‘Tis the Season for Believing Anything

{UPDATED: November, 2018} It’s the holiday season and, in the spirit of giving, many folks are looking to do some good with their extra cash while also scoring a cool last minute tax deduction. Certainly that last bit isn’t the reason for a donation to a worthy cause, but it’s a nice added perk.

Anyhoo, with so many choices out there and so much info flying at you this time of year, it’s easy to just simplify wherever possible. After all, there are bigger things to worry about. With so many meals to prepare, gifts to buy, decorations to hang, and those mischievous elves hopping from shelf to shelf wreaking havoc in your home, who has time to research charitable causes? So, rather than do the most basic independent research to help make informed decisions, why not simply accept misinformation as gospel and perpetuate the inaccuracies until the end of time?

Writing it that way makes it sound insane! And yet here we are, another year coming to a close and we’re once again seeing the same recycled nonsense about nonprofits that wasn’t even correct when it first started circulating years ago. As a former employee of one of the nonprofits always rounded up in this lunacy, I have had the pleasure of answering the same questions about this stuff hundreds of times every single year. For funsies, sometimes I ponder the kind of work I could be getting done if I wasn’t constantly having to address the same rumors over and over again (things like reciting all the numbers of Pi, and paddleboarding around the world backwards come to mind).

So here’s what I’m gonna do for the American public this holiday season. I’m going to do [most of] the research for you! The graphic below is one of those most commonly thrown at nonprofits on a very regular basis, often with aggressive comments like “explain yourself”, “you suck” or “[insert grammatically deficient rant here]”. Below the graphic I’ll go box by box with links to the correct info; links which you yourself could find with just the slightest bit of Googling. Additionally, I will possibly throw in some snark. After all, I want to help you out but I also want to do something that’s fun for me.

If you’ve seen these graphics and phony information previously and passed them along as an honest mistake, and you are open to knowing the correct info, your past transgressions are easily forgiven. But, if you’re one of those trendy folks who looks factual information square in the eye and spits in its face, I realize the time it takes to conduct all this research is wasted on you. But never fear! I found a better resource JUST FOR YOU 🙂

For the remainder, the info that follows has also been similarly researched and published by Snopes, but nobody seems interested in scrolling down on their page.

I don’t know about you, but I’m expecting nothing but a good time here! Off we go!!

donate1

So that covers that. Here’s another variation of this common misinformation that you may see circulating among a number of others. There are a couple of bonus charities listed in this one, but hopefully you get the idea.

donate2

This is NOT an attempt to guide you towards one charity over another or influence your decision in any way. ALL of the above-mentioned charities along with countless others provide much needed programs and resources for our communities and are deserving and in need of your support throughout the year!

I simply encourage everyone to do the simple research necessary to be properly informed. There are plenty of resources available to help, from Charity Navigator, Give.org, and any number of charity watchdog groups. And don’t overlook one of the most detailed pieces of financial info available for nonprofits – their IRS 990 form – which is often available on their website in the interests of transparency.

Ultimately give with your heart. If the mission of an organization speaks to you, and you trust that they will do the good you expect, by all means give your money, your time, your whatever. They all need the help!

But for God’s sake STOP proliferating misinformation. Not only is it potentially harmful to the charities and volunteers out there trying so hard to do the most good; if you’re one of those out there blindly hitching your wagon to false and quite easily debunked nonsense such as these graphics, you’re harming your own intelligence.

Happy giving, and happy holidays!

factcheck

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Why Red Cross…

Staring down train cars and tracks washed out by Colorado flooding, September 2013.

Staring down train cars and tracks washed out by Colorado flooding, September 2013.

I joined the ranks of the American Red Cross about two and a half years ago following a less than ideal “vacation” to New York City and an accidental visit with a really moody storm we called Sandy. Left without power, hot water, and really anything in the way of food for five additional unplanned days, my wife and I had it so much easier than most.

Still, our circumstances did pose their challenges. It was during those days where I first really noticed so many strangers banding together to help each other out. Those with power in their homes and businesses ran extension cords out to the sidewalks so people could charge their phones. Restaurants welcomed the masses in for relief from the storm. At one point I found an outlet in a restaurant ceiling where I let my dying phone dangle like a Christmas ornament for hours until it was revived.

I never encountered the Red Cross while I was there as we just weren’t in the areas of greatest need. But I knew they were out there and all around. Witnessing such an outpouring of support from every corner of the city, there was no doubt in my mind that I would pursue that sort of humanitarian endeavor when I returned home.

