For more than two months now, I’ve been trying to give the community of Morton Grove, Illinois over $3,000 that readers raised after a local American Legion post withheld a significant amount of money from the Park District when board Commissioner Dan Ashta wouldn’t stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.
The Park District rejected the donation saying they didn’t want to get “embroiled in a First Amendment dispute” (which was weird, since that was precisely what they were doing by accepting money from the American Legion on the condition that everyone stand for the Pledge).
So then I sent the money to the Niles Township Food Pantry, which serves the Morton Grove community and a few others.
While I haven’t received official confirmation from the Food Pantry, a local reporter Rick Kambic got in touch with them and it appears they’re taking the money:
The Morton Grove Park District and Morton Grove Public Library declined the money due to perceived political or social ramifications, but the foundation’s secretary Charles Levy said the check was not flagged for discussion.
“It went through like any other donation,” Levy said on Jan. 7. “It was labeled as a contribution to the food pantry, so there was no reason to treat it differently. We deposited it a few days ago.”
“I’m sure some of the same people who get food from the pantry also go to free events at the park district or send their kids there for daycare,” Mehta said. “That $2,600 hole has to be filled by cutting somewhere else within the organization.”
Ironically, however, Mehta said the same note that accompanied his check to the library was also enclosed in the donation to the food pantry’s foundation.
The note read “This is a donation on behalf of atheists everywhere” with the web address of the fundraising site dedicated to Ashta’s pledge boycott, Mehta said. The check was also made from a bank account registered to friendlyatheist.com, not from Mehta’s personal account.
Mehta said when he first called the food pantry, identified who he was and stated his intention, he was allegedly instructed to send a check to the Greater Chicago Food Depository with “Niles Township Food Pantry” in the subject line.
“I asked the guy if he tells other people to do this,” Mehta said. “When he said ‘no,’ I told him I’ll donate directly like everyone else. That was the extent of my communication with the food pantry.”
Here’s a quick screenshot from the bank account:
I’ve never been so happy to see a $3,000+ debit in my account…
Now back to our regularly scheduled lives.