George Graham

To Give or Not to Give?



As Christmas approaches, you are once again facing the Big Question: What to give to whom.

You can figure out Aunt Martha’s gift for yourself. Nothing you do will probably be right, anyway. But when it comes to the charities, I have a word of advice for you: Google them first.

A few nights ago the phone rang and Sandra answered it. I heard her murmuring assent and wondered what she was getting us into this time. I was reassured to hear that she had agreed to donate some clothes to veterans. Not just veterans – paralyzed veterans.

If ever there was a worthy cause, this had to be it.

We took special care to find some nice things to leave out for them to collect. We rummaged through the closets, looking for clothes we thought paralyzed veterans would appreciate. I included a suit that looked almost new and one of my favorite sports coats. Sandra’s sacrifices included a sexy negligee ensemble, as well as an elegant skirt and a designer handbag (yes, paralyzed veterans include women, too).

I even found a suitcase to put the stuff in. It was one of those with wheels that you can tug along through airports instead of carrying it. What paralyzed veteran wouldn’t appreciate something like that?

We packed the suitcase and I took it out to the curb.

But Sandra started having second thoughts. Would our stuff get to the paralyzed veterans, she wondered. Or would someone make off with the suitcase during the night? Who were these people, anyway? Would they keep the nice stuff for themselves? Was this a reputable organization? And so on…

All right, I conceded. I’ll look them up on the web.

I came across warnings about all kinds of scams using veterans to collect money from the gullible public.  Could anyone sink that low? Could they sink to using veterans to line their pockets?

I’m afraid so. One article I found was headed: “Our Veterans Deserve Better from America’s Charities.” And a list rating the various veterans charities was just as depressing.

Our group – Paralyzed Veterans of America – scored an F on the list. From what I read, only $6 million of the $82 million they collected ended up in veterans’ pockets.

Indeed, nearly half of the 30 veterans charities on the list got a failing grade. Only seven got n A+ or A.

Sandra’s instincts were right, as usual.

No way were we going to give our nice things to a charity with a failing grade. As soon as I turned off the computer, I headed for the curb to retrieve our suitcase and its contents.

I found an old cardboard box, and filled it with some of my golf shirts (I know I’m sure to get golf shirts for Christmas) and some other clothes that I wouldn’t miss. Sandra reclaimed her negligee set and her skirt but left the handbag and a few other things.

Of course we feel bad about the paralyzed vets, but we would have felt worse about being scammed.

So many of America’s charities are phony – or at least partially phony. Even well known groups like the Red Cross siphon off a big chunk of the donations they get to “administrative costs.” The people running the show often pocket fat salaries and enjoy juicy expense accounts.

To an old “Socialist” like me, it’s one more reason for the government to take the responsibility for alleviating people’s suffering.

It’s all very well to argue that charity should be a personal choice, but with so many scam artists about, I feel a lot safer with the bureaucrats managing the handouts.

Click for ratings given veterans charities.

Click for a news report on the scams.

Click for tips on charitable giving.

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for