Tag Archives: creative writing

A message from the author.

I‘m supporting Jovon Scott, friend and author of “Blood of my Shadow.” I had the pleasure of editing Jovon’s book and bringing it to fruition. I’m posting a message from Jovon written from locked in a prison cell.

Writing and imagination have been an escape from the reality of my upbringing.  The ability to create a world where I can exist is compelling; perhaps enchanting.   The streets nearly killed my creativity and pulled me so far under that I lost myself.  The drugs, violence and other things that came along with the culture damaged my ability to feel; to be a kid, allowing myself to reach the potential of who I am today.

I was mentally isolated in a bondage that imprisoned my mind.  But words freed me from the mental incarceration, opening the doors that allowed my mind to run rapid and unharness my imagination.  Now at the age of 30, I’m free and more alive than I’ve felt before.   

Blood of my Shadow:  The Rise & Fall of the Syndicate is a depiction of my imagination mixed with the reality of the street culture.  Urban fiction and organized crime have never been entangled into one genre — until now!  This 6 book series is my mind run rapid on pages that allow you to enter my world of reality and creativity.  Thank you for your support.  I promise to keep the art of storytelling alive. 

Jovon Scott

Memories

Memory is life’s greatest gift.

It was an earlier time, late 19th or early 20th century, perhaps, when three learned men — Hermann Sorgel, Daniel Thorpe, and Major Barclay — gathered in an English pub.  They had attended a day-long Shakespearean conference in London, listening to lectures on the works of William Shakespeare and experiencing a lively discussion on the structure and theme of their favorite sonnet.  What better place to finish the day.  A bar lined one wall, a smoke-stained fireplace stood against another, and several like-minded patrons circled small wooden tables separated just enough for an intimate conversation.  The cigars were strong that night, and the dark, warm beer was smooth and plentiful.

     The Major abruptly changed the conversation when he pointed to a beggar standing outside.  Islamic legend has it, he said, that King Solomon owned a ring that allowed him to understand the language of the birds.  And a particular beggar, so the story goes, somehow came into possession of the ring.  Of course the ring was beyond any imaginable value and, as a result, could not be sold.  Legend has it that the beggar died in one of the courtyards of the mosque of Wazir Khan, in Lahore. 

     Sorgel jokingly added that the ring was surely lost, like all magical thingamajigs.  Or maybe some chap has it, he said with a chuckle, and can’t make out what they’re saying because of all the racket.

     Thorpe weighed in.  “It is not a parable.  Or if it is, it is still a true story.  There are certain things that have a price so high that they can never be sold.”  Thorpe went mute and stared at the floor.  He seemed to regret having spoken at all. 

     The darkening of Thorpe’s mood and the lateness of the evening moved the Major to call it a night.  Thorpe and Sorgel soon followed suit and returned to their hotel.  Thorpe then invited Sorgel to his room to continue their conversation.  It was there, in the privacy of Thorpe’s room, that he asked Sorgel if he would like to own King Solomon’s ring.  “That’s a metaphor, of course, but the thing the metaphor stands for is every bit as wondrous as the ring.  Shakespeare’s Memory, from his youngest boyhood days to early April, 1616 — I offer it to you.”  Sorgel fell silent as he struggled to find a word.  Thorpe continued.  “I am not an impostor, I am not insane.  I beg you to suspend judgment until you hear me out.” 

     Thorpe continued.  “I was a military physician.  I was in a field hospital when a soldier who had been shot twice was about to die.  What he told me might sound  quite startling, but strange things are the norm in times of war.  The soldier, Adam Clay, offered me Shakespeare’s Memory, and then, in the final minutes of his life, he struggled to explain the singular condition of the gift.  ‘The one who offers the gift must offer it aloud, and the one who is to receive it must accept it the same way.  The man who gives it loses it forever;’ he said to me.” 

     “And you, now, possess Shakespeare‘s Memory?” Sorgel asked.

     “I am now in possession of two memories — Shakespeare’s and my own.  They seem to merge, or maybe I should say that two memories possess me.”

