or offering to do administrative, book keeping, or fundraising  help for animal shelters .We encouraged  people to make donations-in-kind (shelters always need  towels, blankets, paper towels,  pet toys, collars and leashes…and can sell whatever they don’t use).

We encouraged people to make crafts, design t-shirts and bumper stickers, and offer to pay for these things. These days,  many people may not be able to permanently keep a pet, but they might help with fostering.  In Chicago, we have volunteers  who play with and even train many  ‘court case dogs’.  These are dogs taken as evidence when  a defendant  doesn’t want to sign over, so the dog is in the city pound as long as the case is active.  Continuances can go on for years.  That’s a terribly long time for a formerly pet dog  to sit in what should be a temporary boarding situation.  Very stressful. We got court permission to exercise these dogs and prepared them for a life  in a home if a judge decided a defendant could not get his dog back.

Margaret’s book was a forerunner to the very popular 50 things you can do to save the earth.  We didn’t address recycling in our brochure, or keeping the size of your birth family small if you decided to have children, but those are 2 more things you can do if you want to help animals.  Recycle your material trash, compost of veggies scraps, cut your  meat (animal) intake and go vegetarian—start 2 days a week.  Go go the Greater Good Animal Rescue site & sign up to do the daily clicks to fund shelters and projects.  It costs nothing.

Now, with social media, more  people are aware of all these ways of changing what is wrong.  I hope you will copy this and share this with friends when they tell you they wish they could ‘do something’.

How to Teach Kids to Learn to Save Money.

April 18, 2014

I don’t know that I would be a natural saver, planner, or budgeter if I had not seen what my parents did.  My  father would come home from work and empty his pockets and put his coins in coin banks.  My mother would make lists & never go shopping without a list.

My mother was the most influential.  My father turned over his paycheck to her, and she was responsible for bills and household expenses.  I am sure they were both on the same page when it came to  how to  plan for the future.  I knew that not all my mother’s friends were as savvy about money, because she opened ‘Christmas Club’ bank accounts with several of them. When I asked her why she had these (joint) accounts, she told me that ‘M’ would not save money every week if  it weren’t for the match my mom made.   I guess I am dating myself, as I don’t think any banks have that kind of account anymore. The idea was that you would open the account  two or three months before  Christmas, put money in once a week, then get a big check at the end.  The irony is that these accounts paid less interest than a regular passbook account.

Back then, in the  1960’s and ’70’s, some accounts paid simple interest, some paid compound interest.  It was known that ‘Savings & Loan Associations’ paid more interest on accounts than banks, and  nobody had heard of credit unions —except union members and farmers.  Certificates of Deposit were new products, and hardly anyone  knew what mutual funds were.  Instead, many people, like my father, trusted insurance agents and their products.  Funny, they were so opaque, but  it was your relationship  with your insurance agent that got you suckered in.

As a teenager, I really had no idea how much it cost to live.  My mother told me that  one week’s pay should cover  my rent and utilities for a month.  That was my ballpark.  I made an average of $20 a day grooming dogs, I am not kidding, Of course, my  share of the rent was $ 35 a month.  A can of tuna was 25c, and you paid for long distance phone service.

I didn’t get serious about saving until I  was entering my  thirties, and going to school and planning to travel.  Long story short, my first  house cost me $23,000, and I sold it  10 years later for $125,000 and bought the next house for $119,000.  This  kind of thing can be done again, with the ‘market correction’.  You just have to  decide what is a necessity.

These days, I try to pay for as much as I can with a credit card because mine gives me 3–5% cash back—which  sort of cuts the sales tax in Illinois.  I also have a record of what I spent at the end of the month.   I learned from my mother to pay off the balance at the end of the month, or  I’d be paying 10–25% more for everything with the fees.  That makes no sense. I am thinking of switching to a debit card, but that doesn’t give me cash back.

So…how do you teach kids to save?  By teaching them what  things cost, first.  Sort of like The Price is Right.  You can set up various packaged goods on a table  and have them guess.  Then, take them shopping and have them do comparisons of the various products.  Take them to different stores as well.  It’s important to teach kids that fresh food in season costs less than   prepared foods (canned or frozen, unless something is on sale or a loss leader).

