Sister can you spare a dime? Again?

Opinion

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Judy Baar Topinka

I am being inundated by mail, and my poor postman is bucking for a hernia having to carry it all.

Although in public service and expecting a fair amount of mail, I never knew there were so many organizations which would be soliciting me for money. Granted, I give to a goodly number, and I guess that makes me prime for every list being sold back and forth with abandon. Just give once, and one's name is on the road to every not-for-profit out there.

Frankly, I would just appreciate a head on letter saying "give me money." I would certainly encourage not-for-profits to try some other gimmick than sending gummed address labels of every ilk, as I am overloaded with them already. At first, I thought it was a clever idea, and I saved the labels thinking that they would be a great help on letters and bill payments and the like. But they kept coming.

I don't think anyone likes tossing out something "special" with their names on them, and the labels to appeal to people's egos. Some clever marketer had a good idea, but now it is in the public domain and the sheets upon sheets of labels are just overwhelming. I toss them out, after discovering that shredding them merely gunked up my shredder.

And, although I know that one can keep "unsolicited" gifts from charities with or without a donation, trying to send them back and asking to be taken off the mailing list just doesn't seem to work, either.

First off, I resent having to pay the postage to send them back. Then, I resent the second and third letters telling me that this "gift" was provided and maybe, just maybe, I overlooked sending a donation. The amount of paper, the dead trees created to generate the paper, is astounding.

The "gifts," too, are such junk that they might not even make it to a garage sale. There are keychains, plastic Indian dolls, a variety of plastic angels, potential holiday ornaments, note pads without or without one's name on it, all sorts of patriotic stickers with American flags in profusion, stickers supporting troops and endangered species, church calendars and anything else the imagination of a direct-mail marketer can conjure up.

At this time of year, valentines and Easter cards replace the former load of Christmas cards, Christmas wraps and Christmas gift labels.

It must take me an hour of my life almost daily just to get rid of the stuff I have not solicited and don't want. I don't want a subscription to magazines I don't read, or letters which try to play on my guilt feelings. I just want to give to the charities I want to give to and do give to.

And if that weren't enough, now they are coming on my Internet connection and through my fax so that they are using my electricity, ink and paper to generate their carryings on.

With all the hits on charity due to the tsunamis and hurricanes this past year, which have sorely stretched not-for-profits' ability to do the good things they do, I can appreciate that they have to do something to raise funds.

However, as one constituent told me regarding all the political mailings she was getting, "I keep sending money, but they keep sending me more requests. I just can't give anymore. Will they be mad at me?"

As I told her, no one is going to get "mad" at anyone, because machines are doing most of the mailings. And, it is common knowledge (and we use it, too, in terms of asking for political funds), once someone gives the first time, it is always easier to come back to them a second, a third and as long as the money keeps coming.

This is of special concern to me regarding some of our seniors, who feel almost obligated to respond to every request. Some of these solicitations look almost like government documents, and they actually fear that if they do not respond, they will somehow be in arrears with some nebulous somebody out there who might cause them trouble.

So, my advice is: pick and choose. Most charities are good and solid. One might want to look up their track record on how much of their collections actually go into public service and how much is used for overhead. Then, without guilt, toss out the other stuff. For folks on fixed incomes, this is especially important.

I will save the rush of catalogs now coming in for another day. Ah, more trees giving up their lives for the tons of catalogs.

Poor postman. I know some great back doctors, and you're going to need those recommendations before you are through.

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