One of the more rewarding aspects of writing this column is reader interaction, which is why I recently was pleased to hear from Jamie Hagedorn of Ellsworth.
Jamie e-mailed me to tell me she enjoyed my column “sharing the good news about Maine teachers who have received classroom support from U.S. Cellular via DonorsChoose.org” (“Teachers apply for U.S. Cellular classroom funds,” July 29, 2010).
However, she wanted to make sure my readers understand this site isn’t limited to the efforts of “major corporate donors like U.S. Cellular” but is supported by individuals as well.
Jamie is one of those individual supporters.
She makes regular monthly donations, she said, and always enjoys choosing a special school project to support.
“I also make donations in honor of birthdays and other special occasions,” she wrote.
In an exchange of e-mails, Jamie informed me that she had just finished making her DonorsChoose.org donation for January.
She chose “a civics project for a high-poverty classroom in Arizona, in memory of Christina Taylor Green,” she wrote of the 9-year-old victim of the tragic shootings in Tucson, Ariz., that claimed five others and injured 14.
I talked with Jamie last week, and she told me she first read about this online charitable organization in a 2010 issue of Ladies’ Home Journal.
Jamie liked the idea of supporting needed school projects and being able to choose from different categories each time, helping classrooms obtain everything from musical instruments to materials for reading, art and science.
A Facebook member, Jamie said she sometimes gets frustrated at the idea of clicking on something just to show your support for it rather than clicking on something and actually doing something to show your support.
“It’s all too easy to be spectators and do things in a virtual world without really making a connection to volunteering, donating and making a difference in the actual world,” she said.
“That’s why I signed up to make a monthly donation to DonorsChoose.org, and each month, when my amount is credited to my account, I go on, and if something has been on my mind, I search for a project that has to do with that, like music, art or nature, for example,” she said. “In the spring, I’ll look for something to do with gardening.”
Jamie said it saddens her to look at the summaries of “so many great projects and teachers who are obviously inspired, and inspiring, and many of them are at schools that have very limited resources.”
Project requests range from small to large, and Jamie said she always is encouraging her friends to contribute. All it takes, she said, is $1 from 300 people to fulfill a $300 request to make a difference in a classroom.
“There is a real personal feeling about giving through DonorsChoose.org, because you see the classroom and see the teacher and know who is going to be using the money,” she said. “Everybody gets an e-mailed thank-you, and if you happen to be the person whose donation completes the funding, you also get a packet of thank-you letters that the students have written, so you do feel very personal about it.”
Jamie also has an account that lets her know whether a teacher she has supported in the past has made another request, so she can help that teacher again.
She believes the organization is upfront about its administrative costs and points out that you can see “the exact breakdown” of the project and its administrative costs.
In fact, she said, donors can, if they want, “make a little extra donation for the administrative cost.”
She likes the policy of corporate matches, “because it makes you feel that your donation goes farther.”
I read through much of the DonorsChoose.org website and was impressed with what I saw, from what organizations approve it, feature it and partner with it.
To complete today’s column and prove Jamie’s point that money goes where it is needed, I’m happy to report that one more project has been funded through U.S. Cellular-DonorsChoose.org in Penobscot County, for a total of 18 grants.
After clearing up “a communications glitch,” Kenduskeag Elementary School kindergarten teacher LeeMargaret Jack informed me she was awarded funds for her project, “Making Listening Easy,” “and I now have a beautiful wooden listening table where my children can sit and enjoy books on tape.”