When they ask for toys  or  luxuries, ask them what  it costs.  Ask them to compare costs or various brands.  Ask them how they plan to earn money, and give them ideas. My father had us separate a bucket of screws, nuts, and bolts into  about 20 different categories.    I think he paid us $1 an hour (minimum wage at the time was $1.60).  Kids can baby sit, do yard work, go shopping, do laundry, help  neighbors. I have also collected cans when I walk my dogs, Aluminum pays 40—50c a pound, Copper pays much more.

When I was in 8th grade, we had a section in a social studies class on  capitalism, and developing a business with a business plan.  Every school should have that, and if your school doesn’t, find out why.  A 10 year old can figure this out.

When I left home, at 18, I had no idea what anything cost, I just had the confidence that if I  shared the rent and household expenses, I would be ok.  I had a friend who had another friend who  moved out and back in to her parents home three times before she turned 26.  She didn’t want a roommate, and she was very fashion conscious.   I had a client who continued to live with her parents for several years after graduating from college. She worked as a trader  (with the internet, you can do a lot more than without).  She managed to save not only enough money to buy investment property, but also to return to school to get another degree. It just depends on your priorities.

What kick started me to economic security was  joining an investment club, and learning to do the research. Nobody ever got rich by saving.   Although I do own stock in a few companies, mostly I own  mutual funds. There is less risk and greater chance of reward. Still you have to know what your goals are and what kinds of investments meet your needs.  If you are going to pay someone else to mind your money, and have less than  $250,000,  you are really taking a risk and are going to pay a lot.  I remember when the concept of the Individual Retirement Account (IRA) was introduced in the early 1970s. Contributions were tax-deductible, but you had to keep the money in until you retired or there was a penalty.  I thought that was a great idea.  I had no idea that  Social Security would not be enough, but no matter.    It took me a while to get  with the program, but I  have 3 IRAs and  put as much in as I can.

The work I do, dog grooming, is very seasonal. That means in some parts of the year I am very busy and make a lot of money, but when the weather gets bad,  my wealthy clients leave town, and the rest make excuses.  I had to learn to save for those bad times.    I often do dog walking or over night pet sitting  in those lean times.

My checking account is  attached to a money market. That means it pays interest, but I have to keep a certain balance.  So, I put money in but it is not in the checkbook.  I see it on the statement, but it is not there to spend.  I divide my tips in three.   1/3 goes into savings, 1/3 is in the reserve, and 1/3 is to spend.  At the end of the month, if there is more than $100, it all goes into savings.  My guilty pleasures are  movies, dog shows, and going out to eat with friends.  Also, vacations, and most recently, books.  I live near a recycling center, and in Chicago there are a lot of church rummage sales and used bookstores. No need to pay for a book unless I really want it.  I consign books, clothes, and jewelry that I don’t intend to  use or keep.  I also donate a lot and keep very good records, as  I am self-employed and the tax write-off for ‘donations in kind’ is significant. I upped my  tax refund 40% by keeping track of donations-in-kind and using ‘client valuation’ guides—which you can find online.  I am not very fashion forward.  I buy clothes that are functional and durable, mostly at used clothing stores.  Several  of my male friends have disparaged  my  clothing, but since they are all in debt, I laugh them off.  Idiots.

So—- how can you teach a  child to save money?  Talk over all that I mentioned and encourage them to be curious and discerning.  Don’t pay for everything they want.    Don’t be judgemental if they make choices to spend money on stuff you wouldn’t.

For  more information on  financial education, check out  “”  Great nonprofit doing financial education all over  the USA.

More on Fake Rescues —let the kind hearted beware!

March 7, 2014

While I was out of the country for the past 2 weeks (more on that in future blogs),  several of my posts have gotten a tremendous number of hits.  Now, I am not ‘Style Rookie’, or  one of those blogs that has that many regular followers. At this point, I think there are only about 30 subscribers.  However, on the topics that strike a nerve, I know the links get forwarded frequently by how many titles get hits every day.

The subject of Wright-Way Animal Rescue struck a serious nerve among many people, because so many have adopted animals with serious health issues from them.  There are several  issues that concern me, and that should concern anyone concerned about animal welfare and solving not just the  pet over population problem, but the animal abuse problem in general.  I will attempt to tie this all in.  I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, but I do want to give you all something to think about.

