Friday, May 22, 2015

Goodish Friday

The 501c3 follies continue. Today at the VA Hospital we took several new people on a tour of the Garden and Atrium, including two community leaders and a couple of elderly veterans who were friends of a VAF Board member. The VA staff provided an engineer to discuss the project's technical side and a PAO staffer to help with communications.
Afterwards the VAF Board met at TPI for do what was needed to get the 501c3 application ready to go. However, not all had been able to read and evaluate all the materials so that part is continued to net week.
I am conceptualizing an approach to the Wednesday mediation that I hope will be helpful, but of course nothing is for sure.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

After Two Years Of Worrying, I Just Did It

In March of 2013 I agree with Cyril that Veterans and Friends of Puget Sound needed to get its 501c3 exemption done. I had heard that the process was long and difficult and that getting help was essential, but we did not have much money - that's why we needed the exemption, so that people could contribute.

Also we needed to do business licensing and all that.

I went to and filled out a lot of forms, thinking they would take care of it all. There was a little back-and-forth, and then documents started to appear. Also money went away, about $750.

At some point, I thought that the application had gone to the IRS. In retrospect, I was too trusting. I don't think LegalZoom was deceptive, and I am responsible if I did not read everything all the way through, but I was pretty busy and long story short my LegalZoom 501c3 forms were just sitting on their computers doing nothing.

And I thought that the were sitting in an "In" box at the IRS.

Over the course of two years, my memory grows that it is taken care of. Life is chaos, between Larry dying, Kris telling me I should move out of my home, mother dying, and so much more. I am still serving veterans but I let things slide, including a wise scepticism about the progress of paperwork, and careful reading of forms - something I do for others, but not always for myself.

A few days ago, as we are really rolling on our funding for the Healing Garden, a Founding Member asked about the 501c3 status. They had investigated and could not find anything on the IRS database about us. I made the calls, waited on hold, and learned the IRS had nothing either. I called LegalZoom, waited on hold and hour or more, and learned that the application was still sitting around doing nothing.

Naturally I immediately told LegalZoom to tell me what was needed to get it going. I them called the other Board members to talk it over. When disaster strikes and it's all on your head, the first thing to do is to keep people informed - that's the only way they can trust you and the only way they can help get it fixed.

I supplied LegalZoom with all the information they wanted. They promised to work on it as fast as they could and I thought I heard them say they could send me something right away. Meanwhile the Board members set up a meeting with a friendly CPA who assured us that things were not all bad so long as we were honest and fixed the problem right away (...and also file the taxes asap - we don't have liability since we had no income but the corporation could be dissolved if we don't get it done.)

Back at home I called LegalZoom again to check on getting it done soonest, and learnd that would  be 7-10 days. I asked for them to send me what they had, and that was worthless (they seemed surprised at the idea of sending it by email, but complied.)

I did not want to have an involved explanation on Friday. I asked for help from a lawyer friend - not for him to do it, but for him to recommend someone who might advise. He put me in touch with a very helpful person, we talked, she gave me pointers (and a sample Conflicts Policy) and then I sat down with the 31-page form.

I'm not saying it was easy, but it was not hard.

For one thing, it's a lot of bits and pieces. Each bit and each piece is do-able, so it seems just to be a question of taking one bite and then another.

For another thing, roughly half of the 31 pages is irrelevant - it's schedules that don't apply.

Obviously, I had allowed myself to be frightened unnecessarily.

I did my best, checked it over, and emailed a draft to other Board members. I will meet with them, talk it over, and send it in.

Had I pushed past my worry two years ago, this would all have been done. I can't go back and change things, but I can take a lesson from this.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Sometimes it is as simple as helping them fill out forms

Tuesday, I was with an elderly veteran and his brother, guiding them through the process for applying for help. The veteran had to physically sign a form. He could hold a pen, but not control the movement of his arm. He was physically unable to make the signature he needed to make to get the help he had earned through service. He had no person with power of attorney present; his brother could not sign for him, nor the clerk who stood ready to receive the form, nor I nor anyone. But with his permission I could wrap my hand around his fist and guide it into making a signature.

I understand the need for rules and regulations barring clerks from advocacy; think of the problems that would arise were it otherwise. But persons seeking help (be it veterans in the case of my advocacy practice, or whoever it may be in yours) often need advocates to make the system work. Sometimes it is as simple as helping them fill out forms.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Costco HQ and stuff

Monday I went with Cyril and Diane to Costco HQ in Issaquah, for a meeting concerning the Atrium Project. It went very well, largely because of the party's familiarity with and acceptance of Cyril. This gives us confidence in the whole project.
Once home, I was reminded to check on the states of the 501c3 application. I waited on hold for half an hour and then learned there were issues. I really wanted to avoid dealing with this because I should have foreseen this, but instead called Cyril and then Diane, and figured out next steps.
Ironic, considering my last post, that I got a texted request for a growler o' beer from Big Al's. I had really intended not to go there again, explicitly ceding it to Kris via email, but an ask is an ask.
I do think I might drop alcohol, however; I don't need it, and Kris' drinking ruined my marriage.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Stopped At Big Al's

Sunday I was searching for inspiration for some writing I am doing; I need a long-term budget for VAF to offer on Monday but it just was not jelling.
I thought I might see some friends at Big Al's so I rode my bike over.
The quality couples - Ralph and Katherine, John and Carole - weren't there.
The drinking men were - I can't recall all their names but they ignored me, except for Jeff who said hello and that's all. The bar tender served me, all others ignored me, except when I physically stopped and addressed Allen.
I felt sad. So much time  and money I'd spent there, and it was all pretty much a waste.
The miniature rain garden was there that I had urged them to apply for. The extension cords I had lent for the soup contest. And cash.
And Kris. She was holding court, having brought rice krispy treats in the pyrex dish I lent her.
There is a time when bad manners is the message.
There is a time to accept the message and move on.
It's not just Big Al's that I don't need; it's drinking itself.
I enjoy the taste of one beer well enough, but drinking alcohol is a big of a mystery - what's up with that?
It makes me sleepy, and I don't especially have trouble sleeping.
When I am in a happy environment, it might make me more loquacious but I don't really have trouble with that either.
I was at Big Al's Sunday night looking to hold on to something that both did not exist and that I did not need.
I am preparing to make a pitch to people who could buy everything on that lot with a personal check; this does not make them better or worse people but it makes my work better served by them that by a pack of genial drunks talking about nothing - which was funny on Seinfeld, pointless in life.
It is o.k. to leave behind those who do not wish to come along.