THE ANGEL'S STORY Chapter #21
Bob Dole Inspires The Freedom Angel
In 2008, I heard Bob Dole announce on television that our troops are being short changed! That made me mad… and then…. it made me curious! Why are our Vets being shortchanged? There are foundations all over the country, which exist to serve our Vets. So what’s the problem? I decided to find out. I called several of the big foundations and sure enough… Every one of them stated that they needed more money.
Why don’t they have enough money? You would think, that we would have had enough practice by now, getting this problem solved. I mean after: World War I: World War II: The Korean War: Viet Nam: Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, you would think by now, that there would be one huge, national organization to take care of all our Vets needs, but it seems there is not. Something must be wrong. I didn’t know what was wrong, but I was determined to find out why there is a shortage of dollars and a shortage of appropriate care. Every day I see adds on TV asking for support …Presumably they are spending millions of dollars in order to raise millions of dollars. Clearly it is not working very well, or at least not as well as it should be, because the ads are still running. They never have enough money. The problem is growing and the ads continue.
From my point of view, the military is the most important organization in America. Our safety and strength lies in their hands. It is our military that makes the life we know and enjoy, possible. The care of our Vets should be our most cherished undertaking, and a national priority. It seems that it is not. Why? Why is it not? We have magnificent organizations out there doing wonderful work and still they do not have enough support? Why? What could it be? There must be a reason. Whatever could it be?
Research began. One of the first things I discovered is that most of the people who donate to our Veteran's organizations are at least, tangentilly related to the military. So what's wrong with the rest of the country? Clearly they are not being reached!
I started thinking that there must be a less expensive, more efficient way of raising dollars. This project needs to be moved to a front burner. There must be a way of getting each and every one of us, to know, that we the people, are a vital and important part of the American team and that it is our personal responsibility and individual support which is essential to keeping our country strong and free. Every one, and I do mean the whole country, should be chipping in.
It was then that I noticed that there is no unifying emblem or insignia for America’s Heroes and that the insignias for the various branches of the military which do exist, are widely recognized but are not very marketable. By this I mean, now, think about this for yourself…How many Red Crosses do you have in your home? How many Wounded Warrior emblems? Do you give a Wounded Warrior emblem for a gift or wedding present? I don’t think so. Do you collect USO stickers, Eagles, Anchors or American Flags? These things are marketable to some degree but they are not highly marketable or widely collected. .
Now… I am thinking out loud: “USO stickers, Eagles, Anchors, Flags! Perhaps you have one on a key chain or a sticker on your car, but there is a limit to Eagles, Anchors and Flags. However… There are no limits on Angels. WOW! There are no limits on Angels! Angels are perhaps the most collectible critter ever collected! People all over the world have personal relationships with Angels in one form or another. Angels can go anywhere and be slapped on anything from a motorcycle to a bar of soap! WOWZER!” Then I began to think of all the places an Angel could go. I mean, Angels are dumb that they can go anywhere.
“Toys, sheets and towels, jewelry, dishes and coffee mugs, cereal boxes and cans of soup. License Plates, the back side of M&Ms, postage stamps or perhaps a Freedom Angel costume for Halloween. (Just think of it...Little Freedom Angels running all over the place!) Virtually anything that is for sale: Detergents, brooms and clothing- tags, check books, even buckets of paint or motor oil. Any surface that can hold a printed logo… The product lines are virtually unlimited! WOWZER twice! Angels can go anywhere!”
If we follow this line of thinking, we can actually "EARN" our donations by increasing the sales of those products which bare the Freedom Angel's name or image. Yeah... Good old fashioned CAPITALISM can get the job done.
So how did I get from this brilliant flash of enlightenment to the Freedom Angel? Well… In 1988 I had quietly created, a little bronze angel named “Joy” for the Memorial Garden in Lockerbie, Scotland, after Islamic terrorists blew up Pan American’s Flight # 103 over this tiny town. My neighbor, Bob Pagnucco was killed in that incident. Joy was created to celebrate life and to let the people of Lockerbie know that we cared for their losses as much as we did for our own.
Years passed by and then, because of the miracle of the internet revolution, this same little angel was commissioned by the Sterett Association and sponsored by the Navy League of the United States to serve on board the U.S.S. Sterett (a DDG-104 Arleigh Burke-class Destroyer) as a guardian Angel for all those who sail the seas. “Joy” was permanently installed on board for the Sterett’s Commissioning in Baltimore, on August 9, 2008.
“What would happen if I enlarged this little angel and called her The Freedom Angel? Could she become a unifying national emblem for America’s Heroes? Could an Angel, bring our country together to get the job done?” The more I thought about it, the more it made sense to me. “Angels are adorable, collectible, and highly marketable. Maybe an Angel could become our national insignia for all our Veterans. Well maybe. I mean, could An Angel for Our Soldiers pull off, what has yet to be done on behalf of America’s Vets?”
