We have only one week left in 2020, a remarkable year that hit us with surprises and painful disease. We lost jobs, got sick, and even died due to COVID-19.
But the year had its bright spots too.
One of them was the extraordinary efforts by all the front-line medical professionals and other essential workers who risked their own health to serve us.
Another is the amazing generosity that poured out from members of our community to help those in need.
A third was the extraordinary efforts of our nonprofit sector that rose to meet many challenges with fewer resources.
As the year draws to a close, there are a few days remaining when you might consider gifts to those very nonprofits which performed so well for us all.
Our tax policy rewards those who make charitable donations by allowing donors to reduce their taxable income and save on taxes.
But there is a hard deadline of Dec. 31 for taking advantage of some good ideas for 2020.
Here are a few of those ideas:
• Taxpayers who do not itemize deductions are entitled to reduce their taxable income by up to $300 by simply making gifts before the end of the year to qualified charities.
• If you do itemize your deductions and want to donate at least $10,000 but are not yet ready to decide which organizations you want to support, you can establish a donor-advised fund and benefit from the tax deduction this year, while deciding later how to allocate your gift.
• Those with IRAs who are at least 70½ can make gifts to charities (up to $100,000) directly from an IRA and the distribution comes out tax-free instead of taxable. Be careful, however, as 2020 is a year in which there is no required minimum distribution and the age for starting RMDs has been extended to 72.
• For 2020 only (thanks to the CARES Act), donors are permitted to deduct charitable gifts equal to 100 percent of their adjusted gross income (compared to the usual 60 percent for cash gifts and 30 percent for gifts of appreciated stock).
• Speaking of appreciated stock, this week may be a good time to donate highly appreciated stock (owned for at least one year) and save having to pay capital gains tax. But you will need to get any transfer in motion quickly as the year is running to its end.
• A charitable gift annuity is another way to generate a tax deduction in 2020 while securing a fixed annual income. At death, the funds in the annuity go to your designated charity. The charitable deduction is relatively high right now as interest rates used to calculate the amount of the deduction are very low.
Please consult your own tax advisers for specifics on these ideas.
Regardless of whether tax considerations are important to you, this is a great time to show your appreciation for those nonprofits in our community that work tirelessly to help us and our neighbors.
Donating today and supporting those organizations would be a very nice way to say thanks for being there for us.
The Community Foundation of Otsego County is here to help you invest in your community. For additional information, contact us a firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s Note: Michael Jerome of Cooperstown chairs the Polio Plus Committee of the Rotary E-Club of Global Trekkers, a role he played for years at the Cooperstown club.
Sixty years ago, every parent in the western world feared their child would be afflicted with the crippling disease of polio.
Vaccines developed by Drs. Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin enabled the U.S., Canada and several European countries to become polio free by the early 1990s.
Health officials at the time understood that as long as the polio virus exists anywhere in the world, the chance of its transmission elsewhere is highly probable; possibly resulting in the reemergence of the disease in previously polio-free areas.
The idea of eliminating polio from the globe took hold.
This inspiration caused leaders of Rotary International in 1979 to begin a multi-year effort to immunize millions of children in the Philippines. The success of this project inspired Rotary to make a promise to the world to eradicate polio worldwide.
Rotary International and its partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) have made great strides since 1988 in the sustained effort. Polio cases have dropped by 99.9 percent, from 350,000 cases in 1988 in 125 countries to only 176 cases of wild poliovirus in 2019 in just two countries: Afghanistan and Pakistan.
In August 2020, the World Health Organization declared the Africa region – all 47 countries – free of the wild poliovirus, a major milestone towards Rotary’s goal. In impoverished parts of the world, the wild poliovirus still exists. Thus, the chance of its transmission elsewhere by travelers remains highly probable.
Rotary and its GPEI partners remain optimistic. As reported in a recent issue of The Rotarian magazine, the legacy of this campaign is “more than eradicating a deadly disease from the planet, it’s also building a stronger health system that provides better access to lifesaving interventions for the world’s most vulnerable children.”
The valuable lessons learned from the polio eradication efforts have been utilized to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, which has temporarily halted all global vaccination efforts.
