The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Lao Tzu

Dear Friends of Friends Outside:

My mantra for 2021 is “Be the Change you Want to See in the World.”  A former FOLA volunteer, Kathleen Tobin, sent me the following, of unknown authorship:

What if 2020 isn’t cancelled?

What if 2020 is the year we’ve been waiting for?

A year so uncomfortable, so painful, so scary, so raw –

That if finally forces us to grow.

A year that screams so loud, finally awakening us

from our ignorant slumber.

A year we finally accept the need for change.

Declare change.  Work for change.  Become the change.

A year we finally band together, instead of pushing each other further apart.

2020 isn’t cancelled, but perhaps instead

is the most important year of them all.

While still grieving incalculable losses due to COVID, I am concerned that a possible palliative effect of this new year could be a false reassurance that somehow a new year will make our problems disappear.  But, pick a cause, from the criminal justice system, to economic disparity, healthcare disparity, climate change, or a democracy on the edge and scratch the surface.  There is likely at least one concern for which each of us could have done something or done something more.  For example, in 1985, we had a state prison population of 50,000.   By 2005, it was 167,698.  Today it is stands at approximately 115,000.   Average people made this positive change happen by educating the public, unrelenting advocacy, and by voting.

Won’t you  join me in taking a first step of many by supporting and getting actively involved in something you want to change?  Let’s make 2021 and beyond a Happier New Year!

Mary Weaver

Executive Director

Reflections on 2020

Dear Friends of Friends Outside: 

As the year comes to a close, I suspect that many are looking forward to kicking it figuratively to the curb and toasting its conclusion on New Year’s Eve.  It has been a trying year at the least.  One of my personal guidelines is “If I am going to go through H – e – double hockey sticks, I am going to learn from it.”  Here is a partial list of my lessons learned.  I share them with the hope that we as members of humanity remember to take a few moments to do what we can to make 2021 a little better for us all.   

  • Take nothing for granted.  Many people lost loved ones very unexpectedly and under the most hideous of circumstances.  And, who would have imagined 20 years ago that in one short year people would visit New York City and not see the World Trade Center in the skyline.   Ultimately, everything, even brick and mortar, is transitory and can disappear much more quickly than we might have ever imagined.
  • Take care of my health.  When horrible diseases come around, people with better health have better chances of surviving.
  • Take care of our democracy.   200+ years old, it is easy to take for granted but also fragile as a rose.  Vote.  Hold public officials accountable.  Fight to defend my beliefs.
  • Take care of our planet.  Do something every day to restore Planet Earth.  As I saw on a t-shirt, “There is no Planet B.” 

And, finally, remember to thank the persons who have helped you.  So, a big “Thank you” to the persons who have supported our Mission in 2020.  The need became greater and so many people rose to the occasion by donating their money and time to help ensure that we could continue to do our important work. 

As the year ends, I wish each of you an enjoyable and healthy Holiday and hope that our actions in 2021 are informed by what we have learned in 2020.

 

Mary Weaver

Executive Director

IRS allowing a special charitable tax deduction this year

Dear Friends of Friends Outside:
The IRS is allowing a special charitable tax deduction this year for people who do not plan to itemize their 2020 taxes next year. Every donation is important and will be put to good use, in support of children and families affected by the criminal justice system. Thank you for your consideration and we hope you all have a nice and healthy holiday season.

Here’s how to get this year’s special charitable tax deduction

By Jeanne Sahadi, CNN Business

Updated 9:27 AM ET, Sun December 20, 2020

The pandemic has put millions of Americans in dire financial straits, forcing many to rely on charities to adequately feed and clothe their families and stave off homelessness.

So this year the government has offered an added incentive for Americans to donate to charity. As part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, lawmakers created a special one-time deduction to encourage other Americans with some cash to spare to make donations this year. The deduction, which expires on December 31, applies to tax filers who take the standard deduction on their federal tax return. The IRS estimates more than 87% of filers now take the standard deduction.

Normally, only itemizers may claim their charitable contributions, because the lump-sum standard deduction (currently $12,400 for single filers; and $24,800 for married filers) is intended to cover most deductions.  But this year, on top of taking your standard deduction, you also may take a deduction for cash contributions up to $300, so long as you donate that money by December 31. (Note: It does not apply to non-monetary contributions such as clothing or food.)

Although the IRS doesn’t require receipts to be filed with your return, be sure to keep a record of any money you give. “Make sure you document it. Keep your receipts for your cash donations in case you get asked about it later,” said Kathy Pickering, the chief tax officer for H&R Block.  If you’re making a one-time contribution of $250 or more to a single charity or non-profit, get a written acknowledgment of your donation from the organization, Pickering said. If you make donations below $250 to any single group, a canceled check or bank or credit card statement indicating proof of payment should suffice.  And if you’re making contributions through an employer-sponsored giving campaign in which your donation is deducted directly from your paycheck, then your paystub can serve as proof.  One other note: Those who are single or married and filing jointly may deduct up to $300 on their returns, but taxpayers who are married but filing separately may only deduct up to $150 each, Pickering said.

What you’ll be saving

Taking the deduction will of course reduce your tax burden.  For someone in the 12% tax bracket — which applies to single filers making up to roughly $40,000 and married couples making up to about $80,000, according to H&R Block — the deduction would reduce the tax bill by $36 (12% x $300.)  For someone in the 22% bracket, that amount jumps to $66.  But more than the money it saves, any tax-deductible contribution you make can go a long way toward helping charitable organizations — especially the smaller, local ones — continue to be a lifeline for so many in need this year.  Nearly three-quarters of Charity Navigator-rated nonprofits reported that they have suffered financially this year, while more than half have seen an increase in demand, and more than half said they had to cut back on programs.

2020 Toy Drive

Dear Friends of Friends Outside in Los Angeles County:

As you know, many people are suffering during these trying times.  If you are one of the fortunate persons who has enough for yourself and is able to help those who are in need, will you please consider supporting our annual project for children with incarcerated or formerly incarcerated parents?  These children’s separation from one or both parents is even more difficult  this year because family visiting at most prisons and jails is not possible during the pandemic. 

For more than 30 years, we have held parties for these children and want to continue this tradition but in a way that is safe for all involved.   The flyer describes how we will continue to support them even during the pandemic.  Anything you can do to support our efforts will be appreciated. 

With best wishes to all for a healthy and meaningful Holiday Season.