     I’ve searched the works of Shakespeare for years, Sorgel thought.  What better gift than to know the inner workings of Shakespeare’s mind, and maybe touch his soul.  “Yes,” Sorgel declared with an assertive tone.  “I accept Shakespeare’s Memory.”

     “Shakespeare’s Memory” is a short story by Jorge Luis Borges.  While the work is fiction, Borges’ insights into memory are both precise and profound, and as real as life itself.  Borges leads us through a maze of discoveries as bits and pieces and chunks of memory begin to unfold. 

     Sorgel recalled Thorpe’s words.  “It will emerge in dreams, or when you awake, when you turn the pages of a book, or turn a corner.  Don’t be impatient; don’t invent recollections.  As I gradually forget, you will remember.”

     Sorgel’s sleepless nights were mixed with the fear that it was a hoax, or possibly an illusion, and the longing hope that he might in some way become Shakespeare.  Memories began to return as visual images, and then auditory, sounds that issued from him when Sorgel sang a melody he  had never heard before.  In a few days, Sorgel’s speech took on the “r”s and open vowels of the sixteenth century.  He began to sound like Shakespeare.

     Memory was not the stretch of rolling hills with green meadows and natural springs that Sorgel had hoped for.  It was a mountain range with beautiful and at the same time, terrifying peaks, frigid temperatures, and the threatening crevasse just around the corner.  Some memories were shadowy, and some were so traumatic that they were hidden forever.  Sorgel enjoyed the happiness of the moment, and then his mood darkened from an unwanted memory.

     At first, Sorgel’s and Shakespeare’s memories were separate and easily distinguishable each from the other.  Then they began to mix, and finally, Shakespeare’s Memory overpowered his own, causing Sorgel to question his sanity and wonder how little time was left before he was no longer the man he once knew.

     It became clear that Sorgel had no choice but to give Shakespeare’s Memory away.  He dialed telephone numbers at random.  At first they were met with skepticism and then an abrupt hang-up.  In time, he reached a more receptive gentleman and Sorgel said, “Do you want Shakepseare’s Memory?”  And to Sorgel’s surprise, the voice answered, “I will take that risk.  I accept Shakepseare’s Memory.”

     Shakespeare’s Memory was transferred a little at a time, and was irregular at best.  But years later, some residue still remained.  “I am now a man among men,” Sorgel wrote.  “In my waking hours I am Professor Emeritus Hermann Sorgel; I putter about the card catalogue and compose erudite trivialities, but at dawn I sometimes know that the person dreaming is that other man.  Every so often in the evening I am unsettled by small, fleeting memories that are perhaps authentic.”

“Blood of my Shadow” is available.

“Blood of my Shadow:  The Rise & Fall of the Syndicate” is available on Amazon and other book stores as an ebook and a paperback.  Join me on an interesting journey, and for some, an eye opening experience.

It has been my pleasure to work with Jovon Scott, author of “Blood of my Shadow:  The Rise & Fall of the Syndicate.”  I first met Jovon while researching my previous book, Supermax Prison:  Controlling the most dangerous criminals.  As a favor, I agreed to look over Jovon’s writing that fits within the genre of urban fiction.  Since my prior work was creative nonfiction, I found urban fiction to be a new, and rewarding experience.  (Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t teach old dog new tricks.)

     What blew my mind was Jovon’s imagination and how he can spin a story.  His writing reminds me of films I’ve watched that deal with urban fiction – fast, page turners, and attention grabbers.  I decided to edit the first 50 pages of Jovon’s manuscript, showing him what I believe would improve the flow of his writing while preserving his imagination.  Moving forward, Jovon Scott has his first book of a six book series.  

