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Wednesday, Jun 7, 2023

A Modest Proposal to the Successful

As we travel around Our Valley, it’s clear that the old saw of “The rich get richer and the poor get poorer” has real meaning. In the last couple of months, I’ve visited several of our not-for-profit organizations. I recall: Sitting in the reception area of MEND (Meet Each Need with Dignity) in Pacoima, and being struck by the happiness on the faces of the members of a family of five when they were handed a box of food basic nourishment that they otherwise would not have been able to afford. Listening to an eight-year-old explain that he comes to the Boys & Girls Club of the West Valley because he “feels safe here,” reminding us that thousands of Valley children live with fear every day, particularly if their home is in a community terrorized by violent gangs. Walking down the aisles of the giant workshop of New Horizons in North Hills and being greeted by big smiles and handshakes from the developmentally disabled who were so pleased to have visitors. I know that many of our businesses do their fair share and often more than that to help individuals and organizations in need. Being in the public relations profession, I’m eminently familiar with the phrases “cause-related marketing” and “corporate philanthropy.” And I’m also familiar with the explanations and excuses: “We’ve committed our community support budget for the year already”; “we restrict our giving to certain areas, and I’m afraid you don’t fit into any of those categories”; and “why don’t you apply for a grant from our foundation”? So, putting on my Robin Hood cap (sans feather), here’s my attempt to take just a bit) from the (very) rich, and have them give it to the poor: Not long ago, Pacoima’s MEND helped a homeless man who was unemployed and living on the streets. MEND’s medical testing showed that, like many poor people, he was diabetic. MEND provided him with insulin and nutritional counseling. Within three months he got a job and found a place to live. The lack of medicine to keep his diabetes under control had been holding him back from living independently. Marianne Haver Hill at MEND says that with $10,000 her organization could supply life-sustaining medicine for five months to those in need, a very large portion of whom are diabetic and unable to afford insulin, the most basic of medicines. The West Valley Boys and Girls Club occupies a building in to put it charitably (pun intended) terrible condition. The roof needs repair and leaks rivers during rain, the entire building needs painting, and there is no air conditioning or heating. Imagine how the young people who the Club is trying to help will stifle in this summer’s heat just to enjoy the Club which is here to keep them off the streets and out of trouble? Jan Sobel at the Boys & Girls Club says it would take $35,000 to air condition and heat her Canoga Park facility. New Horizons’ 400 or so clients, who contend with Down Syndrome, autism, and a variety of other developmental challenges, take their breaks and lunch in the organization’s Quad, which lacks appropriate facilities and accommodations. The organization’s Holly Rasey tells us that $20,000 would provide new tables, benches, and other enhancements to replace their current 30-year-old, worn-out ratty fiberglass outdoor furniture, none of which is wheelchair accessible. Far be it from me to tell others how to spend their money, but According to the San Fernando Valley Business Journal Book of Lists, the following were the highest-paid public company CEOs in our area in 2005: Angelo Mozilo, Chairman/CEO of Countrywide Financial Corp. had an aggregate take-home pay of $141,975,000. R. Chad Dreier, Chairman, CEO and President of Ryland Group, Inc, had an aggregate take-home pay of $57,630,000. Number three on the list was Kevin W. Sharer, CEO and President of Amgen, Inc, with an aggregate take-home pay of $34,487,000. Now, I don’t question that all three of these gentleman might personally be very philanthropic, that their companies operate at the highest standards of community support, and that they may direct their firms to support the most deserving social agencies in their communities, to the greatest possible degree. But I’d still bet that they can afford just a bit more philanthropy. Mr. Mozillo, how about providing the air conditioning and heating for the Boys & Girls Club? Mr. Dreier, how about some new furniture for New Horizons’ clients? Mr. Shearer, how about five months worth of medicines for MEND’s beneficiaries? Gentlemen, it’s up to you whether your tax-deductible contributions come from your organizations or each of you, personally. But let’s help these organizations now, not after six months of corporate bureaucracy. “Charity begins at home.” — Charles Dickens Martin Cooper is Chairman of Cooper Beavers, Inc., marketing and communications. He is the Immediate Past Chairman of VICA, Past President of the Public Relations Society of America-Los Angeles Chapter, and of the Encino Chamber of Commerce, and is Vice President of the Los Angeles Quality and Productivity Commission. He can be reached at mcooper@cooperbeavers.com.

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