Toyota 100 Cars for Good Program

It’s official, the 500 finalists for Toyota’s “Cars for Good” program have been selected. The list of finalists will be posted in Toyota’s Facebook account next week. Not surprisingly, Alpha didn’t make the list.

The give-away is commendable, and was billed by Toyota as being help “… for do-gooders who really need a new set of wheels…” But the list of finalists doesn’t include small, struggling agencies like ours who actually help people at the ground level, and do so without government or foundation funding. As far as I can determine, Alpha Mobility Mission is the only registered 501-c-3 Public Charity operating in the US which provides financial and logistic support to disabled and disadvantaged travelers… who could use a “new set of wheels” more than a charity which has as it’s mission the transporting at no cost of disabled and disadvantaged Americans?

The list does include huge multi-million dollar charities who do receive grants from the government and private foundations… is it really going to make a huge difference to the poor in my community if there’s one more “staff vehicle” in that fleet? Nope. Would it have made a difference to us? Oh, yes! We pay third-party providers because we don’t have a single “company car” right now and of course we can’t borrow a quarter from the bank to call the fire department if our office was burning down (ok, weak, but you get the drift). I mean, are there really 500 charities in the US who transport homeless people to be nearer supportive families? I haven’t heard of them. The rules of this contest included things like, the vehicle cannot be sold off or raffled, and must be used in the direct fulfillment of the charities’ mission… is having a car to go get the mail more within the scope of “direct fulfillment” than having a vehicle to take a blind senior to get her weekly meds (at no charge)? Ah, well, as I mentioned in previous posts, the world of philanthropy seems no different than standard business with it’s politics and buddy-system. Maybe we weren’t viewed as being able to generate enough “good press” or something, I don’t know. But under the guidelines that Toyota published as their criterion for this give-away, we should have been among the top 50, and didn’t make the top 500. Another reality check.

The Red Cross and the Salvation Army refer people to us every day for help that they themselves don’t provide, yet we don’t receive even a tiny percentage of the grants and donations those organizations take in every year… they do good, of course, but a huge amount of donated funds go to administrative costs. (Parenthetically, we actually haven’t received a single grant yet except the “in kind” marketing grant from Google which we deeply appreciate, and private donations for 2010 totaled less than $5k… we spent nearly $30k, so you can see our dilemma.) There’s an agency here where I live which has several handicap vans just sitting in their parking lot which they don’t even use, but they have to keep them in inventory otherwise they’ll have their grant money reduced. (I know, right?) I know of one charity right off the top of my head, in which the CEO pays himself a $2.3 million salary ( I haven’t drawn a salary since last September, and even when we DO have payroll mine is about the same as I made driving trucks for the past however many years). No wonder charities in America have such a bad reputation.

Let me finish with these two thoughts: First, I don’t want anyone to think I don’t support other charities. In the same way that every player on the team is happy for the MVP, I’m glad Toyota chose to recognize the efforts in this economy of “do-gooders”, and wish the finalists good luck as they “compete” for the cars (500 finalists, 100 cars, you do the math); Secondly, yeah, I’m being whiny-bitchy but that’s what blogs are for…. but DO NOT send me a million emails dragging me over the tracks for being somehow anti-philanthropic. Just letting off a little steam… now I have to get back to work, trying to figure out how to turn copper into gold (all I have left is pennies lol)… Einstein was right: “You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than everybody else.”

Starting May 9, go to Toyota’s Facebook page and select “Cars for Good”, and vote for your favorite or most deserving charity. There will be 5 per day, the top vote-getter wins a car, the other 4 receive a small cash award. And if there is even a tiny bit of “awww, poor baby” for us in your heart, go be our friends and vote for us (donations not required but appreciated), by visiting our website at:

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Upside-down Ladder Syndrome

So, here we are, climbing the ladder… upside down. Sure, we’re going up… but I haven’t convinced myself we’re actually gaining altitude, since my head is still lower than my feet! I turned 55 last Tuesday, and in the middle of it got a great big surprise. We finally got our first big break, our first real grant, and although it’s not money to operate on, it does give us an incredible beginning in terms of getting a “donation campaign” going. Google selected Alpha Mobility to receive a perpetual $10,000 per month grant with an “in kind” grant that gives us access to their Adwords Program (we can run ads on Google search pages and they waive the fee, basically). More importantly, what this grant gives us is a sense of legitimacy and credibility… and for me, personally, a sense that it’s worth pushing on through these hard times. We want to publicly acknowledge and show our appreciation for the team at Google who determines who gets these grants, and send our most heartfelt thanks. This good news could NOT have come at a more critical time. Thank you!!

