Friday, February 15, 2008

The Bureaucracy of Giving

My neighbor had a spare computer – a nice one with a printer. The shelter where I read to children really needed a computer for the moms to do resumes and for the kids to play with educational software. Seemed like a perfect fit.

I thought I had worked out all the details. The computer was in the back of our car. My husband was coming to hook it up and install the kid free-ware he had found. But something told me to call to confirm before we set out.

The director of the shelter was sorry to inform me that their parent organization does not accept donations of anything but money. Not even a perfectly good computer for which there is a crying need. She gave me the number for the DC office so I could plead my case and ask for an exception.

I spoke to a very understanding woman who held fast to their policy. She said they had seriously considered introducing technology into their multiple shelters in the area, but had decided against it for several reasons:

– They want everything to be equally available to all residents.
– They don’t want the maintenance burden.
– They don’t have staff to monitor the use of something like even one computer.

Picturing paper jams and unfamiliarity with software, I totally understood what she was saying. I suggested they consider setting up a technology program similar to the reading program in which I participate. Volunteers with a computer background could come on a regular basis to work with kids and/or moms to take advantage of what a computer could offer.

But I still have my neighbor’s computer in my car and would really prefer to give it to a person or a family, as opposed to just dropping it off at the Salvation Army or Goodwill. Later this morning I hope to talk to my old friend Morena, the Hispanic woman who used to clean my office. She had an antiquated computer with no printer. Maybe she would like to upgrade to a better computer since she has 4 children who could take advantage of it.

I’m learning that it’s not always easy to give good things away.


Blogger Richard said...

I can certainly understand not wanting the additional responsibilities that would come with a computer (or any change or addition that is not part of their core services) - even if it might be something potentially useful.

12:27 PM  
Blogger steve said...

I can't give it away either!

3:15 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

It must be frustrating, to see a need and to be able to fill it but for the rules (as logical as they are).

7:12 PM  
Blogger Ruth D~ said...

Life can be so crazy with its rules and regs.

7:47 PM  
Blogger Ekim said...

There is a group that helps street kids get their lives together. Iwas asked by one young uy to come in and talk to him about art and photography. We had a nice chat.
I decided that I wanted to give a hand. Find a way to buy some digital cameras and give some instruction. An artistic outlet. I was prepared for criminal record checks and such but I wasn't prepared for the attitude. They seem uninterested.

9:39 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Richard -- I agree, but it's still hard to accept the end of what I thought would be a win-win situation.

Ekim -- Maybe both groups have been burned by donations.

9:48 PM  
Blogger Reya Mellicker said...

One of my favorite runes is called GEBO, it looks like an X. The traditional association is "gift" though several erudite rune experts tell me it's true meaning is "gift/obligation" because every time a gift is given, the receiver takes on an obligation - to respect the gift, care for it, maintain it.

Setting up a volunteer program is a LOT of work I can tell you from my involvement with Reclaiming and also as a volunteer at the California Pacific Medical Center. My guess is that in the shelter where you work, they don't have the staff power to set up and maintain yet another volunteer program.

If we lived in an ethical civil society, all the billions that are poured into the war, corporate CEO's pockets, the advertising industry, would go instead towards taking care of people who need help.

You are one of the angels doing the good work. I salute you!

8:17 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Reya -- I do understand and respect the constraints on the shelter staff. I think this story is going to have a happy ending after all. My old friend Morena, who cleaned my office, is delighted to have the computer for her children to use. When I mentioned that my husband was coming along to set it up, her first question was "Does he like food from El Salvador?" She will undoubtedly make a feast as her way of saying thank you!

8:59 AM  
Blogger kimy said...

who said "no good deed goes unpunished"

best of luck! I'm sure you'll find a good home for the computer!

reya is right you are an angel! thanks for caring you are making the world so much better!

see you in a week!!!!!!!

9:04 AM  
Blogger GEWELS said...

I know where it can go. My husband works with an organization that takes used computers refurbishes them and then gives them to schools in need.
We've given 1/2 a dozen to them.
Email me if you want more info.

How frustrating to find out that good deeds are so difficult to perform at times.

10:55 AM  

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