As a 20-plus-year employee of Citizens for a Better Environment (CBE), I was shocked to see Ken Dunn’s letter in the March 31st edition of your paper alleging that our canvassers told him on three separate occasions that contributions to CBE would go to support the Resource Center. If a CBE canvasser did solicit Dunn, he clearly misunderstood the message he was given. Our canvassers have never told ANYONE that their money does anything but help CBE support the work we do on behalf of our members and supporters.
Do we tell them that their contributions help CBE promote recycling? Yes, we do. For instance, our canvassers are proud to tell people that their donations enabled CBE to write and then work to pass Illinois’ Solid Waste Planning and Recycling Act, which has helped countless communities throughout the state fund the start-up of their curbside collection programs. They also tell city residents about the problems with Chicago’s blue bag program (though most already know that it’s a dismal failure). Ironically, our canvassers even encourage people to contact Dunn to see if his Resource Center can set up an alternate collection program that provides a real alternative to the “sham” recycling that’s inherent in blue bag.
In the mid-80s, Dunn’s Resource Center and CBE were founding members of what has now evolved into the Chicago Recycling Coalition (CRC), and we both continue our membership on that organization’s board of directors. We can’t imagine why Dunn didn’t feel comfortable just picking up the phone and calling us if he thought there was a problem with what one of our canvassers was saying; but he did not. CBE works hard to ensure that our door-to-door representatives give residents a clear and accurate story about the work we do, and if we ever hear that any member of our outreach staff gets some part of that story wrong, he or she is immediately corrected. CBE’s reputation is too important for us to allow anyone who works on our behalf to be less than scrupulously honest.
We would agree with Ken that anyone who is uncomfortable giving at the door–or through phone solicitation–should contribute directly to the organizations they support. At the same time, anyone who wants information about CBE’s finances, including our fund-raising, can get it. That information will show for every dollar CBE raises, Ken Dunn’s recommended 75 percent–and more–goes into the programmatic work of the organization. Our canvass staff is an important part of that work because they help educate local residents about current and important environmental problems on which we’re working. Their mission is to spread the word and not just fund-raise–a job that all of us take very seriously.