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(Originally published in the Edmonton Sun, Dec. 7, 2013)

It’s the opening of an annual request, to give some poor, tough, confused teenager a gift for Christmas.

The Edmonton Sun’s Adopt-A-Teen program celebrates our community’s loving ability to give 8,000 teens living in poverty a small Christmas gift.

And it’s a time to appreciate the vows of near-poverty those working in the charitable sector have taken, and the unavoidable paradoxes any charity director must deal with.

The business of charity: Those working in charitable organizations do us a huge favour.

If it wasn’t for the charitable sector, government would be forced to care for so many more Albertans not so good at caring for themselves.

Were it not for charities, government would groan under the financial demand of three, not two ministries – not only Health and Education, but Human Services as well.

Executive in the charity sector make half to two-thirds of their earning power elsewhere.

Click here to donate.

Any new charity executive director rapidly discovers the first paradox of working in the charity sector: Raising money.

Two-thirds of the job is not about helping the needy, but about raising money to help the needy: Organizing fund-raising campaigns, writing grant applications, taking donors out to lunch in the hopes they’ll give more money.

The second paradox occurs to the new charity director on the second day of the new job: The intense competition for the charity dollar. It’s a subject that dares not say its name. But it’s out there.

There’s only so many charity dollars, and so many social agencies vie for those dollars.

“Support for Filipino typhoon victims is good,” said one of the most selfless, warm-hearted charity directors I know. “But it’s going to take money from our campaign.”

Third paradox: Charity fatigue – too many appeals landing in our mail boxes: Too many mass e-mails to delete. Sorry, charity director, no matter how good the cause, I’m sick of being hounded for money.

Paradox number four: Driven by the need to raise money, charities hire professional fund-raisers, usually cloaked as directors of “development” or “advancement”. Which, in turn, diverts more of the charity dollar into administration. Which, in turn, discourages giving. Why am I giving your charity money, when 20% of my dollars are going to overhead?

So a great big cheer to all those working at charities – out of the goodness of their hearts, who cope with all the paradoxes above, because there’s no answer and it’s a miracle so many are helped.

And now, our pitch for our charity of choice, The Edmonton Sun’s Adopt-A-Teen Christmas program!

Please add an unknown teenager to your Christmas list. (Here’s the invoked image.) Imagine a young man or young woman from a low-income family having no present under the tree. (Add to image.) Imagine how the mom feels when she can’t even afford a gift for her teen.

(Our solution.) The Edmonton Sun’s Adopt-A-Teen Christmas gift program for teens from low-income families uses your donation to purchase $50 Walmart gift cards for every Edmonton teenager living in such families – as determined by the Christmas Bureau.

(Message as to the scope of the need.) Eight thousand Edmonton teens, aged 13 to 17, will not get a gift at Christmas unless you help. That’s 10% of the teen population of the city, and that’s in line with general statistics – about one in 10 Edmontonians qualify for various forms of social assistance.

(Assurance as to the use of your funds.) Adopt-A-Teen has no paid staff. Thanks to assistance from The Sun and The Christmas Bureau, its only expenses, other than the purchase and mail-out of Walmart gift cards, comes from sending charity tax-receipts and thank-you notes. Maybe 1%?

(How to give.) You can make a credit card donation by visiting www.AdoptATeenEdmonton.ca, by calling the Edmonton Sun classisfied ad centre at 1-888-786-7821. Cheques can be made out to “Adopt-A-Teen” and sent to “Adopt-A-Teen, c/o The Edmonton Sun, #350, 4990 92 Ave., Edmonton, AB, T6B 3A1.

(Final appeal). Please add a teen or two to your shopping list - $50 for one, $100 for two and so on. For them, you can make Christmas the miracle it should be for all children … for children these teens still are.

All paradox aside, from all of us at The Edmonton Sun, this appeal for the forgotten teens at Christmas … comes from our hearts.

Graham.hicks@hicksbiz.com  

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