One of the ways in which I prevent the onset of adulthood is by competing in a Strat-O-Matic baseball league, a board (computer) game that simulates the previous-season performances of players. Our 20-team circuit consists of mostly old college buddies in the Philadelphia region, but we have members spread across the country.
The league is dominated by Phillies fans and Mets-Yankees rooters. I, of course, am the only Reds fan, which means the Pete Rose barbs freely float my way (half-heartedly defended by the Phillies fans old enough to remember him playing). Easily the biggest Rose detractor is Mike "Herm" Herzig, a dyed-in-the-wool Yankees fan, which leads you to believe he is an arrogant jerk. But, despite the fact that he pulls for the Bronx Bombers (which is like rooting for Bill Gates to earn another million dollars) and constantly picks on Rose, Herm is a good man whose deeds speak volumes.
Herm has twin passions aside from baseball: Spending time with his nieces and nephews (the man himself is a confirmed bachelor) and helping to raise awareness for the less fortunate. One of the organizations he helps support with his time, sweat and tears is the Community FoodBank of New Jersey
The FoodBank acts as a central food and aid distribution center for non-profits that serve individuals, soup kitchens, food pantries and shelters. It also offers an endless array of programs, including a kids division that focuses on feeding and clothing the underprivileged, enabling them to better focus on doing well in school.
Herm is a little reluctant to talk about his involvement, noting that he is only one of many people who dedicate time and effort to the less fortunate. Instead, he prefers to encourage anyone who will listen to give of themselves, either by writing a check, donating canned goods or picking up a ladle. (Those FoodBank folks stretch a buck like few others, so cut a check and let them do the shopping.)
With the death of bin Laden, the country has been able to exhale psychologically. But the economy is still underperforming, and the printing industry is suffering from marketing message migration to electronic alternatives and lost market share. Many printing shop owners are racking their brains, looking for endless avenues to cut costs and generate new revenues. We're all scrambling to do better, but it's important to remember those who are doing much, much worse.
Charity drives take place year round, but society mainly seems to notice the plight of the poor around the holidays, particularly at the end of the year. Organizations like the FoodBank are doing their best to raise awareness to the constant need of common necessities. And their assistance doesn't just help the homeless; perhaps the most prominent group is single mothers struggling to keep their youngsters fed and clothed.
As the son of a woman who was abandoned by her husband and forced to raise five boys on her own, I certainly can appreciate the value that people like Herm bring to their local communities and to the families for whom every day is a struggle. When the economy goes south, so goes charity. The FoodBank is looking to collect 10,000 pounds of food per month, in addition to the monetary donations. It also seeks corporate sponsorship, which is where the printing community can lend a hand.
Again, organizations like FoodBank can get so much more bang for your buck at the supermarket, but that doesn't make the contribution of canned goods any less important. Make a difference in your community. Contribute $500 to your local FoodBank and inquire about sponsorship possibilities. Encourage employees to kick in $5 or $10 for company-sponsored cash/can drives. Reward them with ice cream for reaching predetermined goals and foster ongoing clothing programs. Be creative, but be proactive.
It doesn't take much to make a difference in the lives of the less fortunate, but it does take your help. Send along the message that you care. And, while you're at it, tell Herm that the Yankees stink. He'll certainly tell you what he thinks of Pete Rose.