Gumball machines just may bring sweet dividends for local charities

November 28, 2003|by BOB MAGINNIS

Jack Goldman says he knows a good thing when he sees it. The 88-year-old Silver Spring man knew he could make money with gumball machines when he saw children putting money into them. And he knew when he saw it that the Western Maryland Center was the right place for his daughter.

For 26 years he and his wife Bea - he playfully calls her "The Boss" - have been making the trip to Hagerstown to see their child twice a week.

"People say we should move her closer to us," Mrs. Goldman said, "but this is her home."

The Goldmans care about more than their own child, however. They've also raised money to serve the patients fancy dinners and to take volunteers and staff members out to The Venice. Now, with the help of Hagerstown Councilman Linn Hendershot, they want to do something that will provide a continuing source of funds for the center and two other local nonprofits.


Their idea goes back to gumballs, with which Goldman made his living for 38 years. Working with Vendomatic, Inc., of Rockville, Md., banks of machines would be placed in locations all over Washington County. Vendomatic will take a percentage to stock and service the machines, but a large share of the revenues would go to the center, the Police Athletic League's Hagerstown chapter and Community Rescue Service.

So how much money are we talking about?

Hendershot estimated that one bank of six machines could generate $1,500 a year. Ideally, he said, the group would like to have at least 30 locations. That would provide the three agencies with $45,000, which is a nice chunk of change.

If your business would like to participate, please contact Hendershot at his Western Maryland Center office at 301-766-9155.

If it succeeds, it will be another way that the Goldmans have helped to give back to those who have helped their daughter for the past 26 years. Mrs. Goldman explained that Carol Goldman was born with brain damage, which was made worse by a fall she took while at a camp in New York State.

"She had a seizure and when she fell, she hit her head on the corner of a sink and had a hematoma," Mrs. Goldman said, adding that her daughter didn't speak for more than 10 years afterward.

"Then one day she just started talking," she said.

The Goldmans said that friends have told them they should move their daughter to a place that would be closer to them, because, as Jack Goldman said, "My family isn't too happy about me driving."

But Mrs. Golden said that this is Carol's home now.

"Everybody knows her. Everybody talks to her," she said.

Goldman said he decided to do something special for the patients, but found he couldn't do it alone because there are 80 patients who could have the dinner he wanted to serve.

"Eighty people is not peanuts, so I went to people I knew in business and collected $1,000. We gave them prime rib of beef. We had all kinds of fancy things. We do it about once every three months," he said.

The patients enjoy the fancy food and camaraderie so much, Goldman said, that they don't want to go back to their rooms after the meal is over.

It was a natural thing to do, Goldman said, because like the gumballs that raised his family, the dinner idea was a good thing "and when I see a good thing, I've got to get my feet into it."

Terry Gearhart, a CRS official, was on hand to talk to Goldman and said that CRS will probably use its share of any proceeds for the fund that provides volunteers with uniforms so they don't have to buy their own. Having the machines around the community will also keep the CRS name in front of citizens, he said.

"Any way we can advertise ourselves is a good thing," Gearhart said.

For Jack Goldman, it's all good. He said that although he's 88, he's in relatively good health, though he admits his memory isn't what it once was. He smiles as he waits for the parents of another patient who are driving him and his wife home.

"Life is good, if you keep yourself active," he said, adding that he'd like to spend more time chatting, but can't.

"The boss says it's time to go," he said with a smile.

Bob Maginnis is editor of The Herald-Mail's Opinion page.

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