February 2015

February 2015
Blog of Education

Kevin Estela and Scott Heth

Kevin Estela with Executive Director of the ELCCT Scott Heth the day the EWE Fund became fully funded

Charity comes in many forms. Defined as the voluntary giving of help, it’s in every box of Girl Scout Cookies, the bottom of every fire department’s “Stuff-a-boot” campaign and under the roofs of each house made by Habitat-for-Humanity. Charity involves selfless giving and in many cases, financial assistance for the less fortunate. I learned a long time ago the value of charity and have developed a strong passion for it. Most recently, I created a permanent endowment fund, The Estela Wilderness Education Fund, which will help underprivileged youth attend educational programs at the Environmental Learning Centers of Connecticut. This was a proud moment for me as I know kids are going to get the chance to learn about the outdoors for years to come. This fund is the most recent manifestation of my interest in helping others but it isn’t my only. In the past, I’ve been involved in many organizations and through these experiences, I’ve learned very valuable lessons which can help you protect yourself from those who are willing to take advantage of the charitable.

Dollar bill deposit

The final bill deposited to reach $10,000 making the EWE Fund Permanent.

Ok, I know what you’re thinking. At this point, you’re probably wondering where this blog post is going. Why am I discussing charity when I normally teach modern survival skills? I mean the content of this site, the company’s Facebook page and Twitter account usually features more exciting and potentially dangerous stuff. Well, the skills I teach are meant to protect you from harm and though charity is meant for good, opportunistic predators can abuse it luring the unsuspecting into fraudulent traps or worse. In our moments of compassion, we may let our guards down and let trouble walk into our lives. So, I have some helpful tips to keep you from being taken advantage of when “charity” comes knocking.

#1. Ask questions. Knowledge is found in questions, not in statements. If you want to know if a charity is on the up and up, ask questions of it. If the answers are not forthcoming or if the answers follow a pattern of redirection, be suspicious. Inquire as to who manages the charity, how much of the donation is purposed to the charity and how much is used for housekeeping, find out the solicitor’s name and don’t be afraid to see documentation or permits that authorize the charitable event.

#2. Never let a solicitor come inside your house or learn your personal details. If possible, address them through a door still secured with some lock and have a defensive measure nearby. Call this paranoia until it happens to you. Plenty of forceful entries use a “trojan horse” disguise and it is better to be prepared than reactionary and behind the curve. If you really want your privacy, put a “no solicitation” sign on your door. The same is true for providing sensitive information. NO CHARITY will ever need your social security number or Driver’s License number. Most only require your name and address which puts them back at your front door.

#3. Invest in legitimate charities. Longstanding charities and those within your community are the safest bets. If you can see the effects of your charity in your hometown and know those running them personally, you will not run the risk of donating time, money or products to one that is set up to pull on your emotional strings without a credible beneficiary. Common examples of this are predators who use imagery of veterans , the disabled or mistreated animals without any affiliation to them.

#4. Look out for Manipulators. If a charity is trying very hard to sell their cause and won’t respect your “no” as a response, they are no different than a person trying to manipulate another person. Charitable donations are meant to be sincere, not forced and there are plenty of forceful salesmen who know how to manipulate feelings to their gain.

#5. Don’t Endanger Yourself! Before you start your own charity, which I encourage everyone to do, make sure you don’t endanger yourself. The devil is in the details and even if you have good intentions, little known laws can get you into hot water. If you don’t manage contributions or donations properly, you may be breaking the law. Filing your earnings late or incorrectly, may mean you’re breaking the law. Soliciting gifts the wrong way, can mean…you guessed it, breaking the law.

#6. Start Small. A sense of charity must grow like a fire. Start with “tinder” projects like raising enough money for a park bench then grown into “kindling” projects like organizing a group of coworkers or students to clean up a river. From there, larger projects can be in your sites. Going too big too soon or biting off more than you can chew will result in fewer visible results that will do anything but encourage you. If you want to see results, being too ambitious will frustrate you. Grow your charity at the right rate for you and your supporting team.

#7.Don’t go at it alone! There are many philanthropic organizations out there that will help you and you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Learn from the success of others. Enlist the efforts of your friends. Look at my charity fund for example, if it weren’t for the efforts of “the wilderness crew”, the Sayoc Family, my friends and extended family from the Wilderness Learning Center, all of the supporters from all my circles, my initial fundraising goal would have taken a lot longer than 34 months to raise. I’m always grateful for their work and can’t thank them enough. If you feel lost and if you don’t know where to begin, let me help you. Just E-mail me. I enjoy it and will pay forward all the good advice I received.

Sayoc Kali Charity Seminar

In January 2015, the Sayoc Kali organization held a fundraiser at RiSu Martial Arts pushing the EWE fund closer to its goal. Fundraising is easier with family.

There are so many fantastic organizations out there doing great work. Special Olympics, the Wounded Marine Fund, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, there are so many to choose from. I see charity as a way of protecting the less fortunate. When we can’t be there physically, we can be there financially. When we are too old to lend a hand, we can spare a few dollars. Charity lets us be present in more than just spirit. We take all the necessary precautions to protect ourselves in our preparation and training. How many of you out there can outfit your family and friends many times over with redundant gear you own? If you have this protective instinct for self, think about ways you can extend it outside your circle to someone else. You will find charity gives you something no piece of gear ever will.