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The gift that goes on giving

Many of you who recall the 60s and 70s will recognize David Lance Goines, Bay Area graphic designer whose posters approached fine art. I invoked his name several entries ago in the context of poster at Agincourt. One of his most famous was for Chez Panisse, a renowned eatery in Berkeley. There is a framed Goines poster (mass-produced, unsigned, dammit) hanging in my bathroom advertising the Berkeley VD Clinic: The thorny stem of a rose morphs into a noose hanging above the phrase “Don’t give the gift that goes on giving.” Recent FaceBook conversations and other more personal encounters have lately brought the topic of charity to mind. Despite the recent economic downturn, the Agincourt I’ve imagined has experienced its fair share of giving—and taking.

Consider the Agincourt Public Library & Tennant Memorial Gallery, for instance, built through local benefaction, though I’ve defined neither the source nor the amount. The building’s dedication, I suppose, is indication enough that the Tennant family and its several branches played more than a little role. But surely there have been other instances of charitable giving in Agincourt’s century-and-a-half. There are social institutions, for example, like the “Y” and an animal shelter (“The Haven”) and social services galore—all jeopardized by the sequester and Tea Party budgets. Howard wrote some time ago about a WWI-era housing project and again on a recent community-based business incubator called “Home Grown” that helped Rosemary Plicka open her restaurant.

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When we give, our intentions are as varied as the causes and institutions we support—from God to Girl Scout cookies.

Nameplates and dedications hint at hubris, our need to live beyond the alloted four score and ten. [I’m not counting on that many, by the way.] For Howard’s family—the extended Tennant clan—noblesse oblige may also have played a part: success in business plowed back into the community that built it. What a silly outmoded notion. Lately I’ve had my own issues about giving: in two cases, overtures about donations have both been rebuffed. Frustration can become bitterness, though I’ll try not to let that happen.

Howard may have his own case studies in community history to share. I hope he calls me soon.


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