I could see her in my mind’s eye: The Freedom Angel: a new national monument, thirty feet high which would be dedicated to America and to the Men and Women who protect her. It sounded like a really good idea to me but I had no clue as to how I was going to make it happen. Clearly, I could not do it alone, as I am strictly a clay-pusher and not a businessman. My first naive thought was to give the new Freedom Angel Monument as a gift to the Walter Reed Hospital in Washington D.C., so that they could rebuild the entire hospital complex with out raising taxes.
At that very moment, I thought that this was a swell idea…It was not. Undaunted, and untutored, I looked up Walter Reed’s telephone number on my computer. My initial call was politely but firmly rejected. I went back to the website and scrolled down a bit further, until I came to the category of “Chaplain.” “I mean those guys are paid to listen to you. Maybe this route will work. Right?” I reasoned. “Right!” Bingo! I was lucky enough to connect up with Col. Charles Howell, who was kind enough to listen to my ideas. “I would like to meet with the head of Walter Reed please. Can you arrange this for me?” “Sure I can. Come on down to Washington. Colonel Steven Jones will be waiting for you. Major General Erick Schoomaker is out of the country just now, but Colonel Steven Jones holds the second position down here. I will make the arrangements with him for you.” And he did!
I packed up my pick up truck and headed for D.C. I drove right up to the front of the main building where sure enough, a large parking place was reserved just for me and my truck. Suddenly I was feeling very small and rather sheepish. The main building at Walter Reed was big and incredibly, impressive. This military geography was a big change from my country home in Roxbury, Connecticut.
I was ushered into Colonel Jones’ office by secretary, Samantha Benson. Colonel Jones, tall and extremely good looking, stood up from behind his desk, extended his hand and said, “Welcome. This is exactly what we have been hoping and praying for. Sit down and tell me all about it.” He listened intently and then said, “Yes, this is exactly what we need but I am afraid that there are some regulations which will block this plan. You see, there is a division between the civilian world and that of the military. The only thing the military can do is to spend the money that has been allocated to them by congress through the raising of taxes. We are very good at that. However, we cannot raise money for the new Hospital nor can we sell anything to raise the money. We cannot market or endorse anything either. That is the law. So even though this is a great idea, I am not sure that we can use it. But first, let’s see if there is a route around these regulations. If possible, I want to use this idea.”
Colonel Jones called in three JAG Lawyers to conference. This group was headed by Lieutenant Colonel Katherine Park, Deputy Commander of JAG. Their first pronouncement regarding the angel was this. “You will be pleased to know that she is not a conflict between church and state. She is simply a pop-culture item, nothing more. The second is that we want her, and too, that this would be illegal because of regulations.”The four of them went round and round but decided that there was no back door for this fundraising project that I had cooked up.
“ Let’s send her down to meet with Chief of Staff: Steven Redman at the Pentagon. Maybe he has a way for us to take on this project.” So it was off to the Pentagon to meet with Steven Redman. He too wanted to make use of the Angel and similarly, he too called in three JAG lawyers. The three lawyers also confirmed that the Freedom Angel is not a conflict between church and state and is only a pop-culture item. This re-confirmed information was good to hear and would give to me the bit of courage I would need to continue on with this quest. “We will let you know our decision in about a month. This is something we would like to do but we are not sure how or if, we can implement it. It is possible, that you will have to start a non-profit organization yourself, in order to accomplish your goals.” A month later I was notified by Steven Redman that “ The project was simply not possible because of Army regulations but not to give up and to start up a 501(C ) ( 3 ) non profit organization on your own. Your country needs this one!”
“OK,” said I to me…... “ What’s a 501(c)(3)? I mean, how hard can that be?” I was about to find out. Home again, I went to visit my neighbors, David and Jacque Lincicome to tell them about my idea and my recent adventures in Washington. David is a lawyer who knows a whole lot about everything. My first question to him was: “What’s a 501(c)( 3) ?” “Good grief Sterett” said David. “Do you have any idea at all of what you are getting into?” Well, no! Of course I didn’t! I mean for example, did you know that non-profits are corporations? Well I didn’t. “Clueless” over here actually thought I could make something like this work!
“Actually, we think this is a good idea and we are ready to help you, but first, we have to do some home work…. …What is our mission? We must clearly state our mission and develop a website which tells all about us, our mission and our goals. We need to do some solid research and find out exactly which needs are not being met and how best to service those unmet needs and insure that the appropriate care actually reaches the individuals who need our help. We need a business plan to execute our mission and we need a Board of Directors and a Board of Advisors. The most important thing we need to do is to make sure that accountability is our corner stone. If we do this Sterett…. we are going to do it right!”
And so began, the beginning of the Freedom Angel Foundation, a 501 (c)(3) non-profit, hoping to better serve our country. This is how we began. The Freedom Angel started with a small group of friends and neighbors. Wonderful people, who volunteered to come aboard, to guide and direct our efforts.