     “Writing is the avenue that changed my life, and I don’t plan on slowing down anytime soon.”  Jovon Scott

     Jovon Scott is 30 years of age and began his incarceration in an Illinois prison at age 18.  He has a projected parole date of 2033.  Jovon was raised on the slum streets of Chicago in an area better known as the Robert Taylor Projects where unemployment reached 95%, an African-American population of 96%, 40% single-parent families, and a public assistant family income of $5,000 per year.  It comes as no surprise that Jovon turned to street gangs that offered a means of survival, a family-like environment, money, drugs, sex, and respect.    

     Jovon gives credit to the gang culture for forcing him to want more out of life, and a willingness to pursue it with gusto.  Discipline was front and center in the street gangs of the 1980s and 90s.  Being self-educated, Jovon continues to prepare himself for a more favorable future upon his release. 

     It was in a 6 x 9 foot double-occupancy cell where Jovon discovered how writing frees the soul and opens an imaginary reality, a breeding place for creativity.  “Blood of my Shadow: The Rise & Fall of the Syndicateis a work of urban fiction, focusing on the underbelly of the urban culture.  It is here where Jovon combines lessons learned on the streets of Chicago, an unharnessed imagination, and his ability to spin an exciting story. 

     This is a fictional story about control and power, accompanied by sex and violence, a lustful lifestyle, the willingness to die for your cause, and the hope of a lasting legacy.

     If you’re a new reader to urban fiction, I challenge you to give this a try and experience another patch in our quilt called America. 

Title to be determined

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First attempt at writing an Urban Novel.

Prologue

Miami, Florida
June 1, 2012
9:15 pm

Red and blue lights flashed repeatedly, interrupting the darkness of a summer night. Anisa pulled over as the Police Cruiser followed closely behind. The back roads were isolated and secluded from the busy streets of Miami; mostly open to the Everglades and small planes that landed on private airstrips.

The officer slowly emerged from his cruiser and approached the vehicle. Anisa and Kema were both under the provision of the Russian counsel, making them diplomatic citizens. The vehicle was registered to the Embassy and considered diplomatic property, causing Anisa to question the stop.

“Is there a problem officer?” Anisa asked as she lowered the window.

“No, not at all young lady,” the officer answered. “Just don’t get much company back here. This is just a concerned safety stop.” Anisa smiled. Kema remained composed, yet vigilant.

“We’re alright officer, just taking this road to the air strip ahead,” Anisa explained.

“Well, I see you women are alright, so I’ll let you get on your way.” Without hesitation, the officer stepped back, unholstered his service weapon and fired into the vehicle. The first trajectory grazed Anisa’s cheek as she managed to duck the second one. Kema jumped from the car and returned fire. Anisa followed in unison. A series of shots sent the officer running for cover. Kema closed in, firing at the fleeing officer as he managed to fire back. While he made his way to the driver side of the car, he saw Anisa. But it was too late. She fired a shot that ripped through the officer’s clavicle.

“Ah Shit,” he yelled in excruciating pain. Anisa walked up close as Kema made her way around the car.

“Who do you think he works for?” Kema asked.

“The Cuadras Cartel, definitely,” Anisa said, firing a bullet into his skull.

“Are you alright?” Kema asked.

“Yeah, it’s just a graze wound,” Anisa answered. “Let’s get out of here. I’m sure someone heard the shots.

 

 

A journey of enlightment

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I never thought  I would write or edit five prison-related books.  That was not my intention some 15 years ago while traveling a beaten-down, two-lane highway to the Dwight Correctional Center.   I was about to have my first interview with a female inmate, convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life without parole.  What I thought would be a one-time interview, turned into a two-year journey and my first book — “The Rita Nitz Story:  Life Without Parole.”

While working on Rita’s book I met another inmate who was incarcerated for killing her five-year old stepdaughter.  The inmate, Becca, suffered from a bipolar disorder and unable to recall the murder.  After obtaining copies of her mental health record and confirmation of her mental illness, I began another two-year journey that turned into a second book — “Cherry Blossoms & Barren Plains:  A woman’s journey from mental illness to a prison cell.”