Eventually, my feet hit the ground of my sunny California and I was off to become a volunteer. I was familiar with a lot of the work of the Red Cross thanks to my job in emergency management, so that seemed like a great place to start. And as luck would have it, there just so happened to be a staff position available. Not really looking for a job at the time but never one to question the universe, I threw my hat in the ring and actually ended up getting hired!

Fast forward two and a half years of the greatest work years of my life and you have one of the strongest, lifelong supporters of the Red Cross. I say “one of” because there is no doubt of the competition for “biggest fan” among our thousands of volunteers and supporters across the country and around the world.

Being a part of this mission has been life changing, and here are just a few examples of why:

Colorado Floods – 2013

My first deployment. My hometown of Sacramento is prone to flooding when we’re not trying to imitate a desert, so I’ve seen some local disasters in my time. Colorado was the first time I got up close and personal with communities ravaged by a disaster. Communities ripped from their foundations and floated down stream like rudderless boats. Water lines from creeks you could typically step over reached well higher than my six foot frame. Historic amounts of rain water cascaded down the Rocky Mountains with such force, it turned trees into toothpicks, crumpled paved roads into mud, leveled homes and took lives. The devastation was unreal.

The Red Cross was there. From the first raindrops and flood watches, Red Cross volunteers were ready to look after their neighbors. As the situation worsened, more volunteers with compassion in their hearts and expert training, swooped in from all corners of the country to bring relief to this flooded state. The hours for everyone were long, the work was unceasing, and yet no one seemed to tire. No one seemed to complain. There was simply a passion and a drive to get out there and help those who needed it in any way we could.

What probably struck me the most and what I would quickly find is quite commonplace is 1.) disaster-affected community members wanting to help others despite their own circumstances and turning to the Red Cross to help them do so, and 2.) the number of volunteers who want to extend their stay and continue the work! Disaster deployments are typically two weeks straight working 12-14 hours a day.

I was inspired that the desire to help could so easily trump the grueling pace and exhaustion – so many put their own lives on hold to help get the lives of others back on track. I’ll never forget it.

California Wildfires – 2014

Right in my own backyard, wildfires raged all year long. Literally, from January 1 it seemed we were responding to a wildfire (in addition to our rising rate of home fires) nearly every day. In fact, when May hit, that was exactly what was happening in our region. Over the course of the next six months, as our most famous quote from the time stated, “there was only an 18-hour period where our Red Cross volunteers didn’t have at least one wildfire evacuation shelter open.”

The ongoing drought, the wind, the heat combined with accidents, carelessness, and outright criminal behavior brought about a wildfire onslaught we felt would never end. And yet, despite the countless hours needed to shelter and feed endangered communities, the Red Cross volunteers never wavered. When and where there was a need, they were there without fail. When ordered to get some rest after unbroken days and weeks on the job, they resisted, ultimately relented, and were right back to work the second their mandated rest period was over.

Once again community members turned to the Red Cross as a means to help their neighbors. In fact, during the Boles Fire in Weed, California, one woman approached me in a parking lot as I got out of a Red Cross vehicle and asked how she might volunteer. After providing some direction for her she informed me that she lost her own home to the fire only the day before. After losing HER OWN HOUSE, she wanted to volunteer and help others because she saw the great work we were doing and wanted to get involved. How powerful is that?!

Oso Mudslide – 2014

Unimaginable. Without warning, a small mountain community in Washington is erased by a catastrophic mudslide. Dozens are missing or injured. First responders and volunteers are part of the stricken community. They are now searching for their friends, family, and neighbors, some of whom were seen only minutes before tragedy struck. Time to go to work!

Red Cross shelters were established in the towns of Arlington and Darrington, two towns connected by a single roadway that no longer existed. They served as a refuge for residents who have lost their homes or can’t return. They are a point where first responders can provide updates to the community. And they were points where the heart of the Red Cross shined so bright.

Beyond shelter, beyond food and water, beyond beds and blankets – all of which are staples of Red Cross disaster relief – the compassion and care every volunteer committed to these devastated communities was awe-inspiring. Volunteers welcomed shocked residents and heartbroken family members with their gentle spirit and did whatever it took to provide comfort and care. Many tears were shed and hugs were shared over a hurt that can never be forgotten.

Despite the daunting gravity of the disaster, never once did a volunteer hesitate to jump in and be the helping hand to lift the heavy emotional burden, if only for a moment. In life’s worst moments, we see the best of humanity rise up.

Christmas Eve Apartment Fire – 2013

I have responded to a number of home fires, and all of them stand out for one reason or another. This one struck me in a rather unique way.