One rung at a time, right? All of my time now is going to go into getting these ads created and assigned, so watch for us all over Google World. And if you can, visit our website at http://www.alphamobilitymission.org and see what we do, and help us do it. At the very least, just do one nice, unexpected thing for someone else, whether you know them or not.

<a href="http://Join me at Free Charity Cars!“>

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Albert Einstein said: “There are two ways to live; you can live as if nothing is a miracle… or you can live as if everything is a miracle!”

Sometimes I’m overwhelmed by just how miraculous life really is. Sure we take a lot for granted… but we shouldn’t. Life is a fragile as well as a miraculous thing, but we tend (especially “civilized” cultures) to forget it as we distract ourselves with the daily grind of worrying about what we have and how to keep it (or don’t have, and how to get it). Americans are so “into” conspicuous consumption that we can’t even share what we have without being guilt-tripped into it.
I sat in a car in the parking lot next to a WalMart one afternoon and watched the behavior of all the cars which had to stop at the corner before pulling onto the street… there was a guy with a hand-made sign asking for help, and I’m not going to get into the argument about whether he’s secretly well-off or that he was just looking for money for booze or drugs. What I want to say is that I never would have imagined how many ways there are for people to distract themselves while driving so that they didn’t have to look at that guy!!! They were making phone calls, searching for “lost” items in the car, checking the back seat for “forgotten” children, you name it. Personally, I admire these guys, because in all honesty, I’m too self-conscious to stand before the world with a sign that proclaims my need for help. And yes I usually give them a little something. Here’s an easy way to do it: get a sandwich bag, and put your spare change in it every day til you run across (preferably not “over”) one of these people, and give them that. Sometimes I give a package of cookies or crackers, or a can of soup with a pull-tab top… a loaf of bread can go a long way too. But the main point is, don’t be so critical of others, just because of their situation. We have all made wrong decisions before, and especially in this economy, people don’t necessarily have be “screw-ups” to find themselves in desperate circumstances.
I’ve been there. I’ve been homeless, and hungry, and felt the frustration of not being able to even get a ride somewhere. That’s a big part of the reason I founded Alpha Mobility Mission: to help people who have no one else to turn to. We limit our assistance to transportation issues, but even at that we are swamped with calls for help. What we are NOT swamped with, is incoming funds to provide that assistance. We bought a list of churches to call for help (there are approximately 287,000 churches in the US and we got a list of the 1,000 biggest congregations – over 2,500 members – so as not to strain the smaller churches), but about half-way through that list we were painfully aware that it was a wasted effort. In fact we never received a dime from one single church. But that’s ok, we realize that America’s churches are burdened heavily by the economy and resultant drain on their limited resources, and that they DO widely support agencies such as Red Cross, Salvation Army, and local Head Start and things like that, so we heartily applaud their efforts. My point here is more toward the membership of the congregations…. I think that my parent’s generation was the last to really care about anyone else. My generation, and those following it (baby-boomers and since) don’t care about others unless it serves some other purpose, and even then not until after we are satisfied that we have more than we need at the moment.
Do I have something to say? Yes. And yes, it serves my own purposes! I’m blogging today to support another charity which is doing something tangible to help those in dire need of transportation, Free Charity Cars, an organization which gives away used cars to people who have serious need of one. And you, dear reader, can participate in this noble endeavor, even without spending so much as a nickle (though we’d hope you might see your way clear to small supportive donations). All of which brings me, at long last, back to my subject for today: miracles… YOU can help make a small miracle happen for somebody who needs one. Visit FCC website at <a href="http://Join me at Free Charity Cars!“>

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I Wonder Why They Wouldn’t Do This

OK, I read an email which suggested an alternative way to fix our economy, so I have been rolling this over in my head for a week or so and I can’t see any reason why it wouldn’t work. Stick with me, here.
So… instead of spending $100 Billion on another corporate bail-out (as a previous presidential candidate pointed out, every farmer in America knows you have to put the fertilizer in the soil to get initial plant growth, you don’t throw it randomly at the tallest branches), here’s the suggestion in it’s most basic form: we have a huge number of persons over the age of  55 who know they can’t retire in 10 years, and a huge number of people past retirement age still working because they can’t live on what little social security there is, and we all know there won’t even be THAT pretty soon. SO we take 100,000 of these people, like maybe 2,000 in each state, and we pay them each a million dollars (half in credits and cash up front and half in $500/week income vouchers for the next 20 years). There are some requirements for this disbursement:

1) They HAVE to retire and stay out of the workforce (100,000 jobs created)

2) They HAVE to pay off a mortgage OR buy a house, free and clear (housing crisis solved)

3) They HAVE to buy an American-made car, no financing, (auto industry crisis solved)

4) 10% goes back the Fed, 10% goes to whatever state they live in (tax boost to states)

