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Tip jars: Part game, part community fundraiser

December 03, 2005|By Lori Rea

I want to congratulate Tim Rowland for his fine analysis of the Washington County gaming situation in his Nov. 6 column. He is on the mark when he describes this program as the "most spectacular success of the past 25 years." And, while the story he shared is great news for Washington County residents, the positive ripples have an even greater effect.

As Rowland mentioned, the organizations offering paper "tips" fund senior citizen projects and subsidize underinsured medical clinic programs as a result of tip jar play. But the portion of those gaming dollars that remains within the club accomplishes even greater good, as a result of that very same business. These fraternal organizations donate a portion of those proceeds to buy uniforms for Little League groups that wouldn't have them otherwise.

The proceeds fund the presence of the color guard at local national holiday gatherings throughout the county, sustaining the sense of patriotism so pivotal to a community.

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These organizations and private clubs stage fishing rodeos and a host of activities for kids who might otherwise never have the chance to drop a line in the water. The dollars that filter back into the neighborhoods as a result of these games allow for the continuation of community level support for programs that the state and counties can no longer afford.

These programs are sponsored by the local clubs and businesses not because the Gaming Office mandates it, but just because it's the right thing to do. These organizations are populated by people who live and work in Washington County and who still believe that sustaining their own neighborhoods will come back to reward them in spades.

Likewise, many of the small businesses of Washington County also deserve a pat on the back for the contributions they make.

Each time a shopper patronizes a local tavern or liquor store with the purchase of a paper tip, a portion of that dollar recirculates right back into some worthwhile charitable operation within the neighborhood and county.

Try finding some similar feel-good payback for the bulk of your other disposable income dollars.

And for once, the odds are stacked in favor of the player. Rather than the majority of the gaming money benefiting some conglomerate, a stunning 83 percent of the dollars are returned to the game player in the form of winnings. Try getting such odds out at Charles Town Races and Slots.

This story has even better news because the oversight and management of these games cost the citizens nothing. From a fiscal standpoint, the Washington County Gaming Commission is a self-supporting agency that pays its own way - every step of the way. They consider their club, tavern and liquor store customers to be their partners in accomplishing mutual, altruistic motives. You see, they, too, are residents of Washington County.

Professionally, I sell tip jars to these clubs and businesses. I have the pleasure of seeing firsthand the good that comes from this highly successful program. Week in and week out, these operators are modest about all the good they accomplish and how much they do for their community. So I was thrilled to see Rowland applaud their worthwhile efforts and the value of the program.

When people ask me what I do for a living I always reply that I'm in the community fundraising business. Then, when they ask me what I like best about my work, I beam as I reply that in partnership with my clients and county officials, I personally had a hand in returning $3 million dollars (last year) to the residents of Washington County via charitable contributions.

Not a bad day's work.

Lori Rea
Shepherdstown, W.Va.

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