Sunday, May 1, 2011

Deductive Reasoning

On Friday night, Belle and I were greeters for the Helping Paws spring graduation.  As I listened to each graduate talk about what their dog meant to them, heard their gratitude for their dog's foster home trainers, sponsors and the staff of Helping Paws, I marveled again that such good can come from so little.  At least as far as government funding is concerned.

The mission is simple, "Furthering the independence of individuals with physical disabilities through the use of service dogs".  Helping Paws provides these incredibly trained animals virtually free to their graduates. They are able to meet their mission because of a host of volunteers, guided by a small, but highly capable staff, that do everything from providing office assistance to fostering and training these magnificent creatures.  Beautiful dogs that will one day become the hands and feet and dearest friend of the people with whom they will be paired.

The cost of raising and training the dogs is met primarily through fundraising events, dog sponsorships (both individual and corporate) and a plethora of generous contributions by those that believe passionately in the mission of Helping Paws.  The only government assistance received, albeit indirectly, is the charitable deduction received by the donors.  On the other hand, with the help of their dogs, many of our graduates are able to work (or work more), thus reducing their reliance on services provided through government assistance.

Helping Paws is just one organization of many that quietly meet the needs of society's most challenged members.  These organizations achieve their missions on shoestring budgets with a ruthless efficiency that is incomparable in most government programs.  More importantly, they provide the human touch, the connection, the caring most needed by their clients but so often lost in the red tape of bureaucracy.  

Unfortunately, one indirect source of government funding is being threatened.  The tax deduction for charitable gifts is one of the items Congress is looking at to reduce spending.  Oh sure, most people will continue to give regardless of the deductibility of the gift, but there's no doubt that the gifts made in anticipation of reducing a tax bill will decline.  For some organizations, this drop in donations may mean the difference between life and death.  I hope Congress considers the added cost of providing services that were once met by organizations that were forced to close because of a short-term budget fix.

Our system of government is unparalleled in history, but it can't do everything.  In the world, the U.S. is unique in its philanthropic activities.   If government is really "we the people", it seems to me our current support of local charitable organizations is the best of what "we" really means.  A modern day recreation of the miracle of the loaves and fishes - many people sharing their time, their talents and funds on gifts that continue to give over and over again.

Isn't that miracle worth a tax deduction?