A memoir based on my experiences as a victim of childhood sexual abuse — “Mnemosyne:  A love affair with memory,” provided a distraction from my prison-related books.  “Supermax Prison:  Controlling the most dangerous criminals,” and “Dark Days in Chicago:  The Rehabilitation of an Urban Street Terrorist,” brought my total to five books.  My role in “Dark Days” was that of an editor, writing coach, and supporter.

Now I’ve stepped into the world of Urban Fiction; a genre quite foreign to me, but popular among readers interested in raw, violent stories associated with urban culture, crime syndicates, etc…  The stories are page-turners, emulating the darker side of humanity.

This is where I met Jovon Scott, author of recently published “Blood of my Shadow:  The Rise & Fall of the Syndicate.”  Together, Jovon and I explored the underbelly of urban culture.  For those unfamiliar with this genre, I suggest that you acquaint yourself with another patch in the quilt we call America.

This is my journey of enlightment where I jumped into the unknown, allowing myself to experience each spiritual adventure.  

Wallow in the writer’s high

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The title of my book has been changed to “Supermax Prison: controlling the most dangerous criminals,” which is due to be released in mid-June. I decided to share some of my thoughts before writing this book.
***
Writing is a journey of twists and turns laced with uncertainty. Gone are the predictable warm summer nights in southern Illinois, or the haunting call of a whip-poor-will.  Perhaps I have a general idea of where the story might lead, but I never know how it will end.  That would not be investigative journalism.  No, that’s back-ass storytelling.

I have logged in countless hours of psycho-therapy and written about troubled minds with difficult pasts.  Things are not as they appear. Perceived reality is a combination of our genetic makeup and life experiences, and opens the door for misguided decisions.  An individual’s perception of right and wrong oftentimes differs from mine.  False judgements and bias are not permitted.  Knowing this, allows me to experience empathy, understanding, and a host of emotions.  Only then, can I find the “sweet part” of the story where creativity is unleashed.

It has been said that artists perform their best work when under the influence of drugs.  One could argue that a gentle high might unleash a degree of creativity, but when you are trashed, the work has a manic flow.  I admit to the occasional glass of wine to prime the pump, but I’ve found a better way.  Look to the free spirit of childhood and envision the swish and sway, the pirouette and tour en l’air of a child dancing to the beat and lyrics of a simple song; the free flow of unrestrictive creativity; an emotional rush that trumps the steady pull from your favorite weed or a glass of wine.

While emotion and creativity are the staples of powerful writing, it must be harnessed with a loose bridle, allowing a degree of freedom. Writing requires the use of the right and left side of the brain at the same time.  If I can harness my creativity, writing skills, a nonjudgemental mind, the strength of a lion sprinkled with a dose of love, I can wallow in the writer’s high.

Hornet dude, show me your stinger.

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It was a typical mid-August day in southern Illinois:  95 degrees, a heat index of 104, and an apple pie was in the oven.  Two of our granddaughters, ages seven and nine, were
staying over on a summer day.  My wife, two granddaughters, and my dog — a mostly white golden-doodle with golden ears — alternated our play between outside and inside.  Sweat covered bodies and my dog’s rapid-fire panting dictated our activities.  

My seven-year-old granddaughter asked my wife what was in one of our trees. There, hanging within reach, was a hornet’s nest as big as a basketball with hundreds of hornets flying in and out, doing whatever hornets do.  (I later learned that a mature hornets nest in late summer can have as many as seven hundred hornets.)  We quickly retreated to the inside of our house where I instructed the girls to stay away from the tree, and what could happen if the hornets came after them — multiple butt stings that would penetrate their skin like nails in a pine board.  My granddaughters, with their saucer-sized eyes, took in everything that I said.  They would stay away for now, and most likely would need psychotherapy in later years.

Being a seventy-two-year-old man, I had been taught that it was the man’s responsibility to protect his family.  It wouldn’t have been right for me to insist that my wife take care of the hornet’s nest.  So, I did what all old, educated men do.  I went to my office, turned on the computer, and began to google — how to destroy a hornet’s nest before they destroy you.  Okay, what kind of hornet are we dealing with, I thought.   Ah, there it is:  a vespa crabro,  a european hornet originally introduced into the United States, one of twenty hornet species found in the US.  My backyard hornets, as I call them, are one to one-and-a-half inches long strapped with two pairs of wings, six legs, and boast a reddish brown color.