Keep in mind that there is no such thing as a No-Kill animal shelter.  They pick & choose the pets they save—and even then, because they don’t educate themselves about animal husbandry or think they deserve a pass due to their ‘good intentions’, they  end up  euthanizing a  significant per centage of the  pets they pull from OPEN ADMISSIONS SHELTERS AND POUNDS. Who holds them accountable?  Good question!   Purrs From the Heart  was a cat shelter started by a cat loving couple (I believe the  husband was a fire fighter) in the western suburbs of Chicago within the past  two years. They requested donations-in-kind on Craigslist.  Since I do whatever I can to help shelters and rescues,  and I always have stuff  others can use, I gave them several hundred dollars worth of ‘stuff’.  I knew they were going to use some of the things in their shelter, and some they were going to try to resell to raise money.   They gave me a receipt for tax purposes. Since I am not really a cat fancier and have enough on my plate in general, I didn’t stay in touch with them.  Then,  about 8 months later, via the ChicagoNow/Raining Cats and Dogs blog, I learned they  were being audited as  they had taken over 90 cats from Chicago Animal Care & Control  (CACC) and could not account for any of them.    No records at all.  Who did they go to? Hoarders?  Single families?  Renters?  Did they get released in forest preserves?  How many died?  At this point, nobody knows.  It is only because they got their cats from a legitimate animal pound—Chicago Animal Care & Control—that any inquiry is being made at all.

In Chicago, there are so many  animal rescues.  Many post on PETFINDER, some do not.  Many of the breed specific rescues do not ‘advertise’ at all, and you find them via networking.  They manage with this type of model because the dog breeds they deal with are rare and rarely end up abandoned—- or they  save very few dogs.  One recently legitimized rescue is Famous Fido’s, owned by Gloria Lissner.  I believe she has a board of directors.  Most of her dogs come from the open access CACC, but she gets some from private parties relinquishing control.  I have to give Gloria some respect, but those of us who have worked for her know that she has been shut down by the IRS several times in the past…for not paying taxes. She is  just not a good record keeper.  I have worked for her twice, and quit twice. It was bad enough she had no records on dog grooming clients, and I had to guess about how to groom every  dog.  She also bounced paychecks,  But more:  before the IRS nailed her, she regularly  bought  puppies to resell, and often boasted that she, personally, INVENTED the ‘Teddy Bear’ designer dog (some sort of Shih Tzu cross).  Then she ‘got religion’ and started ‘saving dogs’.  But she still does NOT keep records.  I would guess, via social media, she ‘saves’ between  10—-30 dogs a year.     I don’t know what her adoption rules are.  She is typical of many of the rescues in the metro Chicago area.

She is no better and no worse than PAWS Chicago or any of the other  ‘no-kill’ groups–except that PAWS publishes an annual report and is  somewhat transparent.  Yet…..a group I volunteer with (which  provides humane education  and monitors  animals in the court system) would not agree to  be hosted in their (PAWS)facility because many of us—who volunteer at CACC—have put ‘holds’ on dogs we wanted to adopt and have the holds taken off by PAWS…& that $65 dog was suddenly going to cost us $250 if we qualified to adopt from PAWS.  Why would a group do this? Why  ‘poach’ a dog you know has been spoken for?  I can only think it’s greed.  And—even though CACC still has to euthanize several thousand perfectly healthy and sweet dogs every year, we find PAWS, Wright-Way, and many other local ‘no-kill’ groups ignoring these dogs in favor or either younger, smaller, or other purebred dogs from  out of state:  pulling from Kentucky & Tennessee.  When I’ve ask volunteers for these organizations why they do this,  the retort is always “So how many dogs do YOU rescue every week?”

None.  That begs the question. This is not about what I rescue—it’s about why YOU pass over adoptable dogs.  We know the reason:  NOBODY WANTS THEM.  Given the choice, if people can get younger, cuter, smaller…or purebreds  that are not Pit Bulls or Pit mixes, and say they RESCUED THE DOG (as Oprah Winfrey did with her brown cocker pups), why should they accept any dog in need of rescue?  Yet, these very arrogant people have the chutzpah to question  why I bought a dog who was returned to his breeder.

