Dear Nonprofiteer, Isn’t it great that Boeing’s helping our wounded soldiers?

Dear Nonprofiteer,

Isn’t it great that the Boeing Company gave $50,000 to a program at Camp Pendleton?  According to a press release,

Art & Creativity for Healing will use the $50,000 Crystal Vision Award to support the “Art for Healing for Heroes and their Families” program at Camp Pendleton. Initiated in November 2008, at San Onofre Elementary, located on the northern tip of Camp Pendleton, the purpose of this program is to assist military personnel and their families in processing their personal journey using collage, journaling and painting . . . . The program will also address the special needs of enlisted men and women who are working through war-related experiences. . . .

“Art for Healing is a program that is capable of supporting the entire military family,” said Lieutenant Colonel Sam Pelham, Deputy, Community Plans and Liaison Office, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton School Liaison Officer. “It provides both adults and children an opportunity to connect and confront stress associated with multiple deployments during a time of war and offers a unique and creative outlet for expression…and ultimately healing.”

Signed, Proud to Have Corporate Help in Supporting Our Troops

Dear Proud:

The Nonprofiteer is delighted to see support shown to veterans and their families, and she has every reason to believe the program being supported here is a worthy and valuable one.  And she’s also always been in favor of taking money from corporations without regard to how they made that money: in her view, tobacco companies ought to support cancer research and men’s magazines ought to underwrite domestic violence programs; who better?

Still, she can’t help noting the details of how Boeing made that $50,000, and many other dollars besides.  Defense work has accounted for more than half its revenue for 4 out of the last 5 years (an upward spike in commercial accounts, and much-publicized shunning by the Congress, reversed the situation in 2007), and its publicly-announced business plan is to seek much more defense money in the future.

Those who profit from the wars we’re fighting should absolutely be in the forefront of helping rehabilitate our wounded fighters.  The Nonprofiteer just thinks it would be tasteful for them to do so without a lot of plumage.


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One Response to “Dear Nonprofiteer, Isn’t it great that Boeing’s helping our wounded soldiers?”

  1. Ellen Wadey Says:

    I also am glad to see programs for our troops and their families receiving supported — and I hope more corporations will step up to the plate to help those who put so much on the line for the rest of us. I’m not arguing against the contribution — I hope there’s more of them — but I’m not applauding the size of the gift nor a press release about it.

    Camp Pendleton is home for 35,000 active duty Marines and sailors — not counting their families, or the reservists or the retired personnel who often live near bases to have access to base services. If you added them in, the number would easily jump to over 250,000. It’s the largest Marine Corps base in the country. A $50,000 grant — when put in context of the large population at Camp Pendleton, the understanding of how Boeing earns its profits, the direct impact that their products have on military families, and the size of their profits — doesn’t make the contribution seem particularly generous. (In scanning their 2008 annual report, giving to military families was not a highlighted priority).

    I’m married to someone who served for 12 years and the sister of someone who served for 20 years in the Marine Corps. I’ve seen the sacrifices made and the lasting effects of the wounds — both visible and invisible — up close and personal. To put the Boeing contribution in another context, think about the cost of health care. How long would $50,000 last in treating one Marine with severe injuries? In my experience, not very long. (Yes, military personnel can receive free medical treatment at V.A. hospitals, but the length of free care can depend upon the length of their service and the conditions of their enlistment and whether there will be a lasting disability or not. Not everyone who has served in the military gets free care for life. I won’t even into the issue of the quality of that care).

    I agree that money from all sources — even companies that make harmful products — has the potential to do good. And, Boeing does make commuter airplanes that get me from one city to another as well as military planes and bombs. But I don’t think that we can forget that gifts — especially ones with press releases — are used to improve the image of companies. I hope the $50,000 is well used. I hope there’s more where that came from. Our military families deserve programs to help them heal and move on with their lives. But, the Marines and their families know that Boeing gave the money, and I’m sure have thanked them profusely. Why do the rest of us need to know about it except, perhaps, to challenge Boeing to step up and give a gift more in line with the need and their capacity?

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