The hornet’s lightweight nest, an engineering feat by any definition, is constructed by a mixture of the hornet’s salvia and pieces of wood fiber.  Granted my backyard hornets are quite impressive, but their stings are something to behold.  Unlike the ordinary bee that is limited to a single sting, this baby can sting you multiple times, leaving a nasty venom behind.  The symptoms  can leave the victim with a fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, convulsions, and possibly death if you have an allergic reaction.  Holy shit, that’s what I thought.  There was a mixture of testosterone and fear racing through my brain.  Oh, and forgive me.  There was a sentence or two about the hornet’s attributes to humanity — they eat insects that can become pests to your habitat, contributing to a healthy ecosystem.  And I’m suppose to worry about these flying varmints that might drill holes into my exterior?

If I am to destroy the nest, which most articles advise against, I should follow a recommended procedure:  approach the nest in darkness while the worker hornets sleep; use a flashlight with a red lens; wear quite shoes, boots would be best; thick rubber gloves; long sleeves and long pants made with thick material; and above all, don’t wake up the hornets.  Oh, by the way, each year forty people in Illinois die from hornet stings.  But that most likely happens to allergic people or old people like myself.

There is a time when a man has to check his bravery, or admit he is a “chicken shit.”  I knew this was my moment.  Still, I decided that I should approach this from a more intellectual standpoint.  Facts:  I’m seventy-two-year-old, two back surgeries within the past eighteen months, three face cancers surgically removed two weeks ago.  Okay, candy-ass Franklin, go hire someone.  But then, almost miraculously, the next morning changed everything. There, lying under the tree was the nest, possibly knocked down by one sick or dead raccoon.  I shared the news with my wife, making us feel content in the fact that the hornet problem was gone.

Later in the day my wife told me that half of the hornet’s nest was still hanging from the tree.  I ran outside and took a look.  Dammit, I whispered.  I didn’t want to disturb the hundreds of hornets working on the nest.  Something came over me, like a wave of bravery or possibility a big bunch of stupidity.  Whatever, I was pissed.  “Go into the house,” I told my wife.  “I’m going to take care of this fucking nest.  “Be careful,” she said, as she ran into the house to see if my life insurance policy was still in effect.

deerfly-pd-wcI went into the garage and grabbed two cans of wasp/hornet spray guaranteed to shoot twenty-seven feet into the air.  I disregarded all of the advice that I had obtained from my google search.  Here I was dressed in shorts and a tee-shirt, possibly confronting one of life’s biggest challenges.   I approached the nest with determination and a good deal of bravery.  The hornets were buzzing in and around the nest.  I didn’t flench as I held a can of spray in each hand.  I pointed the cans, stood in a crouched position, pulled the triggers as a heavy fog filled the nest which began raining hornets.  Bunches of them fell to the ground taking their last gulp of air as they died.  A few strays headed for my face.  I bopped and weaved to the left and then to the right.  The fog continued to fill the sky as they dropped dead before landing a single sting.  They were dead.  They were all dead.  My wife opened the front door and began clapping as I ran circles in the front yard spiking the cans to the ground like a Green Bay Packer wide receiver after hauling in a thirty yard pass.  Even my golden-doodle joined in the fun.  The two of them were mighty proud of me — the old fart turned hero.  Once again, man prevailed over the insect world.  Damn, life is good.

 

Thanks for the memories — Colbert and Stewart

laughing-horses_1507421iA few months ago I lost one, and now I’m about to lose another; an empty feeling, but not like losing a family member, one of my closest friends, or God forbid, my dog.  I’ve never shook their hand, exchanged hugs, or offered to be their facebook friend.  I suppose I consider them my imaginary television friends:  Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart.  I’m quite fond of Jon and Stephen, and if given the chance I would love to have a cup of coffee with them, maybe a couple glasses of wine, discuss some serious topics, and then just laugh our ass off.  Now I’m left to watch recorded copies of their shows, and savior the memories of days gone by.