It’s Christmas Eve morning and it’s freezing, as it often is at that time of year. There’s no snow on the ground because, well, California. An early morning fire that started in a maintenance area has destroyed four apartment units. For these families, Christmas is effectively over. Trees, presents, and any other surprises have tragically gone up in smoke. Fortunately, everyone got out safely.

When I got on the scene, our Disaster Action Team volunteers were already working diligently to assist the residents and had been for some time. It was a busy scene. Fire crews and equipment scattered all around, news media scurrying about looking for a shot and the story, the displaced residents scrambling to salvage whatever they could from their homes, and a collection of neighbors watching the show unfold outside their front doors.

As more time passed, the media packed up their cameras and moved on. With the fire out and safety restored, the fire department stored their gear and headed to their next call. Neighbors soon retreated into their heated apartments, and the scene fell eerily calm. The only sounds were those of our volunteers speaking with the residents working to get them a warm place to spend their Christmas Eve and guide them through the next steps of recovery.

There were no friends or family rushing to the rescue of these people. They didn’t have insurance. The apartment managers were not swift to respond. I looked around and realized that without our Red Cross volunteers and those who support disaster relief, four families would have been left with absolutely nothing, no place to go, and no clue how to begin the process of moving forward – all on Christmas!

Every single day, whatever the need, wherever the need, no matter what, the Red Cross is standing by and ready to help. If that call doesn’t come, we’re still sitting by the phone. If the call comes in but no help is needed, we’ll still show up just in case. And when we start hearing words like “historic” and “unprecedented” as we have so often for the last several weeks out of Texas, rest assured we have volunteers around the country ready to get to work and touch lives. Thanks to their compassion and dedication, and to all those supporting the humanitarian mission of the Red Cross throughout the year, they’re able to do just that!

It’s a little wordy, sure, but there are very few things that are this close to my heart. Anyone can play armchair quarterback (and they certainly do), but it’s quite another thing to get in the game and see how things really happen. The support matters. Despite what any detractors may claim, the support has very real and meaningful impact. The work is complex, challenging, and so often thankless, but no matter the obstacle the objective is to ALWAYS do whatever it takes to meet the needs of residents, communities, and countries touched by tragedy. I’ve been there, I’ve seen it countless times. To see the Red Cross in action is one of the great joys of my life and I am honored to be even a small part of such wonderful work.

Despite misguided criticisms and ludicrous claims, you’ll find no millionaires here. What you will find is a staff working for the mission, not the paycheck, alongside thousands of dedicated volunteers – all committed to delivering help and hope to those in need every single day. It’s the hardest I’ve ever worked, the cheapest I’ve ever worked, and the most rewarding work I’ve ever done.

That’s why.

THANK YOU, RED CROSS VOLUNTEERS AND SUPPORTERS, FOR GIVING SO MUCH OF YOURSELVES IN SERVICE TO OTHERS!!

Kids

My daughter is 11 years old. Combine that with a personality that’s stronger than Schwarzenegger in his prime and what you’ve got is a damn nightmare. Oh sure, kids are the sweetest little miracles. They’re so much fun, and so adorable, and you just want to hug them until the end of time.

Barf!

Look, don’t get me wrong, I love my kid more than life itself. I would jump in front of any manner of terribly grisly injury and/or death to protect her from harm. She is my life and I am proud to be her parent. Now, that in no way means she isn’t a psychotic mess from time to time. That doesn’t mean my little pre-adolescent angel doesn’t summon enough attitude to make this non-jogger go running just to get out of the house until she’s in college.

You yahoos out there bragging about your perfect little kids and your life straight out of a storybook may be fooling your gullible, childless friends, but the hell if they’re fooling me. Raising kids is hard. And for a good chunk of time, it sucks. But if you do it right, they’ll recognize your efforts eventually and let you live in their mansion when they’re a wealthy marine biologist/pianist/singer/actress.

As tough as it may be, stand your ground, stay involved and stay the course. There’s no better retirement plan than raising good kids. At least that’s what I keep telling myself! The last thing I need is to die in one of those crooked retirement homes.

Quick Thoughts on Soccer

Pre game at Hughes Stadium in Sacramento - 2/28/15

Pre game at Hughes Stadium in Sacramento – 2/28/15

My sleepy town of Sacramento is making its biggest push to wake up and be relevant in the decades since I’ve been here. Of course by “relevant”, I guess what I mean is that it’s building a lot of trendy overpriced places for hipsters to eat and drink.