Research facilities built for disease analysis, polio program infrastructures and partnerships, and surveillance systems designed to locate infected persons are currently being used by local health care workers to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
With polio nearly eradicated, Rotary and its partners remain optimistic and intend to reach every child with the polio vaccine. Full funding and political commitment are needed to ensure that this paralyzing disease does not return to polio-free countries, putting children everywhere at risk.
Rotary has committed to raise $50 million each year to support global polio eradication efforts. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation pledged to match those funds 2-to-1, for a total yearly contribution of $150 million.
Please join millions who are working to raise awareness and funds to end the debilitating scourge of polio, a vaccine-preventable disease.
I urge you to reflect on your good fortune to live in a polio-free country and contribute to the global effort to End Polio Now by visiting endpolio.org and click on “Donate.” Thank you!
Individualism in the United States through the lens of SARS-CoV-2 defines freedom as “freedom to not wear a mask,” as opposed to “freedom from getting sick.”
Since I was a young girl whenever I felt remotely ill I was told to “suck it up,” get out of bed, go to school, socialize and learn. This attitude is rooted in the American belief that “sickness is a weakness;” sickness is an attitude. To many in America, to take the day off for illness implies you are not hard-working and replaceable.
Additionally, policies set forth by some companies and schools make it difficult to take sick days. For instance, in some schools, students are required to provide a doctor’s note to prove that they were actually sick. Not only does this reinforce the narrative that people lie about sickness but it also requires children to have health insurance which, in the U.S., is not considered a universal human right. Someone’s socioeconomic status should not determine whether or not their sickness is considered “real.” Furthermore, some employers limit the number of paid sick days making it difficult for some people to take off. You should not have to choose between personal health and making money.
American culture has deep roots tied to individualism which can be understood in the reflection of American values. “Self-motivation, self-choice and self-reliance,” are key principles. American
individualism is neither universally good nor bad. However, its defects are more relevant today than ever.
Many recognize that this American mentality is flawed, however, not in the ways that relate to our current, international crisis. Individualism has led the U.S. down a path that is not only selfish but deadly.
Because of our self-interested mindset, if Covid-19 does not directly and negatively impact someone (i.e. harming the ones we love), then it does not apply to the individual.
Too many of us continue to disregard CDC guidelines and restrictions simply when we feel like it and this is reflected in the increasing number of cases.
SARS-CoV-2 was not destined to be a pandemic. For example, South Korea and New Zealand have better controlled the virus, keeping it at a Level 3 (the U.S. is at a Level 4). This success is not only due to those in power but also to their own cultural values.
When analyzing the cultures of certain East Asian countries, several differences stand out. For instance, when people are sick and during the cold and flu season, many East Asian cultures, including South Korea, utilize mask-wearing.
Considered a threat to freedom by some Americans it is a preventive action and community obligation in this example. This, along with many other cultural differences, is insightful in understanding their ability to maintain the virus.
These differences are deeply seeded in the values of a culture. However, there is hope for the U.S. and other individualistic cultures in recognizing and adopting these community-centered approaches. Our mindset needs to be revolutionized with the help of federal and local assistance: mandating masks, passing another stimulus package, contact tracing, etc… However, these measures will be unsuccessful unless everyone participates for the good of a community.
While I know that we are looking for a fix-all solution to end this pandemic, I think it is much more complicated than that. American culture, especially white, dominant culture, needs to revolutionize its values. Handling this pandemic with an individualist mindset is clearly not the answer. For us to get through this, we need to adopt more communal values that will directly conflict with the dominant values in the United States. There is no vaccine for ceasing the spread of individualism, which in terms of this pandemic, is deadly.
Editor’s Note: Milford Central Superintendent of Schools Mark Place wrote this Thanksgiving letter to the district’s families.
Each of the last five years I have prepared a letter at this time of the year with a focus on the upcoming holidays. Today I write to you for the same purpose along with a message of hope and gratitude.
As a part of the MCS family, my thoughts are with all of you. I see the exhaustion in all of our eyes and the want for this pandemic to just be over.
Collectively we have sacrificed a great deal to keep ourselves, our families, and MCS safe, and I am grateful for your continued patience and grace as we have traveled together through one of the most challenging times in our history.
