Column: Charities are in business to put themselves out of business
Nov 21, 2012 | 3165 views |  0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In July 2010, at the opening of the Argo Food Bank, Jim Link made a very curious statement about the goal of the charity. In a way, it’s the goal of every charity everywhere.
“We hope we’re successful,” Link said at the time. “At the same time, we hope we’re not successful. We hope eventually our people will get to the point where we don’t need a food bank in Argo.”
A curious statement, to be sure. But the truth is, every charitable organization out there — faith-based or otherwise — wishes there was no need for it to exist. 
On Saturday, the relatively new G.R.A.C.E. Animal Foundation (“Giving Rescues A Chance Everyday”) held an open house at its facility in Odenville, across from Branchville Animal Hospital.
One visit to the facility there — or the Animal Shelter of Pell City, or even to a local vet clinic where rescues are taken in (which is basically all of them) — and one is reminded of their necessity. The needy, it seems, can walk as easily on four legs as they can on two.
What is always amazing to a casual observer (like me) is the willingness of those who serve, and their ability to deal with disappointment. At Saturday’s open house, one could witness a visitor walking into the back room at the foundation to see the dogs that were available for adoption. 
The dogs, needless to say, tend to go berserk when there are visitors. And so overwhelming is the noise of their desperation, the visitor broke down, if only for a moment, into tears. Petting one particularly sweet dog through the bars of a very well kept pen, she whispered, “I’m so sorry.”
People who work for charities such as this one know that they will lose at least as many battles as they win. Attempting to help the needy often feels like a Sisyphian task (look it up, kids – I had to): Every time circumstances come together and something works out for the best … the bad just pushes the old rock back to the bottom of the hill. 
And yet, the people who serve places like this — and there are many of them across the area — manage to stave off despair, one day at a time. They keep coming back to help more people, even though they know the enormity of the task that lies ahead. 
Even more amazing, they manage to ask for our help without asking the obvious question, “What are you doing that’s so great, man?”
It’s Thanksgiving once again – a difficult holiday for me because I don’t often live as a person who is thankful for what he has. Maybe if I did – maybe if we all did – these charities that give all of themselves to those in need would cease to exist, because we would no longer need them. 
I hope so, anyway. 

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