Once again, it’s time for the 2012 flock of Mediation Services flamingos to wing their way back to their winter home. They’ll make their final appearance at the MSAC booth at the Adams County Heritage Festival on Sunday, Sept. 15 between noon and 5 PM. If the flamingos have not appeared in your yard this summer, you can breathe a sigh of relief until next May, when the flock, somewhat diminished in size, will again return to Adams County.
“Why are they diminished in size?” you ask. Sadly, we must report that upon being flocked one family took it upon themselves to destroy five flamingos, which of course is an economic hit for the organization that uses the birds to raise money. Not that the flamingos have not had some close calls previously! One year, we were able to rescue them from a bag of garbage just before the truck came. On other occasions, we’ve been greeted by angry homeowners who found the birds intrusive.
All of which leads us to reflect upon the subject of flamingos and fund-raising. Those of us who spend time chasing birds from one house to another, often find ourselves thinking about how pink birds might appeal to a sense of humor. Some people, upon finding five plastic flamingos in their yard, with a tag around the neck of one, might laugh out loud at the sight of what is obviously “a gift” from an anonymous donor. Upon reading the tag, they might discover that a fund-raising campaign has targeted them and thus be moved to respond with a small donation.
That, of course, is what we hope will happen, and most frequently, it does. However hard we try, though, we don’t understand the response of those who are bothered (or maybe embarrassed?) by the questionable aesthetics of plastic birds on an expanse of green lawn. Why get angry? Why not just send them on their way as soon as possible? Many people do just that: make a small donation and help us out by offering names of where to send the birds next.
And what about those “threatened” by a statement that birds will not be removed until a phone call is made? Recipients of flamingo flocks are free to remove the birds themselves and call for a pickup, with or without a donation. But failing to respond puts MSAC in a bad position, as we don’t know whether or not to retrieve the birds. When they sit in one place for a week or more, they aren’t earning. This summer, the birds were idle or retired for a total of two months, which was hardly productive.
For the first time this year, we also tried a fund-raising mail campaign. The return was modest, less than we’ve earned in other years with birds alone. As we contemplate the difficulty of raising money in a town where many other organizations are trying to do the same thing, we regret any animosity generated by our signature flamingos. However, we continue to welcome donations to our non-profit organization, which provides low-cost alternative conflict resolution and training for local citizens. For more information, call 717-334-7312 or see our website www.mediateadams.org
Janet M. Powers, MSAC Presiding Officer, is Professor Emerita at Gettysburg College.