I either watched the Daily Show and Colbert Nation in real time, or on one of my many recordings; four days a week, year after year.  I loved watching the two of them discuss the day to day political happenings.  Although they were loaded with satire, they were damn dead serious.  If you can’t laugh about the political ongoings, how can you get through the day?

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert:  ridicule, sarcasm, truth, comedic satire, and many laugh like hell moments are reflections of my buddies, Stephen and Jon.  Oh how I loved the Colbert Nation when Stephen came flying through the air like a superhero all wrapped in an American flag with an eagle by his side.  I have to admit that my initial reaction was one of disbelief and a feeling that this guy was in love with himself; not the type of person that I generally like.  But it soon became obvious that Stephen was a made-up character who crossed his fingers while he worshiped Bill O’Reilly, Fox news, and every right-wing politician who unloads verbal poop.  A story teller, a songster who could sing in tune, an intellect, and a brain that popped and crackled like a pan of popcorn on a red-hot stove.  A real thinker, that’s what I call him, able to explain complex issues in a humorous way.  Even when he was in character, you knew there was both a madness and seriousness living together like a hand in a glove; a feat very few performers can obtain.  Yes, I know, Stephen Colbert is taking over the David Lettermen show.  But what will happen to the character I loved on Colbert Nation.  What will Stephen have in store for his new audience?  Hopefully he will give us a moment with the character that I love so much.  Thanks for everything, Stephen.

And then there’s my other imaginary friend, Jon Stewart.  Sixteen years, that’s how long Jon has hosted the Daily Show.  So many memories of days gone by.  Not unlike Stephen, Jon holds many of the same qualities:  ridicule, sarcasm, truth, comedic satire, and many laugh like hell moments.  But Jon brought his own outwardly intellectual side to his show.  There was no doubt when Jon was disappointed, upset, or downright pissed off with the day to day politics.  When congress has a 19% positive rating, there’s reason to be mad.  And then Jon would add a humorous bend to his presentation, showing the stupidity of the situation.   After all, if we can’t laugh we’re left to cry.  Thanks for everything, Jon.

Stephen and Jon are both young men and have lots more to offer.  But please don’t wait too long.  There’s a void in my psyche.

Be kind, if you dare.

DSC_0098_0036Holiday season, new year, time to reflect on my past and ponder what lies ahead.  I’ve had good years, and some that would make your skin curl. Many years of therapy, that’s what I’ve had.  Some painful, as I struggled with days gone by, but the effort led to the enjoyment of being alive.  Learning to love, to feel, and accept what is hurled my way offers life without limitations.

I’ve had lots of fun alone the way — many fine beers and wine, laughter with momentary friends, and perhaps a ton of party mix.  But most of all, I’ve been blessed with life’s greatest gifts — a lovely wife, two fine daughters, four granddaughters, and several dogs that showed me the way.  Still, I’m struck by the madness outside of my small cocoon that’s reported by the media each day. How could someone decapitate another human being and convince others to follow their ways; murder, physical and sexual abuse, racial injustice, evil without remorse, downright stupidity.  I’m reminded of an interview between author Maya Angelou and television personality and professor Melissa Harris Perry.  Basically, Perry asks Angelou why our world is so fucked up.  “What breaks my heart, Ms Perry, Dr. Perry, what breaks my heart is to think what would our nation be like if we dared to be intelligent, if we dared to allow our intelligence to dictate our movements, our actions?  What would — can you imagine?”  While not granted at birth, intelligence is earned through hard work, self exploration, and the cleansing of our soul from years of uncaring ways.  Detox our soul, that’s what we must do.