5) They HAVE to invest 10% in 10-year CDs, or Treasury Bonds, and 10% in 20-year

6) Since they’re retired they will pump money into the economy traveling and spending

7) With a home paid for and a car paid for and $500 a week for expenses… and then in ten years they get the benefits from the first round of CD’s ($100K plus interest, which they can re-invest at their discretion); and the second set of notes maturing in 20 years, I can’t see any way it wouldn’t significantly add to economic stability. These funds would be transferable, TOD to a spouse but NOT as part of the estate to progeny and can NOT be gifted to family members. Income requirements at time of screening would exclude anyone who has income more than $50k a year (single) or $75k a year (married) income from applying, or savings/investments exceeding $150,000 from applying.

Now, I know it’s not a perfect plan and I’m sure the government can figure out a hundred ways to make it impossibly complicated and expensive to administer, but it seems we’d still get a better return on our investment than when they give billions of our tax dollars to huge corporations who bonus their highest paid employees and NOTHING makes it down to the people who need it. I’m just sayin’……………………………………………………………….

(And as a side note, if there’s any doubt in your mind about how many Americans are struggling in deeeeeeeeep debt and feeling hopeless, visit :

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Alpha in Arizona

Last summer I was in Flagstaff, on my way to LA. I stopped at the Little America there, because they make the BEST fried egg and cheese sandwiches… I was really looking forward to one, since at the time I was fasting from meat. Thinking that I was out of cash, I paid a visit to the ATM machine and withdrew $100, then ordered my lunch. I discovered that actually I did have $20 something in my pocket and wouldn’t have needed the additional cash. As I waited, I noticed a family pass through the restaurant area and , being a “people-watcher” I concluded they were most likely traveling cross-country on a very limited budget. They went to the restrooms and left, never buying anything.

When I got outside a few minutes later I saw them: two older cars, both loaded to the hilt and both pulling small trailers also loaded to the bursting point. I’ve been an “over the road” driver off and on for almost 30 years and I have seen this innumerable times: a family fallen on hard circumstances, trying to get somewhere to improve their situation.  As a father, I understand the tremendous amount of responsibility this man had shouldered, taking his family and everything they owned on a journey in search of a better situation. I’ve had many times in my own life when I felt inadequate as a father or husband and I could feel the depth of his worry and doubt. But they weren’t leaving, so I walked over to the Dad and I introduced myself.

“Taking the tribe across country?” I asked. “Tryin’ to,” he replied, nodding. “Having some trouble?” I felt a need to ask him this because after all, it’s what Alpha Mobility Mission is all about, helping stranded travelers. He explained that they were out of money, and although they had a friend who wanted to help out, he had no way to send them cash, so they were just waiting to find a solution. It was clear to me what I was there for… I took the $100 out of my pocket. “You’re waiting for some money? Well, here it is…. this is how God works.” I wished him luck as his eyes teared, and went back to my own vehicle, not once questioning whether I’d done the right thing.

After all… it’s NEVER the wrong time, to do the Golden Rule. And as the Director of an agency which exists for the sole purpose of helping those whom no one else will, what else would I have done? If and when God makes it possible for me to share or to bless someone or help them out in some way, then it is always incumbent upon me to help out and  pass on to those who need it more than I do.

If you’ve ever seen a car on the side of the road broken down (and you know I’m not talking about some $125,000 land yacht) and wished that you could help in some way but for many logical and practical reasons you didn’t, then visit our website at http://www.alphamobilitymission.org and help us help others. Today’s wisdom is centered on Karma, or the concept that “what goes around comes around.” Isn’t that really what The Golden Rule is all about? Pay it forward, somehow, because you never know when YOU will be that car at the side of the road that no one stops to help. At least, until someone affiliated with Alpha Mobility Mission shows up!

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An inconvenient … opinion

I am, like everyone else, shocked and humbled by what the good people of Japan are dealing with right now, especially with the continuing high-Richter aftershocks and the potential for nuclear powerplant disasters…. those of us in the industrial world whose biggest concern is that gas prices will go up even more: shame shame!!

And to those Americans who think that Japan doesn’t need their help, allow me to make the following suggestion: how about STILL deciding to “do the Golden Rule” right here at home and donate to a charity which serves America’s disabled and disadvantaged? Go to http://www.alphamobilitymission.org and make a difference right in your own city.

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Time to do the “Golden Rule”

OK, I’m starting a blog, and I sincerely hope it moves some people to action. I’m new and it may take some time for me to learn the subtleties and “tricks” but be patient. I’m here for two reasons: 1) to tell people about what our organization does; and 2) to remind people that it’s ALWAYS the right time to do the Golden Rule.

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