While I’m always pleased to see opinion pieces advocating help for those in need, Bonnie Blodgett’s “Strings attached” (Opinion Exchange, May 29) merits further comment.

The author seems to be distinguishing programs that “just help the poor” from those that “empower the poor to help themselves in the market place.” She even provides data about Twin Cities RISE!, but much of it was inaccurate. For example, RISE had 148 graduates this year, not the “modest ... 60” she cites as an annual rate. RISE put 2,000 through an empowerment program.

As someone who has worked with the poor all of his adult life I (like Franklin Roosevelt, by the way) believe you can divide the poor into two groups. One type cannot do much for themselves — for example, the blind, the severely disabled, those with low IQs and EQs (emotional quotients). They should be helped as much as necessary — but as little as possible, lest we take away their dignity and the talents they develop when they help themselves.

Then there are the poor with greater potential for economic self-sufficiency. They should be helped through education, job-skill development, emotional development and introducing them to the private market so they can make their own money and not be a burden to their families or the taxpayers.

There is certainly nothing wrong with that, and we should not disparage this path as a “Republican” one or as benefiting the “big corporations,” as Blodgett did.

The poor and all nonprofits need all of the help they can get. Let each nonprofit tell its own best story and get any support it can — whether it’s our various faith-sponsored programs, Project for Pride in Living, Twin Cities RISE!, MicroGrants, the Salvation Army or the Family Partnership.


Joe Selvaggio is chair of the board at MicroGrants.