Friday, November 21, 2008

"Scone Day" comes to Davis Square

Please bear with us: this blog entry does have something to do with wind energy -- just read through!

In the wake of the election of our country's first African-American president, a Black church in Massachusetts was burned under suspicious circumstances, apparently in a reaction to the election. (Later we have learned that several others nationwide were burned -- see "Pam's House Blend" for an article on some of these acts of racism). We all feel somewhat powerless in the face of news like this, but many of Second Wind's employees this week gave their time to support an organization that is doing something to help these churches -- the National Coalition for Burned Churches and Community Empowerment.

Founded in 1997 by Rev. Terrance G. Mackey, Sr. and a handful of mostly rural, Southern, African-American church leaders and allies, this coalition is committed to helping churches respond to and recover from burnings. Rev. Mackey's own church in South Carolina was burned in 1996 and he told me that he wanted to do something to help churches and their congregations who found themselves in the same situation. Not only does the Coalition offer resources for churches who have suffered at the hands of arsonists and vandals, it also promotes research into the root causes of this problem and offers youth and leadership development programs to build strength within communities.

In my quest to learn more about the problems of church burning and how individuals -- or corporations -- could help, I had the honor of speaking both to Rev. Mackey and to Bishop Bryant Robinson of the Macedonia Church in Springfield, the church that was burned earlier this month. Both men impressed me with their dignity and determination to focus on positive deeds under the most materially and spiritually trying of circumstances.

I live in West Medford, very close to Second Wind's Davis Square headquarters, and have been doing a "Scone Day" fundraiser in my neighborhood every year since just after 9/11. It is a simple concept . . . it's like a bake sale coming to you. I bring leaflets all over my neighborhood, inviting my neighbors to pre-order scones, and then on the morning of "Scone Day" I deliver them very fresh homemade scones. By now I've gotten pretty good at scone baking and have a small but vocal group of scone fans. (For all those who have asked me over the years, I use Rose Levy Beranbaum's recipe, and no, you can't have a copy of it -- buy her excellent Pie & Pastry Bible.) Each year the money Scone Day raises goes to a different organization or cause.

I had already done this year's Scone Day when we all heard about the Macedonia Church, a Black church in Springfield, Massachusetts, getting burned. With enthusiastic support from my co-workers, we decided to try the "Scone Day" concept in our business neighborhood, selling scones to raise money for the National Coalition for Burned Churches.

Unfortunately, leafletting local businesses didn't work as well as it does in my residential neighborhood. A few of us went all around Davis Square with leaflets copied on bright pink paper and we got a few smiles, but no takers. However, people inside our company (who admittedly have sampled my scones) enthusiastically ordered tons of them, and so on Monday, we will be sending a modest, but heartfelt, donation to the National Council for Burned Churches and Community Empowerment.

One of the things that struck me in media coverage of the Springfield church burning is that it was hard to figure out how to help. I left a message on the church's voice mail, and the call was returned by Bishop Bryant Robinson. Bishop Robinson told me that although insurance will cover most of the damages, his church would be grateful for any donations to help with the rebuilding project. I promised at the beginning of this blog entry that there would be a tie-in to wind power, and here it is. When most people think of scones, the first ingredient that comes to mind is butter. (Correct me if I'm wrong?) We recently learned that the White Wave Company, makers of Silk Soymilk (you know, the brand with the wind turbines on their packaging?) is the manufacturer of Land'o'Lakes butter. Bingo!

If you would like to join Second Wind's employees in trying to help churches of all denominations recover from these acts of tragedy, you may support the National Coalition for Burned Churches by visiting the Donation page at the NCFBC website. Contributions to help the Springfield church may be made by making a check payable to Macedonia Church and sending to the Macedonia Church Fund, c/o Morrison Mahoney LLP, 1500 Main Street, P.O. Box 15387, Springfield, MA 01115-5387.

Friday, November 14, 2008

We Won't Get Fooled Again . . . We Hope!

We received an e-mail Thursday that said:

Dear Sir/Madam, My name is Rev. Larry Clark.i want to order some of your product to one of my new Orphanage home in Ghana.I want to know the types of Loggers,Recorders,data loggers and recorders,Test and Measurement Equipment,controllers and Panel Meters you have or give me your website so that i will select the type of product i want to order please.i live in Florida and i am on a trip now.WHAT TYPE OF PAYMENT DO YOU ACCEPT?Thank you.Rev Larry.

What a great opportunity! A chance to sell some merchandise, and help out a worthy cause in Africa. Who wouldn’t jump at the chance? I responded as we would to any prospective customer, answering his questions promptly and courteously. He asked for 15 loggers. As we corresponded and I attempted to verify payment information and other details, his emails became increasingly more urgent. In addition, he refused to use anything other than his preferred shipping company, P K K shipping, which can be seen in another one of his e-mails here:

Thats good but i have not us that shipping before and i am comfortable with the P K K shipping company thats why i want you to mail them now please.please adviseRev Larrk

As if this weren’t fishy enough already, this part really struck a chord with us (plus, spelling your own name wrong is not helping your cause). No one around here had ever heard of P K K shipping, so we decided to investigate. Our first step was to Google 'P K K Shipping' (not to be confused with a terrorist group called the Kurdish Worker’s Party?) What we found was a huge number of complaints about the scam being run by P K K Shipping. Everyone mentioned the exact same story that Rev. Larry had sent to me about an orphanage in Ghana and traveling in Florida. Many of the people writing about it online said they were baiting him and were going to contact the FBI about him. It's also worth mentioning that I found two real Rev. Larry Clarks, presumably doing God’s work and not trying to conduct Internet scams!

Seeing there was nothing more I could do, I decided to ignore him and move on…until he called. I could barely understand a word he was saying on the phone. I mentioned that I looked up P K K shipping online, and as soon as the word scam came out of my mouth, the phone clicked dead and he disappeared as quickly as he arrived. I’ll always have a place for you in my heart, and I’m sure the police will always have a place in their cell for you my sweet Reverend Larry Clark.