Last week when I was skimming the letters to the editor, I came across a sentence in one that amazed and delighted me.
A reader wrote, “I wish Mary were independently wealthy.”
Isn’t that kind? Have you ever made such a wish for anyone? I don’t believe I ever have.
It was such a gift to have someone state something like that so publicly.
“I wish Mary were independently wealthy and could fund whatever she wanted with no constraints.”
Wow. What a wish.
It left me feeling obligated, truly obligated to think this through and state equally publicly what I would do if I were independently wealthy.
Let’s add some constraints, though, for fun’s sake.
Remember when you were a kid and you tried to count to the end of the numbers? Yeah?
You couldn’t get there, so you gave up.
Well, let’s say that you had so much money that you had to give up counting. Let’s say that you bought a ticket for the Megamillion jackpot (which my son insists is a progressive tax on the poor) and you won some crazy sum.
Or, say for instance, Congress decides to personally give you $20 million of that $700 billion bailout and tells you go out and do as much good as possible with it.
What would you fund? You have only two constraints – one is that you have a time limit on spending the money, like Congress before recess.
The other is that you must do things that would have great impact and be far-reaching.
So, what would you fund? Who would you help? What would you do first?
Well, the first thing that everyone who wins the Lotto says is that he or she will improve the lives of the kids, pay off the mortgage and then take a long vacation.
Let’s not include those or the purchase of jewelry or luxury items, since they don’t meet all the requirements of the money.
Where to start? Therein lies the challenge.
I have two pet projects I want to fund. The one for this community is the green-built house — which I would hope would increase understanding of conservation technologies and spur on green jobs.
The other for my hometown is a sustainable farm project, where with my sisters I hope to create an outdoor learning center on our historic farm, where people can be taught how to grow their own food and learn to eat well.
Speaking of that need, I would love to fund gardens all around the community.
Starting at the South Kitsap Regional (Community) park, where I lobbied for gardens in the master plan , I would love to see a Peace Memorial Garden, a place for reflection and remembrance and where people could purchase plants, garden art and features in the memory of their loved ones.
I would like to see a Victory Over Hunger Garden, as well, with a community garden that would serve low-income residents, as well as pea patches that could be rented.
A children’s garden would be wonderful, too, with educational and fun features with kids getting involved in the development of such a garden by creating stepping stones and other amenities.
I would purchase a new building for South Kitsap Helpline, maybe the old Knights of Columbus building on Mitchell, where they could offer soup suppers and have garden space.
I would get involved in micro-lending, too. At Kiva.com, you can read stories of “loans that change lives.”
The possibilities are limitless and the stories impressive. You can connect with people all across the world seeking mini loans to fund the purchase of equipment, like sewing machines or animals, like cattle and sheep.
You can watch and see what a difference your loan of $25 made to that mother of four in Zimbabwe.
I would love to set up a foundation here in South Kitsap that would offer micro-loans to teens. I would love to walk into the noon Rotary meeting and say, “Here’s $200,000, would you all be interested in administering this?”
I would ask Dr. Kurt Wagner if he would head up the foundation, since he is such an honorable man and knowledgeable about the needs of kids.
Within the foundation, teens would be part of the team that oversaw administering the loans.
They’d make up a TAG Team, which stands for “Teens aiding growth.”
They would fund any project they felt aided the growth of teens. They could help support the skateboard park.
They could help a kid start his or her own business.
They could finance the cost of a trip abroad or cover the cost of a leadership conference, a dance class or the uniform for drill team, or a sports fee.
The purpose of the loans would be threefold, but would be all about aiding personal, financial and academic growth.
Say, for instance, a student is nominated by a teacher for a leadership conference in Washington, D.C.
Instead of throwing out the application, he/she applies for a micro-loan.
The expectation is that he or she prepares for an interview by the TAG team, explains how the conference will aid in his or her growth, signs documents pledging to repay the loan within 10 years and shares with the TAG team through an essay or a presentation the ways in which the conference benefited him or her.
Moving on to seniors, another area to fund would be an organization or group that reaches out to homebound seniors and the disabled.
I might start with Catholic Community Services or the Red Cross, since they both do so much work with the homebound.
While respecting privacy, the organization would ensure that homebound seniors and the elderly weren’t forgotten in the event of a power outage and emergency.
The organization would perform audits to document needs, medical or otherwise.
A three-day emergency plan would be prepared — ensuring that medical care, water, food, heat, and/or relocation, etc. were available.
In the event of an emergency, people would have a list to follow to check on homebound residents in the community.
Since the funds are pretty limitless — I am independently wealthy, you know — I would put money toward a foundation that would retrofit homes, because I fear that more and more people will have trouble paying for heating this winter and people will be cold.
If we had trained auditors who could go house to house and who could work with reliable, licensed, bonded and honorable contractors to retrofit homes to make them more energy efficient, what a difference it would make.
What else would I do? Well, I wouldn’t necessarily fund any breast cancer research.
No offense intended — cancer is ugly in whatever form it takes — but breast cancer is not the leading killer of women. Heart disease is.
Exercise makes a huge difference in combating heart disease and diabetes. The challenge is to come up with something fun and inexpensive, like a recess for adults.
Hmmm… I’ll have to think on that.
What would you do?
Mary Colborn is a Port Orchard resident.