Meanwhile…the people causing this surplus of dogs, in some cases puppy mills, but in actuality, ‘backyard’ breeders—are not addressed at all.  Nobody would dare confront these  very  stupid—or should I say ignorant, desperate for money BREEDERS and tell them the dogs they breed are going to be killed  or tortured to death before they die of old age.  No joy in that. The joy is in ‘rescuing’ a cute, cuddly puppy!

I have recently learned that  puppy ‘adopters’ responding to this  blog (the original post on Wright-Way),  thought Wright Way (or name any no-kill group)  was OPEN ADMISSIONS, and although they found it odd that all they had was (puppies, small dogs, purebreds…) they thought  that was what  was being given up. They didn’t realize these  were being CHOSEN and older, blacker, larger adoptable dogs were being passed over.

When you  have an idea in your brain, and  don’t have any skepticism, you  start to think the idea you hold is the truth.  You also think that everyone views integrity the same way you do. America is a ‘free’ country. What that means is you can do business pretty much any way you can get away with.    If something is not specifically ILLEGAL   —it is legal. If you want to say you are non-profit when you are not, it’s legal until you get caught.  If you want to call yourself a rescue when you actually buy dogs from puppy mills to resell and call it adoption—(Google Italian Greyhounds…. Rescue Our Mill Pups), you’re free to  do so.  If you  call yourself private rescue, you don’t need a board of directors, nor will you be audited. This is legal. Is it ethical?  I think not, but that’s for you to decide.   One of my friends defended this, saying that at least (the  owner of ROMP) was rescuing, and not everyone  could afford a  well bred Italian Greyhound…which could cost over $2000 from an ethical hobby breeder who  does OFA and CERF clearance on her breeding dogs—which makes those pups more expensive and more valuable.  But, when you buy a cheaper ‘rescued’ IG for  $400 (let’s say), and as that pup matures, the veterinarian tells you the reason it is limping is that it has luxated patellas, and  repairing each knee will cost at minimum $2000…. how do you feel now?  Could you afford rescue?    & was it a rescue when ROMP bought the pregnant dam. and will do so again—as the puppy mill is still in business?  So many  of these puppy adoptors  have told me they didn’t want to support a breeder, when so many puppies die…but did you really plan to support this? Was it honest for the rescue to not inform you of the possibility of genetic defects, which is statistically very high?

Several of these NO-KILL groups have adopted out puppies with parvo.  An immediate $1000+ expense.  Yes, sometimes a bad breeder, who shows dogs but  doesn’t keep a very clean environment, sends out a dog with giardia, or  parvo, but this is why you  have to ask  for references from their veterinarians,  as well as their dog clubs. Yes—an ethical hobby breeder will usually be a member of a ‘parent’ club.  In fact, even the American Kennel Club—a huge supporter of puppy mills—-will only refer people to breeders who are members of their parent clubs!  How ironic is that?

How would you know this?  Chances are, you wouldn’t. The American Kennel Club spends more  money helping commercial puppy mills than it does  marketing ethical hobby breeders to the public.

So, now that is too late for so many people, and your hearts are broken,  what to do?  In Illinois you are entitled to compensation due to a law passed  this year. For more information on this, contact Cari Meyers at The Puppy Mill Project.  She  just recently had a HUGE SUCCESS partnering with Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza to ban the sales of puppy mill/commercially bred dogs in Chicago pet shops. This will  shed a lot of sunlight on how non-profit rescues operate as well.

1. Ask any ‘rescue’ if they are registered with their state as a bona fide non-profit with a tax exempt number;

2. Ask  if they publish an annual report, and/or a list  with contact information for their board of directors;

3. Ask who their veterinarian is;

4. Do they  post on PETFINDER?

5. How long have they been in existence?

6.  Who are their fosters?

7. How many animals do they adopt out in an average year, and how do they follow up on spay/neuter?  What assistance do they give if your dog develops a genetic health issue?  Do they state this in writing?

8. Where do they get their animals?  If not from an open access pound,  why not?  If so, why do they go out of state if they do that?