But the thing that is really appealing to me is the passionate pursuit to land a professional sports franchise that isn’t the Raiders. The Sacramento Republic FC is now in its second season, following an inaugural championship campaign that left no doubt of our city’s ability to support a pro club. And while everything thus far has been all fine and good, we all know the ultimate goal is to become a Major League Soccer city. Anything less would be a travesty.

For anyone who invested themselves in the Sacramento Kings near-championship run in 2002 only to see the team fall devastatingly short, you could feel the collective sucker punch that had been levied against the town. To finally be that close to something incredible only to have it snatched away was a pain that, in some respects, the city has yet to recover from.

To see such amazing support for the Republic and the building momentum towards an MLS decision in the coming months feels like that same championship run in 2002. You can just feel the energy of the fan base and much of the city coming together in support of something amazing. To fall short of the dream would be heartbreaking.

This is a soccer town! Anyone who saw the Sacramento Knights play in the 90’s knows this – a professional-level team that broke its own league attendance records season after season until finally getting Maloofed. Anyone who has a kid playing youth soccer on one of the abundant, yet always crowded, soccer fields in our area during the soccer season knows this. And if you have been lucky enough to be in attendance of any of the Republic games – all of which have been sold out – you absolutely know this.

MLS is the goal, and no league with a genuine interest in expanding the popularity of this sport in our country, could possibly deny Sacramento of this opportunity. This city was truly Built for MLS, and this is our moment! We will not come up short this time. We can’t. We’re indomitable!

A Blog About Work

I hate blogs about work. I really can’t stand any sort of social platform on which people bang out negative comments about the place and/or people which keep them employed. Are you stupid or what?

That said, here are a couple of things about work:

Open Door Policy
My god. This has got to be the craziest management concept to ever be considered. I have one of these “policies”. It’s meant to make me approachable and open to feedback and honest communication. What nobody tells you before you establish this open-door approach is that people will use this door…constantly.

Got a Minute?
That’s how it begins. The open door has given way to an impromptu meeting. If you’ve ever been suckered into a “drive-by” conversation that’s started with this question, you’ve no doubt found yourself looking for an open window to jump out of after about 15 precious minutes of lost productivity. After 30 minutes, your body has entered advanced stages of decomposition.

Reply All
Jesus. Reply all. REPLY ALL!! Such a display of mass social retardation that it has caused me to blaspheme for a second time in a relatively short blog! OMGWTFBBQ?!?!?!111

HUMP DAY!!
humpdayGEICO and this stupid camel are responsible for THE most obnoxious thing to ever hit offices on a Wednesday. I can appreciate the short run the commercials had, but the catch phrase has taken deep root into the minds of too many colleagues who have decided that repeated imitation is appreciated by everyone, regardless of the day. Hey, Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike……it is not.

Can you do me a favor?
Nope.

Brochures/Flyers/Handouts/Posters/Etc.
This may not apply to all of you, but I’m a marketing guy. I am ultimately responsible for the public-facing brand of my organization. Everyday somebody comes to me with a piece of garbage “designed” in Word with liberal use of the WordArt function, incorrect logos, and ridiculous attempts at grammar. I would say that I appreciate your effort, but I don’t. Not even a little. None of these will be used. I would sooner have a mime represent my brand. A MIME!

So that ought to do it for my existing work gripes. It’s always dicey putting these out there, but I figure that most of my colleagues who may read this can relate and won’t hold it against me. If they do, well, I guess I should’ve known better. The lessons are out there!

Happy Hump Day!!!

Cheers!

A Brief Tale of Pants

I’m going to talk about pants here. Specifically, I’m going to talk about how pants are stupid. For all you people out there who are gonna get all uppity and say “ewww, TMI…” blah, blah, blah, get over yourselves. You hate pants, too. You are fooling no one.

Let me further preface this by saying that the last thing myself or society wants is everyone strutting around pantless. Nobody needs that freak show. That said…

Pants suck. Societal norms tell us that we must wear pants in order to not offend or make uncomfortable our friends and colleagues. To satisfy this oppressive doctrine, we jam our lower halves into inflexible, unbreathable fabrics and lower the overall quality of our lives for hours at a time.

But the second you get home, there’s nothing quite like breaking free of those shackles which have held you captive for far too long! “Freedom at last!” you cry, as you abandon those bastards in your driveway and fly into the comforting embrace of your couch*. At the end of the work day, or volunteer time at the kid’s school, liberation has finally come. And it’s glorious!

