Confiscated Wine May Be Sold for Charity

Confiscated Wine May Be Sold for Charity

Sep 01

Pennsylvania has some pretty strict liquor laws, requiring almost all alcohol to be sold by beer distributors or in state-owned liquor stores with very strict guidelines, none of which sell rare vintages of wine. Which probably explains why Philadelphia lawyer Arthur Goldman built himself an extensive wine collection at home. It also helps to illustrate how daunting of a task that must have been. And explains why, after he sold a few bottles to other collectors, his entire collection of almost 2,500 bottles of wine was confiscated by the police. Goldman has been given a probationary sentence aimed at allowing him to eventually clear his record, which would be good for him as a lawyer. Chances are in most of the country what he did would be ignored, but he’s unlucky enough to live in Pennsylvania. He was also allowed to get back a mere 1,043 bottles for himself, but the other 1,404 bottles have a less sure fate. Luckily, a local hospital, Chester Country Hospital in West Chester has filed a petition to receive that wine. In an obscure law, which apparently has never been used, seized liquor can be sold for charity purposes, which is exactly what the hospital wants to do. They want to sell the wine, which will no doubt fetch a high price, for charity, which could be a huge boon for them, or anyone they decide to share that money with. According to Trooper Adam Reed, spokesman for the Pennsylvania State Police, this law has never been used, which is a shame. Although seizing liquor might not be a terribly common practice in Pennsylvania these days, it obviously happens sometimes, and that liquor might as well be put to good use. Unfortunately, it’s not a clear case, so we have to wait until September 3, when Chester County Judge Edward Griffin will decide whether or not the hospital can have the wine. Otherwise, it will likely go bad in...

Carnegie Mellon University Receives $35 Million Donation

Carnegie Mellon University Receives $35 Million Donation

Aug 31

Image via: Tupungato / Shutterstock.com Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University announced a $35 million donation from India-based IT company Tata Consulting Services. It is the largest gift the university has received as well as the largest gift donated to an American university from another country. The donation, according to Philanthropy News Digest, will go towards the construction of a new facility, to be named the Tata Consulting Services building, to support research done by the staff and students of the university. The donation will also endow the Presidential Fellowships and Scholarships, increasing access to a CMU education for outstanding students. Tata Consulting Services is one of the largest companies of its kind in the world today with widespread global representation, though the company is based in India. “TCS, which has been at the forefront of national and grassroots campaigns to encourage science, technology, engineering and math education, will help equip Carnegie Mellon undergraduate and graduate students with the knowledge they need for future careers,” says the university. Other tech companies like TCS are moving towards the Pittsburgh area, many of which have forged partnerships with Carnegie Mellon in an attempt to broaden the reach of its education. Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf says that the companies’ moves to his neck of the woods is great news for Pennsylvania’s industry and economy, calling it an “exciting time as we see more and more companies establish and expand their presence in the state. Carnegie Mellon has been especially adept in attracting cutting-edge businesses to and near its campus, which helps to drive economic growth.” More and more charities and people are choosing education as their philanthropic cause of choice, be they public, private, or higher institutions. Donations to schools hit an all-time high last year with Harvard University having received $1.16 billion and Stanford sitting at a comfortable $929...

How Art and Education Help Inmates

How Art and Education Help Inmates

Aug 27

Providing artistic outlets and college-level education to United States prison inmates significantly reduces their chances of returning to prison, a study by Rand suggests. The study investigated how inmate education affected prisoner life post-incarceration and found that those inmates who were educated while in prison had a 43% lower rate of returning to prison than inmates that received no education. Classes like those offered through the Bard Prison Initiative, a rigorous program that inmates must apply and be accepted to, better prepare inmates for life after prison—and shows them that not only is there life after prison, it’s often better than life before. Encouraging inmates to learn and to practice art helps rehabilitate them while also reducing their risk of repeat offenses. Because of programs like the J.C. Flowers Foundation’s Harlem Parolee Initiative (run by Chris Flowers), the Bard Prison Initiative, and other in-prison education opportunities like the Bedford Hills College Program, former inmates have a higher rate of success in life after prison than ever before. The Rand study found that the chance of finding employment after prison increased, and it also suggested that investing in inmate education is cost-efficient specifically because of the lowered rate of recidivism. Educating convicts is one of the best ways to actually help them. Prison needs to be more than a place of punishment: it needs to be, at its core, rehabilitative, and education and art expression are necessary to that end. In a Huffington Post article, art expression in prisons is described as king: art “provides accomplishments, offers a different avenue for self-expression than violence, builds confidence, frequently leads to other areas of learning,” the article says. If inmates are able to express themselves better, as art allows them to do, they’re more comfortable and confident in taking other classes and in learning more. Donnell Hughes, a graduate of the Bard Prison Initiative, speaks openly of the profound effect the education program had on his life. This particular initiative is very selective in whom it admits: hopeful students must pass an entrance exam and write multiple essays. NPR says that out of 550 applicants last year, only 100 were accepted. Hughes speaks especially fondly of the liberal arts education he received through the program, which covered “the Cold War to present-day European politics,” he says. Hughes continues, “I’m in a position, because of Bard, to be able to really see the...