Finally, ask yourself why YOU aren’t going to the local open access pound.
And why , since you want to rescue a dog that needs a home, you don’t look at the oldest, blackest, largest dogs who have  sat there  for over 6 months. Ans  ask yourself if you have the time to work with this dog and start taking this dog to obedience classes next week. Finally, don’t  expect others to have more integrity than you have.  We see horrible acts perpetrated by people who proclaim  a religious or spiritual ‘calling’ all the time.

Start the year off right—support education of girls

January 3, 2013

I first because interested in development issues, and why  some countries are so poor, when I  took my first strip to Africa in the 1980’s.

Now, the issues is confused (I won’t say complicated) because you can’t just invest in education, as Julius Nyerere did in Tanzania.  You really have to invest in infrastructure for economic development, too.

I noticed the contrast between Tanzania & Kenya.  Years later, I witnessed the contrast between Thailand and Cambodia.

But I don’t want to make this too complicated.  I support several groups that  educate orphans in Africa, and there are a few I do not support.  However, it’s up to YOU to decide who is effective, and who is not.

Women’s Global Education Fund.  Google them. This was started by Returned Peace Corps Volunteers who served in Senegal & Kenya, and wanted to provide further educational opportunities  to girls who completed primary school.  The   American supporters are mostly in the metro Chicago Area, and hold a could of fund raisers every year. They do a great job, & provide scholarships to several girls every year.l  I like them, but they are  actually barely making a dent int he problem….unless they  would insist the girls return to their communities and educate more girls. They are not at that point yet.

Zambian Children’s Fund. Google them.  This  orphanage and school is in Lusaka Zambia and was started by an American woman, Kathe Padilla, who had visited there.  She pretty much single-handedly  got land, built a school and small home, and got  Americans to support the project.  But she also recognized that  the project had to be supported by the local community, so she worked to get their support, and after about 10 years, managed to get a local board to sustain the project, which also turned in to a vocational school and several income generating projects.  I’ve been sending them kids clothing, books, and  first aid supplies for years, and am happy to see them  thriving.

Malawi Children’s Village, in Mangochi, Malawi .Google them:  this project was started by Returned Peace Corps Volunteers a little over 20 years ago, initially envisioned as an orphanage. However, the people in the local community wanted to keep their extended families together, & asked for help with a school and water wells.  Because of this local community support, they  have a library, a vocational school, and every child who advances a grade in school has his or her school fees paid.  We will see in the next several years what the economic impact on the region actually is.

Oprah Winfrey’s Leadership Academy in South Africa. Google it. It’s a paradox, really.  Oprah grew up poor, had a child as a teenager (it died), furthered her education  and was in the right place at the right time. I know she genuinely wants to give back, but now that she’s an elite, her thinking has become slightly clouded.
She picks and chooses the girls who attend this  school, thereby creating a class of elites. I doubt any of the girls who graduate will be as altruistic, but time will tell.

Link Community Development.  This is a nonprofit that started in Scotland.  The Sottish, via the African Inland Church, have always supported education in Africa.  However , he problem remains that  educational policy in most of Africa is very  bad.  It actually prevents leaders from emerging unless they have political connections. Link actually addresses issues of curriculum…in Ghana, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Malawi. I can’t imagine a less sexy but more important aspect of education than curriculum development. It’s just going to take a very long time to collect the data on the impact they  are making.  The problem with LINK, is that  they are not addressing  the problem of who co0ntrols the  educational system in each country, and the issues of  social status, and who is allowed to advance in school, what ethnic groups keep their children out of Western education.  Who makes sure the curriculum is not biased towards a Eurocentric/developed world view of what is important? Elizabeth Marshal Thomas addressed this very issue in her ethnography. Warrior Herdsmen, published in 1965.  Curriculum doesn’t matter at all if traditional people who can support themselves don’t trust what is offered, or find it irrelevant.

Now, you can send money and you can go visit  some of the schools and projects, but first…do you know how science and math are being taught in YOUR local school?  In Chicago, we have several charter schools and technical (Chicago Public Schools) that address math, science, and computer skills. We have The Young Women’s leadership Charter School,  in Chicago.  I suspect it isn’t an urgent issue to many of us if we don’t have kids in schools, but think:  if kids don’t learn life skills, they becomes thugs and a drain on society.  it is also statistically proven that when you educate girls, they have a profound impact on their communities…much greater than men have, because women do educate kids. Think about it.

