If you have ever spent time participating in a charitable organization or, in my case and that of my wife and children, being involved in music as a singer or instrumentalist, the recently concluded holidays are a boom time. Infused with the spirit of Christmas or Kwanzaa or Hanukkah, Americans are very generous during the holidays, giving of their time, their talents, and their money. One of the greatest benefits of the season just past is that we remember those less fortunate, and if only for a short time we recall with John Donne that "that no man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main."
In the months that follow, however, it's a much bleaker time at nursing homes and food pantries--the need remains the same, but charitable fervor cools. For planners and investment advisors, the holiday season is also the last time of the year to reap the tax-saving benefits of philanthropy. But I'd like to suggest that you use this opportunity to consider donating your time and treasure--and informing your clients of your actions, if not encouraging their charitable instincts--during these bleak midwinter months. Several developments prompted these thoughts.
One was the January 7 decision by the Financial Planning Association to hold its 2006 annual conference in Nashville this October instead of the original location, New Orleans. The move was not a big surprise. The New Orleans Visitors and Convention Bureau reports that all citywide conventions have been canceled through the end of March, since the Convention Center will "not be available until then," although some large groups--notably the National Association of Realtors--still plan to hold their meetings in the Crescent City later this year. Months and even years after the mass media spotlight has moved on from a disaster site, support for those people affected by a natural or manmade disaster remains vital, if not as apparent.
The second development was when columnist Larry Chambers forwarded to me around Christmas a letter from a friend serving in the Army in Iraq. I planned to provide his contact information and that of another soldier here this month as a coda to my column. Then I received the news that that young man--the husband of former IA staff editor Megan Fowler Robert--had been seriously wounded in an ambush in Iraq and was being treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. Brian is not out of the woods yet, and faces a long, hard recovery. Regardless of how you feel about the war, people like Brian Robert and his colleagues in harm's way around the world deserve our support and respect. How can you help? For starters, donate to the grassroots organization Freedom Packages. This volunteer group, based in Rockford, Illinois, and founded by Linda Hayes, provides "Freedom Packages"--care packages for units in the field and wounded troops worldwide. You can contact Linda through the group's Web site--freedompackages.org--by e-mail at LindaHayes@FreedomPackages.org or by phone at 815-226-9119. Want to send to a unit directly? Send mail and your own packages to Brian Robert's unit:
1st PLT, C Troop
4-14 CAV, 172d SBCT
APO AE 09319
Or to Larry Chambers's buddy:
SFC David Bata
HHC, 1BCT, 101 Abn
OIF 4 (FOB Warrior)
You can still help out fellow planners and members of the public affected by last year's storms (get access through fpanet.org) and participate in other pro bono activities through the FPA. Closer to home, you can probably also think of local folks who could use a visit or a donation. It will brighten up their short days of winter, and you'll find yourself with a sunnier disposition, too.