This is about the time where some of you people are thinking “oh, how gross, he’s one of those ‘no pants’ people, eww.” Cut the crap. I’ve seen the way women insist on shoehorning themselves into pants they ultimately have to peel off. And these idiot dudes who have decided it’s worth it to cram into skinny jeans? As I see it, unless they’ve had some major operation, there’s no way that’s an ideal look for fashion OR for comfort.

I’ve often complained about the guys that sag their pants and waddle around leaving an ass trail everywhere they go. But after further thought on the matter, they’re simply doing to bare minimum to satisfy our pants-wearing society. Once they get home they have less work to do than anyone else to get into a state of comfort, and for that I salute them.

There are a lot of problems in the world. Lots of people disagreeing, people don’t get along. There are wars and famine. We’ve obviously lost our minds if this society has made the Kardashian name famous and Miley Cyrus is still a thing. But as we wallow in our pants-wearing depressive state, think about this for a moment. Kim Kardashian and Miley Cyrus are beyond obnoxious, but they both enjoy immense wealth, “success” and freedoms to do whatever it is they want to do.

Did they earn this freedom by wearing pants? Case closed.

#mindblown

*For the record, there is no bare assery going on. Traditional pants are always replaced by basketball shorts or fleece in the common areas, which is acceptable.

Things I’ve Learned Today

Between finally moving out of my parent’s house in my early 20’s to getting myself married in my early 30’s, I lived a number of years where I was the sole person responsible for simply keeping myself alive. I had to feed myself, maintain the hygiene of both myself and my environment the best that I could, and I had to keep a roof over my head. All of these things I did rather well. I was resourceful and actually quite MacGyveresque when it came to figuring my way around life’s obstacles.

Then I got married.

I’m not sure if it was immediate or a more gradual decline, but I realize that I have regressed to an almost childlike state of dependence on the wife. Never is this more clear to me than when she skips town for a couple of days – as she has done to me this week – leaving me to fend for myself.

In the 36ish hours she has been gone so far, I have realized the following:

I don’t know where food comes from

When home alone, I must walk from the couch to the kitchen at least once every 10 minutes to look in the refrigerator. I’m not sure what I’m expecting to find. There are things in there…edible things…but they don’t look like anything I’m interested in eating. I think I’m hoping that the various ingredients may somehow form up into a meal of some description that may sustain me for the next few hours. When this doesn’t happen, I resort to eating Lucky Charms out of the box because I ran out of milk and can’t be bothered to go to the store. Where is the store, anyway?!!?

I can’t figure out the coffee:water ratio

Every morning after the kid heads to school, the wife and I enjoy coffee time. It’s nice and peaceful, and a chance to ease into the morning. Sometimes she makes the coffee, sometimes I make the coffee. We used to have one of those idiot-proof Keurig things where you pour any amount of water in there, insert the coffee cartridge, and out comes a cup. However, we recently returned to the more traditional coffee grounds and filter approach. The wife has taught me the perfect balance of beans to water that will make two cups of coffee. But now that I am by myself, I don’t know what the hell to do! One would think you just cut the ingredients in half…but it doesn’t work!! I drank two cups of coffee this morning just to avoid wasting it and spent the morning jacked up on caffeine! What’s worse – I never even drank coffee before the wife came along. Now I’m hooked and completely screwed!

I need more lap space

We’ve got three dogs. THREE! Nobody needs three dogs. We try to justify it by telling ourselves that they’re just small dogs, so it’s not a big deal. And yes, together they weigh less than 20 pounds, so there’s nothing big about them at all. However, all three of them are lap dogs. You can’t sit down without a dog immediately climbing up on you. This is less of a problem when you’ve got one human lap in the house for every dog. But now that I’m a solo human, there is an endless dog parade marching across my lap and using my crotch as a trampoline!

I have zero focus

I have a gnat-like attention span. At one point last night I had the TV on, the computer up, and a different cell phone in each hand…but I wasn’t looking at any of them because I was busy watching one of the dogs do something funny. Having the wife and kid around tends to give me something to focus on. Without them, my brain rattles around like a pinball machine. Not that you need proof, but that last sentence took me 10 minutes to finish because I decided I wanted to eat a piece of candy, pay a bill, then arrange pencils in a drawer. Yes, pencils in a drawer.

So there it is. After years of looking forward to and finally achieving some independence in my life, I find myself hopelessly dependent. But it’s all good, cuz I kind of like my wife. She’s a bit of alright and she helps me keep my business together. I just hope she hurries home before I’m wearing a propeller hat and velcro shoes!

Cheers!