The March of Dimes and Temple Beth El (Really!)

The March of Dimes was founded by President Franklin Roosevelt as the Warm Springs Foundation on January 3, 1938 as a response to U.S. epidemic of polio. Roosevelt contracted polio in 1921. The Foundation was an alliance between scientists and volunteers, with volunteers raising money to support research and education efforts.

The name “March of Dimes” – a play on the popular “March of Time” radio show – was coined by the Jewish entertainer Eddie Cantor, who some of us are old enough to remember. He inspired a nationwide fundraising campaign. Lapel pins were sold for ten cents each; special features were produced by the motion picture studios and radio industry; nightclubs and cabarets held dances and contributed a portion of the proceeds. 2,680,000 dimes or $268,000 were donated in what the press called “a silver tide which actually swamped the White House”. Ultimately, the March of Dimes funded the research that got the vaccines that eliminated polio and subsequently changed its focus to healthy pregnancies.

What’s the point of this and what does it have to do with Temple Beth El?  Polio wasn’t defeated because the 1938 version of Bill Gates funded the effort. Millions of people making modest donations changed the world by eliminating polio. Similarly, Temple Beth El is not funded with a vast endowment but supported by contributions small and large, all welcome and all significant.

A new style of contributing has become a staple of charitable fundraising over the past few years. “Requests for Legacy” giving, providing a gift or bequest via a will or other suitable arrangement, is now a staple part of the non-profit world. Some people respond to these legacy requests with a thought like, “Hey, I’m not Bill Gates. Nothing I do like that could make a difference.” No single dime donated to the March of Dimes eliminated polio. But together with other dimes, it effectively did. No single bequest in a Will is going to fund Temple Beth El in perpetuity. But many people remembering to include Temple Beth El in their estate planning could make the future of Temple Beth El brighter. And that is something that is worth considering. Virtually every responsible adult does some estate planning, typically a will. And most people with a will review them every few years with an attorney or estate planner to accommodate changing circumstances and/or new laws. Perhaps the next time you go through that process, Temple Beth El could be in your thoughts. In future articles, we will talk about some people who have already made that decision.

If you have questions about legacy giving and Temple Beth El you can contact either Mike Heiberger, V.P. of Philanthropy at heiberg7@gmail.com, or Burt Masnick, member of the Philanthropy Committee at bjmasnick@aol.com.