At birth — the initial creation of an unflawed human being — we are given a clean slate to begin life’s journey.  Mother’s milk, a favorite rattle held by the strength of tiny hands, and the special blanket that hides a thumb stuck in our mouth — pure as a mountain stream untouched by mankind.  Evolutionary biologist tell us that we are a product of our biological makeup and our environment.  Our genes plus our daily experiences define what we do, say, and think until we die.  Maybe this is our challenge, to replace our troubled ways through intelligence.  We have to learn to care, if we only dare.

I’ve spent years of therapy and self exploration trying to figure it out.  It’s not been easy, and I continually remind myself of lessons learned and not forgotten.  My granddaughters are very precious to me, and I’ve wanted to spare them from the struggles that I’ve incurred why trying to find my way.  I decided to write a book, maybe I should say a short story, where I reveal the lessons that I have learned. These are the secrets of life as I see it.  Maybe you will find this of interest, and more likely, you will not.  I have to admit that my book, “Love, Dry Creek, & a dog named Max,” is not on my granddaughter’s list of favorite books.  Maybe when I’m dead they’ll ask their mother, “Where is Pop’s book that he wrote for me?  Hey, granddaughters, read slowly and take it in.  Life is all about being kind, if you only dare.

https://llfranklin12.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/love-dry_creek_max.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

Wanna help someone?

IMG_0088                                                      Planned Giving
to The Women’s Center
                                                                                    It could be in the middle of the night when a woman knocks at our door, shaking as she nervously asks for help. Makeup could not hide the blows to her face. She is without money, a safe place to stay, accompanied by the belief that she had done something wrong. She brings her daughter, as well, who wonders why the Daddy she loves always hits and swears. Perhaps there’s a telephone call to the hotline, where a volunteer hopes to convince a desperate woman that tonight is not the time to die. Or possibly someone calls from the hospital emergency room reporting a rape. Women, men, children, sexual orientation, it makes no difference.

The Women’s Center, established in 1972, continues to provide services to the surrounding counties. In 2013, we assisted 141 children and 862 adults with 11,715 hours of domestic violence services; 6,713 nights of domestic violence and 5,413 nights of transitional housing; and 16,429 meals to residents in shelter. Public education, professional training, orders of protection, and hotline calls are provided as well.

Thanks to you, we have expanded and updated our facilities. We have little debt and manage to show a respectable balance sheet. But where we struggle is raising enough money to maintain a $1.3 million dollar budget. We receive our financial support from various federal, state, and private grants, and donations from you. Government budget cuts continue while we deal with increased services. I wish you could come to ground zero and watch the dedicated work of our staff. You would soon learn that they are underpaid angels, doing God’s work.

Whether you are a first-time donor, or one that continues to offer us a lifeline, we need your help. This can be done as annual contributions, or through planned giving, a means of providing future financial support. For now, we ask you to forget the tax benefits in giving. Just think about the abused woman knocking at our door, the child who still loves her Daddy, the raped woman lying on a hospital bed, or the woman who believes that tonight is the time to die. There are so many of them.

A large number of our donors come from people of limited means, while a smaller number come from sizable estates. Contributions, whether large or small, reward the donor with the emotional satisfaction of helping someone in need. “How do I make a gift to The Women’s Center,” you might ask. Giving can be as simple as tying your shoe, or more complicated, requiring the advice from your tax consultant. Let’s say that you want to donate $25 dollars per month to The Women’s Center.   Mail a check to the Center each month, or setup a monthly deduction from your local bank or credit card. Change or terminate your contribution at your discretion. Maybe you prefer to make a lump sum donation of $5,000 to the Center. Now that was easy, and yes, you are helping the abused woman knocking at the Center’s door, the child who still loves her Daddy, the raped woman lying on a hospital bed, or the woman who believes that tonight is the time to die.