Houston Charity Suffers Huge Losses in Fire

Houston Charity Suffers Huge Losses in Fire

Aug 12

Houston Furniture Bank is a non-profit that works with a network of 80 other charities to help underprivileged people get furniture. Since their founding in 1992, they’ve helped over 21,000 families get furniture, allowing 50,000 children to sleep in beds instead of on the floor. Their mission is built on the principle that furniture is a key step to improving living conditions, allowing families to eat at a table instead of on the floor. Families that receive items from Houston Furniture Bank are in the process of transitioning to independent living, most while struggling with extreme poverty. They’ve helped get almost a quarter of a million pieces of furniture into needy hands. That is, until recently. At about 2:30 AM on Sunday, August 9, their 10,000-foot warehouse burned down. Although there is no news yet on what started the fire, the fact remains that the charity was devastated. They’ve lost everything, all the furniture that they had stored, as well as two delivery trucks. All that survived was the skeleton of the building and those trucks, and some files from the office. The charity has started a drive to generate the funds to rent a new warehouse and begin stocking it with furniture. Oli Mohammad, the group’s executive director, has no intention of giving up on the group’s mission. In fact, he’s even tying to see the bright side. Although Houston Furniture Bank has done a lot of good, they could do more. Mohammad says that the need for furniture is one that many people don’t realize exists. People acknowledge poverty, and they acknowledge homelessness, and there are plenty of programs that try to address those needs, but even broke twenty-somethings who rely on used furniture for their own homes don’t realize that people who are worse off not only need those kinds of items, but struggle to obtain them. Mohammad hopes that this fire, tragic though it is, will help to spread awareness of this need, which in turn could help Houston Furniture Bank do even more...

Bicyclist Raises Money for Veterans While Riding Kid’s Bike in Tour de France

Bicyclist Raises Money for Veterans While Riding Kid’s Bike in Tour de France

Aug 07

People take the Tour de France very seriously, and it’s the purview of a certain kind of bicyclist and certain kinds of bicycles. Apparently, the Raleigh Chopper, a kid’s bike, is not the “right kind” of bike, but that’s precisely why Dave Sims rode one in the race this year. A lot of people were upset to be passed by a guy riding such a bike, and apparently its quite the achievement, but the part of the story that stands out is that, while on the race, he raised nearly £8,500. This was almost twice his goal, and he got that boost after receiving treatment for an Achilles tendon injury while on the race. He still finished, and he says this is the best shape he’s ever been in, and likely ever will be. The money he raised is going to Help for Heroes, a charitable organization that helps wounded British veterans transition back into civilian life. Founded in 2007, the organization gives grants directly to wounded veterans and their families, and raises money to support other charities that help veterans. Many soldiers are injured in the line of duty; it’s to be expected during war and is arguably better than being killed in action. However, in both the United Kingdom and the United States, many of those wounded don’t receive the help they need after they return home. Sure, they are treated for their injuries, but those treatments often fall short of what are needed to help someone who lost a limb or two adapt to their new situation and return to civilian life. That citizens are expected to serve in combat, but then can’t expect to be fairly compensate for their sacrifice is a shame, and that’s on the governments that employ those soldiers. Luckily though, other citizens are kind enough to help those soldiers out when they do come home, and it’s good to know that groups like Help for Heroes...