Update:Maximising donations-in-kind

November 2, 2011

I have posted  before on making the world a better place.  These past few years have been difficult for us all, but  we are not running out of stuff.  Since I live in a very  high density (some people would call it the ghetto, or slum…but they haven’t been to urban Africa or Indian…) neighborhood, lots of multi-unit housing,  I find a lot of stuff.

People move all the time, & they  have some very nice things they no longer want. But they don’t have the time to sell it or take it to people who need it, so they  put it by their trash bins. We  alley entrepreneurs take the stuff  to use ourselves or  to give to people who need the stuff.

Shoes & used clothing are the most frequently put out items, but  often I find cookware, small furniture and appliances, and books and toys.  I manage  to  find people who need stuff because we have many non-profit organizations that   provide assistance to the needy.  Some  specialize in  serving  homeless women, some teen mothers, some the elderly.  One  organization (I do some volunteering for them),  Heartland Alliance for Human Needs,  provides resettlement services for refugees.

It used to be that virtually all these people were eligible for  some sort of welfare:  Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, or Social Security. Well, the fact it, eligibility has been greatly curtailed since the Clinton era…no joke.  By making it harder to get welfare, he appeased the Republicans (at the time) &  balanced the federal budget.  He also gave people  an incentive to make a way for themselves.  They may not be on the payroll to somebody, but that does not mean they are not earning money.

That’s neither here nor there.  I  don’t know if  mental illness preceeds job loss & displacement, or job loss & displacement preceed mental illness.  No matter.  People are in need.

In the early 1980’s, I was a founding board member or Uptown Recycling Station, in Chicago. We board members were coming to recycling from different interests. Some of us were particularly interested in environmental conservation, and several were interested in job creation for entry level workers.  We got  a loan from a religious order,  some assistance from the father of recycling in Chicago, Ken Dunn, and some help from the city.  This was under the Harold Washington administration. I doubt we would have gotten the help from the administration of any other mayor.  We turned a cute, hippie idea into 3 full time and several part-time jobs for entry level workers, and advanced the cause of recycling in Chicago.

But we did not all live happily ever after. It’s been slow going.  We managed to get the city to pay us a diversion credit.   What that meant was…for every  cubic ton of waste we kept  from going to a land fill, the city gave us money.  We barely made a dent.  We had to nag out elected officials for years to take recycling—for import substitution, seriously.

So, now it is 2011, and an idealist with a plan, Brittany Martin Graunke, got an idea to  put up a waste exchange—or , rather, a clearing house for  donations-in-kind, online.  It’s called   She gets nonprofits needing donations-in-kind to pay a monthly fee to post their wants.  I found her  by accident, but  I am hoping to help her  market the site an the idea to area non-profits.  This is not recycling glass/metals/paper/plastics, which is feedstock  for manufacturing, like we did at the recycling station.  It is  repurposing  value added stuff.

I have been self-employed  for a  good long time, and  the first thing my father taught me was, “Get a receipt.”  For years, however, I was  donating stuff  without thinking, and NOT  itemizing the receipts.   By chance, I found a book called, Cash for Your Used Clothing,” which is a client valuation guide approved by the IRS.  Goodwill Industries, the Salvation Army, and yes, the IRS publish similar guides online.  If you itemize on your taxes, and aren’t an active stock/bond trader, you  must take advantage of every tax deduction you  can legally take.   If you don’t inventory your donations, you are most likely  undervaluing  your donation, and paying more taxes than you have to.  Your donation  is actually  whatever your taqx braqcket is.

Because I had managed  thrift stores for  two nonprofit organizations, I know how valuable the  donations-in-kind are.  Currently, Goodwill Industries  reminds their donors that by donating stuff, they are creating jobs for people.  It’s true. It’s a lot of labor to sort, clean, tag, and display stuff (I am sure anyone who works in a retail store will tell you this).  From a nonprofit perspective, I also know that  people donate cash to organizations that take stuff, as they have a social link with that organization.