Suppose you want to do more long term giving, commonly called planned giving — any major gift made during lifetime or at death as part of a donor’s overall financial and/or estate plan. Planned gifts are comprised of the following:

1) Gifts of appreciated assets

Appreciated assets are stocks, bonds, mutual fund shares, real estate, personal tangible assets, and almost anything of value. Giving appreciated gifts can financially benefit the donor as well as the Center. Maybe you have stocks that are valued at $10,000 with a cost basis of $2,500. If you sell the stock and then give the proceeds to the Center you will have paid income tax on the profit ($7,500). Transfer ownership directly to the Center and you eliminate any personal income tax while the Center is free to sell the stock without any tax liability. Everyone benefits from such a transaction. Buy low and give high is an exciting option.

2) Gifts that return income or other financial benefit to the donor

A Pooled Income Fund is established in the Center’s name that pays a life income to you, the donor. At the donor’s death, the balance of the investment can be held or liquidated by the Center. A Life-Income gift can be any investment that allows the donor to increase their income, an immediate tax deduction, and the elimination of any capital gains tax due at the transfer of appreciated assets to the Center.

3) Gifts payable upon donor’s death

Assets that are payable as a beneficiary designation, part of a will, or living trust. Such a gift helps ensure The Women’s Center’s future viability and strength, without costing you anything during your life. Think about this, you are helping abuse victims without changing your cash flow or the balance of your net worth. Just when the Center’s cash flow seems bleak, we often receive notice that a donor chose to include the Center in their will. It feels magical, as we continue to provide our services to the community. When you make a bequest, you can modify or terminate the gift at your discretion. Target your gift to a specific need, or allow The Women’s Center to determine how best to utilize your donation. Your attorney can provide you with the appropriate language to include in your will.

Your bequest can be a stated dollar amount, or specific property to The Women’s Center. Some of our friends prefer to give a certain percentage of the remainder of their estate — the amount that remains after paying all debts, costs, and other prior legacies. Whatever your objectives, the Center will be happy to work with you in planning a gift that will be satisfying, economical, and effective in carrying our mission.

 You can name The Women’s Center as a beneficiary of your IRA, 401(k), 403(c), or other qualified plan. Simply designate The Women’s Center to receive all or a portion of your plan after your death. By doing so, you avoid the potential double taxation your retirement savings would face if you had designated the qualified plans to your heirs. You can continue to take regular lifetime withdrawals, while maintaining the flexibility to change beneficiaries if your family’s needs change during your lifetime.

Name The Women’s Center as the complete or partial beneficiary on your life insurance policy. The death benefit payable to the Center would not be subject to income or estate taxes. You have the option of transferring ownership of your life insurance policy. In doing so, you would receive an income tax deduction for the cash value of the policy. Simply contact your life insurance company and request a Change of Beneficiary/Ownership Form and designate The Women’s Center as the new owner and/or beneficiary of your policy.

There are many financial tools used when making a gift to The Women’s Center. Some donors might choose the Deferred Gift Annuity – provides lifetime annuity payments commencing at a future date.

Perhaps the Retained Life Estate might be more to your liking. You transfer the title to your residence, farm, or vacation home to The Women’s Center, and live there for the rest of your life. Continue to live in the property for life or a specified term of years while being responsible for the property taxes and upkeep. The property passes to The Women’s Center when your life estate ends.

With the Charitable Bargain Sale, you sell your residence or other property to The Women’s Center for a price below the appraised market value – a transaction that is part charitable gift and part sale. In return you receive a tax deduction for the amount of the gift, and cash for the payment made by the Center.

With thoughtful planning, The Women’s Center, you, and your loved ones, all benefit from planned giving. The donor states their financial goal for the Center, and through the assistance of the Center, your financial planner or tax consultant, a planned gift is formed.

You make it possible for us to help the abused woman knocking at our door, the child who wonders why the Daddy she loves always hits and swears, the raped woman lying on a hospital bed, or the woman who believes that tonight is the time to die.

Contact Us

We are happy to discuss your charitable plans and goals. We will see that your gift is used as you wish, to help us carry on the work of The Women’s Center.

The Women’s Center, Inc.
610 S. Thompson Street
Carbondale, IL 62901
Phone: (618) 549-4807
wced@thewomensctr.org