To The Edge:
Yours is a very generous offer — to promote my favorite nonprofit on The EDGE as an incentive to become a member. To point to a single entity I wish to call out for special recognition has caused some long and hard thinking about the nonprofits that we have up here — all of which make such a difference in our lives. Of course, those that support the arts like our magnificent Aston Magna, or Berkshire Theatre Group, BIFF, Berkshire Children’s Chorus, or the Railroad Street Youth projects come easily. Our visibly delicious Indian Line Farm, and Berkshire Grown that we have watched blossom over the decades into an amazing advocacy group for healthy organic eating, and those that support the region’s youth in agriculture through training programs like Will Conklin’s Greenagers who will be expanding their role this year with new gardens in Egremont are all close to my heart. That would leave out Berkshire South, and the very thoughtful Baby Boxes that go to the newest members of our community as they leave the hospital with this thoughtful start for a healthy life.
But I have come to realize that the most underappreciated nonprofit that we have in our community is our government. We don’t often think of it that way, but it is. Our government is not there to make money, like a business. It does not distribute profits to its shareholders or see those with no stake in the company as marginal.
Government spends our money as we dictate: whether on big items like roads, or the small items like flowers outside the Town Hall. Its mission, just as every non-profit has a mission, our government’s mission is to protect and promote our common good. The trick, of course, is what constitutes our common interests and how much do we contribute to support them. This is where the argument about taxes generally starts. And it is true that with nonprofits you have the discretion of how much and whether you will support them at all. We actually do decide how much to contribute to government as taxes are the agreed upon method of collecting contributions which support the ongoing costs of the common good we collectively agree need to be funded. We do this every year at annual Town Meeting.
What I bet no one thinks about is that you can give money to your government as a donation just as you do a nonprofit. For large contributions you might get a bridge or street named after you, but any amount can be given. You can state a purpose for how your gift is to be spent, or donate to the government’s general operation, just as you do with Nature Conservancy, and it is deductible, just as a nonprofit. When I think of extending my generosity towards my government this way, as I have towards other nonprofits in the area, and seeing that I can help it with a small contribution to help make my town a more beautiful and happier place to live, it rather changes my approach to my taxes, about nonprofits, and about supporting the mission of one of the most important nonprofits we have, the operation of our own self-governance.
As I have come to refine the role my money can play in securing the betterment of my community through every nonprofit that impacts my life, including my town, it is hard to choose any single one for a shout-out, but the Town of Egremont and its Village School wins out for me.
So in answer to your request to pick a non-profit I would like to promote, it is our government. And thank you for your support of all of our nonprofits and the people who have committed themselves to them, including our elected officials, whose collective efforts contribute to our common health and wealth and to which I will continue to make whatever small contribution I can to support their missions and yours.
Best wishes for a bountiful and beautiful 2018 to you and The EDGE.
Susan P. Bachelder