I read in The Oregonian today that the Portland Salvation Army, and its bell ringers, takes in about $5000 in donations from the red Christmas kettles every day! (Oregon Live) What do they do with all of this money?
Two years ago, my husband and I were struggling to pay our bills. He had been laid off from his seasonal job at JCPenney, and I was 9 months pregnant. We had exhausted all of our credit and all of our savings paying our rent and utilities and trying to stay afloat. I had been desperately searching for work for months, but no one seemed to want to hire a pregnant woman. We were only days from having our electricity turned off, and only weeks from eviction from our apartment if we could not find some money soon.
I talked to our apartment complex, and they refused to allow us to pay late. I called the electric company (PGE), and they said that unless we came up with a minimum payment of $50, they would be forced to turn off our electricity. I pleaded with them, saying that we were about to have a newborn baby in the house (in January!), but they said that was not their concern. They suggested calling Oregon Heat. I did so, and Oregon Heat said that they were out of funds and would only possibly be making more intake appointments in 8 weeks. We did not have 8 weeks!
I then started to call every help agency in Portland. This included the Salvation Army. I knew about the red kettles, indeed I had often donated to them in my own better days. I thought for sure they would help. They turned me down, saying that electricity was not an urgent need, and that I needed to have a 72 hour eviction notice before I could fill out an application for rental assistance. 72 hour notice? What kind of policy is that? I would not have enough time to fill out an application, wait for a decision, and get the money to the apartment in just 72 hours!
After all of this letdown and a little panic, YHWH intervened for us, and my husband ended up getting another temp job as a school janitor. Our baby was born, and we were able to keep the heat on. We did end up getting evicted when the baby was 3 months old, but we left Oregon at that point and YHWH sent a pastor in California to take us in for a while.
The point is this- be careful to which charities you give money. Examine their records carefully, and perhaps call them and pose as a needy person to see where their heart really lies. According to a report by Forbes, W. Todd Bassett, the Salvation Army’s CEO, made $175,050 in 2004. This is the latest figure that I can find. And that is just salary, benefits are not calculated! I am sure the number is even higher now. (As a side note, this same report shows that the government contributed $353 million to the Salvation Army in 2004. That means my taxpayer dollars are going to an organization that refused to help my family in our time of need, an organization that I am sure has turned away thousands of other families as well.)
The median income in the United States was just $26,354 in 2010 (The Huffington Post). So if Mr. Todd Bassett makes $175,000, he is making almost 7 times as much as the median American income! And his job supposedly exists to help the poor. How much can he really know about being poor? Perhaps he should donate $100,000 of his salary to truly help the poor. $100,000 could go a long way in setting up more charitable programs. Mr. Bassett and his family could live a very good life on $75,000, a life that most Americans only dream about. Yet he, and so many other charity leaders need more, ever more.
The hypocrisy of the Salvation Army and our nation’s other charities is simply astonishing.