Ending Poverty Should Be One of Society’s Primary Concerns

Ending Poverty Should Be One of Society’s Primary Concerns

Jul 29

Psychiatric and pediatric researchers have been arguing for some time now that poverty has a variety of negative impacts on children. Now, a study published in JAMA Pediatrics in July brings those arguments into greater focus. According to the study, and an accompanying editorial, living in poverty can have serious effects on the development of children’s brains. Children living in poverty, which includes about 22% of all American children, can face lifelong learning disabilities, limitations on their ability to cope with stress, and depression. Developmental lags in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain can result in a 20% gap in educational achievement, most often seen in lower test scores. The good news, though, is that these problems can be mitigated, somewhat, by nurturing parents. Parents who are taught nurturing skills, especially those who live below the poverty line, can help to offset the problems that their children will face. But those problems can’t be done away with through nurturing. 22% of American children grow up in poverty, in what is probably the most affluent nation in the world, and that’s frankly disgusting. What’s worse, is that as those children lag behind their wealthier peers, they’re going to have a harder time in school, they will be less likely to go to college, and more likely to end up with lower paying jobs. The negative effects of poverty make it harder to escape poverty. And when those children grow up and have kids of their own? Their kids grow up in poverty as well. When you’re looking for a charity to help out, consider those that are focused on alleviating or eradicating poverty. Look for charities that help homeless people, or underprivileged families. Look for non-profits who put their donations to use helping to build and support schools, or to help feed hungry children and their families. Help those groups that advocate for political change to help people who are struggling to make ends meet. Helping poor children can help their children, and their children’s...

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: Where Did The Money Go?

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: Where Did The Money Go?

Jul 24

Unless you were living under a rock last summer, you’ve probably heard of the virally popular ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. The very first instance of the Ice Bucket Challenge is hard to pinpoint, though it certainly started receiving major media attention in the U.S. towards the end of June 2014, when hosts on the Golf Channel’s Morning Drive program performed the challenge live, on-air. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge raised a huge amount of money to fight ALS, but now, roughly one year later, how has that money been used? According to CNN, the ALS Association reports that roughly 40 percent of the Ice Bucket Challenge funds (some $47.1 million) has been spent or budgeted towards specific purposes, and there are also plans on how the remainder of the funds will be spent. Among these initiatives are: $2.5 million to the New York Genome Center to map the genetic code of ALS patients. The leaderships of these organizations, including New York Genome Center trustee and General Atlantic CEO William Ford, took the Ice Bucket Challenge themselves. $10.5 million to a group testing whether a medication can stabilize heart rhythms in cardiac patients can stabilize nerve cells in ALS patients. $5 million to the Neurocollaborative, which creates stem cell lines from ALS patients that will mimic their own nerve cells. Thankfully, it sounds like these funds are being put to good use. “We can start seeing why they’re dying. We can start putting drugs on them to start seeing if we can slow them down,” said Clive Svendsen of the Neurocollaborative. “It’s a bit like having an avatar of yourself in a petri dish.” In total, more than 17 million people participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge, and donated a total of $115 million to the ALS Association. This challenge is the perfect example of how philanthropy can be both fun and effective! What did you think of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge? Did you participate in the challenge? Let us know in the comments section...

Housing Project in Oakland Fails to Start

Housing Project in Oakland Fails to Start

Jul 24

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, a long-standing attempt to build affordable public housing near the Coliseum BART station in East Oakland is all but dead. Beginning in 2003, the plan was to turn a large parking lot near the light rail station into a housing village with shops. It was supposed to house 10,000 square feet of retail space and hundreds of apartments. The most recent projections brought the plan down to 1,00 square feet of retail and only 110 apartments. The problem stems from the failure and collapse of the non-profit group originally founded to move the project forward. Called the Oakland Economic Development Corp. (OEDC), the group was given a $400,000 grant as recently as 2013. There was no interest and they had 55 years to pay it back, which they didn’t have to start doing until the housing project started to turn a profit. Before that grant though, the project was little more than an idea, and since then, the OEDC has not only spent all the money with nothing to show for it, but has also lost their non-profit status after failing to file taxes for three years straight. In addition, the city received an $8.5 million dollar grant from California to get the project built, but if it isn’t done by 2017, they lose that money. And, because it came from a millage that expires soon, they can’t transfer that money to other projects. Oakland is missing out on a huge project, which could have given hundreds of families new, affordable homes, and boosted the local economy, because of oversight and poor planning. The OEDC didn’t keep up their end of the bargain, and now the city is almost half a million dollars poorer for it. Non-profit ventures, like OEDC was supposed to be, can be valuable, and they can do good work. But like any kind of business venture, they can also be utter failures. Most likely, the space this project would have occupied will end up being parceled off to out-of-state...