Thanksgiving is by far my favorite holiday. It is, and always has been, about family. My earliest memories of Thanksgiving are of starting the day at my great-grandfather’s farm on Route 205 in Laurens and ending at my grandparents’ home in Oneonta.
And all these years later, what I truly remember are the feelings of togetherness. I’m sure that many of you have similar memories and are working hard to build that for your children.
This year, my family has decided to forgo coming together for the holidays.
It is one more heartbreak of this pandemic for me, but the thought of my parents possibly catching COVID-19 is more heartbreak than I’m willing to endure.
As you and your family prepare for the holidays, I’m not going to ask for you to make the same decision that my family has made. Rather, all that I’m going to ask is that you have a plan to do whatever is necessary to protect you and your family.
By protecting your own family, the MCS family will be protected as well. At the end of the day, our goal is the same – to be able to be together, and we want nothing more than to be able to continue with in-person instruction after the holidays.
I am hopeful that each of us will continue to do our part to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and that the end of the pandemic will come sooner than current models predict. And when the pandemic has finally ended, I hope that the entire MCS family will come together and celebrate how well we took care of one another.
We are Milford Strong! And we will get through these challenging times together. May your holidays be filled with joy.
Not that they ever left. They just take a long winter nap while their heartbeat slows from 80 to an incredible five beats per minute and their body temperature drops from 99 to 37 degrees.
Punxsutawney Phil projects a good productive image with his weather predictions but Digger Dan, the name I give to the critter whose been tunneling into my barn every year, is another story.
One morning last spring, I was carrying a bale of hay before the light of sunrise and stepped in a hole that swallowed my leg up to my knee. I dropped the bale and limped out to the wood pile to secure a piece of 4-by-4 to pound into the hole – knowing well that The Digger would soon find another entry into my space.
The battle has been going on for several years. A friend lent me a trap that I set up by an outside hole, but the wary animal never goes near it.
One time I dropped a woodchuck bomb into the hole in the barn floor and covered it with a Frisbee that I held in place with my foot. Surprisingly, the Frisbee blew off the hole with considerable force.
I was puzzled because woodchucks usually have at least two entrances which would vent the pressure created by the bomb. Maybe Digger Dan’s body blocked the tunnel like a cork in a bottle creating enough pressure to blow the Frisbee and my foot off the hole.
Anyway, Digger didn’t perish and I didn’t try a bomb again for fear I’d burn the barn down. Of course, I had my 22 loaded and ready to rid myself of the trouble maker, but this woodchuck is a strategist and always positions himself in hard to shoot places.
One time I was gun-less and rounding a corner of the barn with a bucket of water when I ran right into him. We were both startled and to my surprise the wise guy whistled at me.
It was a harassing whistle that made me angry – the first note of the notorious three-noted wolf call that guys in Brooklyn use when they see a nice-looking girl. It’s not very macho to be whistled at by a woodchuck.
I duplicated the sound on the piano. The note is a “D,” the first letter of two words I’ve been
using to describe the enemy.
For several years an Amish farmer was taking hay off of our place. I often worried that one of his horses would step in a woodchuck hole like I did – and break a leg. So, I put sticks with flags on them to mark where the holes were.
When the farmer saw my markers he laughed and assured me that even when covered with cut hay, the horses could sense where the holes were.
I found this hard to believe but, luckily, on our farm no horse ever broke a leg pulling a hay wagon.
My friend George Gardner who has the same invasion problem sicked his very willing Jack Russell terrier on a woodchuck and the dog followed the varmint into a hole – so far that he got stuck and George had to dig the dog out with a back hoe.
So, the war goes on. Besides filling holes, I’ve plugged some of Digger’s relatives while on their way to my vegetable garden but shots at him are always taken from an awkward position and he just about gives me the razz before heading underground.
Recently, a lucky shot surely creased the hair on Digger’s head. Now, he must be taking me seriously because, lately, he ain’t whistling.
Terry Berkson, who has an MFA in creative writing from Brooklyn College, lives on a farm outside Richfield Springs. His articles have appeared in New York magazine, the New York Daily News Sunday Magazine, Automobile and other publications.