It’s that time of year, and the endless whine pours into my mailbox. Each plea for cash plays on the guilt that comes with my own warm and snug holiday expectations.
Bulk mail: The muted envelope features a slogan that begs, choose me!
In yesterday’s take: St Stephen’s Community House needs me to help the homeless. The John Howard Society Of Canada is training ex-cons for jobs. The abused women at the Redwood Shelter could use a hand up, and the White Ribbon Campaign is for “men working to end men’s violence against women.”
That’s just the straight stuff, from a single day.
It’s easy enough to weed out the absolute trash. I’ll never send money to Covenant House, no matter how long and hard the appeal.
Covenant House, just a few blocks south of the gay ghetto (and therefore a magnet for homo kids), may well be the country’s best youth shelter. It’s the best funded, best known, and quite possibly, the most homophobic. Lots of Catholic money goes to Covenant House.
There’s no condoms, no safer-sex or AIDS info, nothing about birth control (except the news that abstinence is the best thing since sliced bread). I trust the kids are smart enough to know the zealots are full of it – but I won’t help the religious nuts practice their brainwashing techniques.
Especially when there’re so many good causes and so little money in a world where taxes are cut and cut – and social services and the arts get knifed.
(And where does the freezing guy with holey shoes I walk by fit in, who wheedles 10 bucks to get into a warm cubicle at the Bathhouse Hotel through the coldest hours of night?)
Still, once the dross is spooned off, I’ve never really worked out who deserves my meagre kopeks more than others. A common enough affliction.
You, too, can buy into the time-honoured tradition of refusing to decide. Give your money to an umbrella group, like the homo United Way, the Lesbian And Gay Community Appeal.
Twenty years ago, when we were a small and more insular community, it was easy for the Appeal’s small donations – an average of a thousand dollars or so – to mean something.
Now some of our more important institutions are solidly ensconced – AIDS groups, Buddies In Bad Times, the 519 Church Street Community Centre – and even so say they’re still underfunded, squealing for more with regular auctions and fundraisers. You’d think the Appeal’s tiny grants to these larger groups would hardly make a dent in their mega budgets – but some of them apply, so every little bit must help.
As usual, the Appeal also gave out tens of thousands this pst year to dozens of worthy groups and individuals – musicians, writers, filmmakers. Youths, political activists, community groups.
A collection of volunteers sifts through the applications, and I don’t always like the judges’ choices (there’s a lotta bad art and miserably misled activists). On the other hand, who’d give a baroque ensemble like I Furiosi a small cheque other than the Appeal? It’s not building affordable housing, but listening to (and watching) these cute leather-clad musicians makes me happy.
And now the Appeal’s partnered with a US group which is promising to match the next $100,000 raised – but that’s in addition to the usual tens of thousands the Appeal must pull in annually. They’ve got a lot of faith.
There’s always pet projects. Directed giving, the professionals like to say. As the gay and lesbian community continues to grow, the hungry mouth needs ever more.
Glad Day bookshop announced it’s going to court to fight censorship. Desh Pardesh (the queer South Asian fest) is warning of sure death unless there’s a bailout. The Pussy Palace grrrls need cash, in the thousands and thousands, for their court battle.
How much money do we have? My head’s going to explode, and my wallet’s deflated.
We can only do the best we can.
Eleanor Brown is Managing Editor for Xtra.