From the perspective of a donor…I’ve just heard too much whining from  donors about how poor they are (this is a constant refrain), and they complain about their taxes, but I have to do a lot of ‘hand holding’ to get them to inventory and  categorize stuff to maximize a donation that can result in a significant tax deduction.

I know that, due to the  federal deficit, that  our lawmakers are looking to get rid of tax deduction loopholes, but I certainly hope the nonprofits  are vocal about the need to continue to allow this  transfer of ‘wealth’.  It is significant,  I am not in a position to give money at this time, but I know that generally I donate over  $2000 worth of stuff to area nonprofits. I know this, because I inventory and evaluate, and I sell a lot of stuff.

People give me stuff to donate all the time, as they know I would know  someone who could use it.  They ask what I will take. I tell them what I won’t take:  If it stinks, or sticks, we can’t use it.

If you support an  organization that needs more money, take the donations-in-kind and resell the items you  and your clients can’t use.  Encourage yur organization to network with other organizations.  Consider sponsoring a retail store, like Goodwill, the Salvation Army, and  several other Non-profits in Chicago (The Ark, Brown Elephant, Save-a-Pet) do.  To me, if you throw away a usable item…you are throwing away money.

I want to do something to make the world a better place

April 8, 2011
Topiary, Bangkok.  Tourism is a huge foreign exchange erner for the Thai people, and in spite o what you hear,  the government does invest in human capital.

Topiary, Bangkok. Tourism is a huge foreign exchange earner for the Thai people, and in spite of what you hear, the government does invest in human capital.

We Americans are a bunch of naive ‘do-gooders’.  We still think we have the market cornered on altruism and integrity.

I have to admit that I started out as a ‘do-gooder’ when I  started volunteering overseas.  As I learned more about the world, my motives changed.  I still  want to continue to volunteer, as I am not a sot-on-the-beach type of person, but I want to share some information  that affected me and that might affect you.

Jomo Kenyatta, the first president of Kenya, said: “When the Europeans came, we had the land, and they had the Bible. They taught us to pray with our eyes closed. When we opened our eyes, they had the land and we had the Bible.”

Several people suggested that I read Franz Fanon’s classic, The Wretched of the Earth.  Fanon was an  psychiatrist from Martinique, who was trained in France, and assigned to work in Algeria who  realized that those living under colonial rule suffered mental illness for trying to be free.  He also realized that there would be a false consciousness after any revolution, and that the neocolonialists would be worse than  the colonialists, because they were of the people they ruled.  That’s  the gist in a nutshell, but the book, published  in 1963( a difficult read) is worth reading, as Fanon was such a visionary.  It is particularly important for the  north American ‘do-gooder’ to read.  Then read, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man,” by John Perkins. Be a little skeptical about  what making the world a better place really means.

You can still find The Ugly American , by  Lederer & Burdick. It was published in 1958, and it is still  disappointingly accurate.

Familiarize yourself with how our U.S. government really works. Read  Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, published by Dee Brown  in 1971.  Embarrassing—but well documented and true.

Finally, before you go off to volunteer to make the world better, you must—ABSOLUTELY MUST—read Things Fall Apart,” by Chinua Achebe published in 1958.  It is a great story about how a community was changed by ‘do-gooders’.  It is a classic.

You can’t make the world a better place if you don’t know the issues that affect most of the world’s people.  Most don’t have access to clean drinking water. that is a huge issue.  It affects  health more than any other issue.  Most don’t have access to real information or  education. When I served  in Malawi in the early 1990s, less than 15% of households had access to a radio!

Most people in the world do not have access to affordable medical care.  That includes Americans.

Literacy is still an enormous problem.  Governments will not invest more than they have to, so they can maintain a cheap, placid labor force.

If you want to make the world a better place, think about what YOU have to offer. Can you teach anything?  Do you have any skills?  You can volunteer overseas.  Google “Cross Cultural Solutions,” or “Volunteer in Africa.”  Living in a place, for as little as 2 weeks, gives you a much different perspective than just traveling though.

Don’t waste resources. Turn off the lights. Really.  Make sure you don’t have leaky water taps.  Recycle and compost your trash.  Because we can afford to waste resources, the rest of the world can’t afford them.