02 January 2008

Charity, Not Community

You most certainly didn’t see it: The Guayanilla School Band was in the 2008 Rose Bowl Parade. Hooray for Us, right?

Partially. You see, for the Band to get there, it had to start buying plane tickets--190 in all--at about 5:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve. That slapdash process reportedly ended at 2:00 a.m., Christmas morning. So while the other--more organized--Bands were traveling as a group to the Rose Bowl, the Guayanilla School Band was flitting and flopping across North America, coming together eventually in Pasadena.

Here’s a Band that has appeared—purely on merit alone—not only in the Rose Bowl, but also in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. It was the first Band outside of the 50 States to do so in each parade. It has a track record worthy of inclusion amongst the best Bands in the land. So why, when the Rose Bowl invitation was extended in early 2007, was the Guayanilla School Band buying tickets on Christmas Eve? Because they personify the "Charity, Not Community" handout mentality that holds Us back.

For you see, I was able to secure 240 plane tickets--the orginal number of Band members--in October, through Continental. The catch was that those tickets had to have a deposit and be fully paid by November 27th, and the Band was in the process of waiting for the local Department of Education to pay $240,000 to cover the entire trip.

Yes, the same Department of Education that has been under Federal scrutiny and multiple reviews since 2003. The same Department of Education that doesn't support the Band during its regular endeavors. The same Department of Education that has repeatedly offered to “cover” activity-related expenses for all sorts of school groups and at the last minute (literally) fails to do so.

Instead of certifying the Band as a 501(c)3 organization, an IRS designation that allows seamless tax-free donations, the Band chose to wait for their “sugar(less) daddy” to whip out his empty checkbook and (not) pay for everything. Instead of working for a long-term corporate support structure in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, the Band’s Board of Directors (parents) preferred bingo days and Talent Shows for a few hundred dollars, pinning their hopes on “someone”, or loans, to make up the huge difference.

I was that someone. And I failed to get the Band to see that their role in the community, in a declining town with over 30% unemployment and no solid economic structure, was to BE the community, to become the town’s engine and attract the monies they deserve because they DO deserve support. On an Island where a couple of hundred companies have Community Investment Plans with funds sitting idle because they can’t find qualified organizations, the Guayanilla School Band could have become a cause célèbre, a beacon of community development led by teenagers, their parents and a love of music.

And they still can be. But they won’t. As long as the Mayor, the Band’s founder, is willing to buy votes by extending a loan to the Band for their trip, a loan that the Department of Education is “expected” to pay, then the Band won’t change a thing about their handout mentality. Oh sure, they work very hard, but they’re like lions chasing mice instead of antelope: Too much effort for much too little reward.

I offered them an alternative and they passed. It happens, even to a Jenius. But since you didn’t see the 2008 Rose Parade appearance of the Guayanilla School Band, don’t mark your calendar for 2009. Or 2010. They won’t be there. Yes, they’ll most likely be invited, but they won’t be able to go.

Beggars can’t be choosers, you see.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

No comments: