1 the voluntary giving of help, typically in the form of money, to those in need.
2 an organization set up to provide help and raise money for those in need.
I was at one of my favorite watering holes recently and I became privy to a conversation about charities. ("Becoming privy" is a polite way of saying assholes at the other end of the bar were too stewed to talk with their indoor voice.) They were discussing [arguing] the finer points of charitable giving, being taken advantage of or helping others do God's work. Pretty soon that whole end of the place was involved, and not one of them even knew what using your indoor voice meant. I have often wondered if it is written somewhere in a manual about having conversations at the bar, that the guy [drunk] who can maintain the loudest voice while speaking his point without breaking into an outright scream wins. Like speed walking with your mouth. It is relatively evident that these guys have never been on a debate team while in high school. I swear the place got a call from NASA complaining the astronauts on the space station were taking time away from their work to explain to the Russians just what Girl Scout cookies are! I am not going to tell you what those guys thought they were.
This was getting close to being out of hand. One guy kept up with how charities should be outlawed. He went on and on about the abuse of peoples' hard-earned money. "Ever try to walk down Chapel Street in New Haven without getting hit up a dozen times by panhandlers?" I live in New Haven and walk around the area a bit for exercise, so I found myself feeling a little for his point. The guy [drunk] next to him says "Yes I have. And I give them any spare change I have in my pocket. How can you be so heartless towards the homeless?" Drunk number one says,"They aren't homeless; I manage the 401(k) retirement plan they have. Don't you know they are unionized? How do you think they know what corners they are supposed to work on any given day?" Drunk number two responds,"No shit! Do they get dental coverage?" "No. Bad teeth are one of the tools of the trade. One whiff of the breath and you want to give up your cash just to get away."
I do live in the area and it does indeed become a pain in the ass. One time I had friends from Amsterdam with me in my car. This guy [drunk] comes up to my window and asks for $7. Seems he had his girlfriend's car and needed to get a flat fixed so he could get home. He had $14 but needed $21. Being I had friends with me from another country and wanted to show a good example of America, as politely as I could I told him to get the f*#@ away from my truck. My friends were a little taken aback [outright stunned] at my example. I explained it was only one of the predatory street people with another story I wasn't going to play into. They accepted my explanation but I could tell they remained a little unsure. That is until we parked the truck, got out on foot to go into the store, when guess who pops up on the sidewalk with a whole different story. I find that cutting them off at the pass with a preemptive "Hey man, any loose change for my IRA?" or "Wow! I was just going to ask you the same thing!" causes them to remember your face and turn away in disgust the next time you approach. I also often wonder if those fundraising companies that call representing organizations like the local police or fire unions would be up front and say they are not actually the police or firemen calling and that they keep something like 70 percent of what you donate for themselves, if anyone would donate at all. As for myself, I make a point of asking just to what charities my money would be going. When they tell me, I inform them that I will be sending a check directly to that charity. I don't understand why they usually hang up on me at that point. Oh well.
Whether we want to admit it or not, charity touches each and every one of our lives in some way at some point. How much do you want to bet that the maternity ward you were born in was in some way donated to the hospital? How about the defribulator the fire department used to revive Great Uncle Bob when he dropped in the backyard being paid for by funds raised by the local volunteer department? How about Polio being wiped out by a little thing known as the March of Dimes? We are inundated by organizations with their hands out all the time. Some of them are worthy of your support. A lot of them are not. It is up to each of us to take a moment to ensure our money is going to a good cause. Connecticut has many such good causes. Like the True Colors, Triangle and New Haven Pride Centers to name a few. AIDS Project New Haven works hard to help those who have become forgotten, but still need help. Local establishments run fundraiser events for worthy causes. They all need our help so they can reach out and help those in need. But beware. There are many unscrupulous organizations out there as well. Check them out. Ask the organizations these groups claim to support if they receive the funding and exactly how much. My personal guideline is this: if a charity uses less than 90 percent of the funds for their assistance, it's a scam. I donate my money directly where it needs to go. If you really want to help someone in need, do a little homework and maximize the effect of your gift. Donate directly.