Hooray! It’s Official! On July 16, 2010, the Freedom Angel Foundation was granted a 501(c)(3) Status! The game is afoot and the adventure begins! www.FreedomAngelFoundation.org
THE ANGEL'S STORY Chapter #22
Forming the 501 (C ) (3)
Build a new national monument, dedicated to Freedom and America’s Heroes and then use the Angel’s figure as a logo, which can go on almost anything and raise the needed dollars to take care of our returning vets; that was the basic idea. But how do you expedite it? Where would the money come from? I tried to give the Angel to Walter Reed Hospital in Washington D.C. so that they could re-build their hospital with out raising taxes but that was illegal because of the separation of civilian and military and I tried to gift the Angel to other non-profits, which was not well received to say the least. They saw me as a threat, as someone who would be taking money away from them! No one wanted to piggy back the idea, so that too was a bust. By default, I was backed into a corner. Either I had to give up the idea altogether or form a non-profit of my own. Well Best Beloved, this is what happened. (I decided to write about this process, just incase someone out there wants to start their own non-profit one day.)
I did not really understand what a Board of Directors or a Board of Advisors was or what the member’s responsibilities would be. I only knew that in order to get a Federal 501(C) (3) I needed to have these people on board in order form a Foundation. “No problem,” I thought to myself, and just started calling up my friends and neighbors, explaining to them what I wanted the Freedom Angel Foundation to do. I said that it would not cost them any money and that I only needed to make use of their names, addresses and bragging rights. (In retrospect, the “no money bit “ may not have been the best way to start a Foundation. I mean ignorance really is bliss, isn’t it?) I was on a steep learning curve! I have since learned that non-profits lean, lurch and lumber along at their own pace. They move ahead very slowly, and many non-profits fail. (No one told me about the failing bit either.) So I rounded up some members for the Board of Directors and some for the Board of Advisors. Dr. David Lincicome, now our secretary/ CEO, shouldered the Federal filings for us. Without his knowledge and experience with these matters, there would never have been a Freedom Angel Foundation..... of this you can be absolutely sure. The filing papers were more than two inches thick! The fee for the filing was $800.00. This exercise took several months to accomplish. The filing process began on January 1,2010. On July16, 2010 we became an official, Federal, 501(C) (3 ) Non-Profit! Phew! Later on, I will print out for you, all of our expenses so that you can see what we have gone through in order to make it possible for the Freedom Angel to fly. It is really quite interesting to follow our dollars, and begin to understand exactly what good deeds do cost!
Slowly, very slowly, I began to realize the enormity of this undertaking. I thought that this challenge would be an easy one. I knew that I could do my part making a sculpture of an Angel and I thought that if I did my part, which was that of clay-pusher that the rest of my plan would naturally fall into place. Well not exactly!
I believed that I could enlarge the little Lockerbie Angel to thirty feet in height, creating a new national monument that celebrates America, recognizing the unselfish service of the men and women who protect her. I wanted to unify our country again, by understanding and acknowledging the Freedoms granted to usby God, TheDeclaration of Independenceand our Constitution. Wherever our Angel is placed, it is my hope for her to become a center not only for celebrating Freedom but also a place of learning, so that future generations will continue to cherish our Founding Fathers and their most extraordinary gifts to our nation.
I have worked with the Polich Tallix Foundry for more than 40 years. They are the best in the business bar none, and I was absolutely confident that when working with this team under the leadership of Richard Polich, that we could get the job done. But how do you expedite it? Where would the money come from?
These were some of the questions asked by the directors at our first board meeting: “What is our mission? It must be clearly defined.” "How are we going to educate the entire country to support this project?" "How do we promote it and make our mission known?” “How do we market and advertise?" "Has anyone thought about the money?” “How much do we need?" "We need a sound business plan!” “We need to research thoroughly the insufficiencies suffered by other foundations." "We need to make sure that the dollars we raise actually reach those who need our help.” "We must be absolutely sure that transparency and accountability are our corner stone.”
“Maybe we can solve this problem simply and cheaply,” I said “After I get the seven foot Angel cast her in bronze, we could take her on a road trip around America in the back of my pick up truck. By the timewe get her home again, she should be as recognized as is the Red Cross insignia and then, she will be invaluable to the Foundation and to our Vets.” “That’s an interesting idea but I am not sure that it will work,” said our Chairman” “We also need a place to plant her. Any thoughts?”
I said that, “I figured that maybe The Freedom Angel should go to Washington, D.C. So I called up Parks and Recreations. The conversation went something like this.”
“YOU ARE GOING TO DO WHAAAT? No! Absolutely Not! No-No-No! You cannot just go off willy-nilly and create a new national monument. Does congress know about this? Anyway....First we would have to have a national competition in order to be politically correct! Additionally…. you might not be qualified! Space is so precious in Washington you know. And besides that, you cannot use the word monument!” “Well,” said I, “There is a pile of rocks out in the back yard, which is a monument to a dead cat. I think we can use the word monument. Besides that, there are huge shopping malls all over this country and one of them is going to want to have their parking lot filled every day of the year. I think a new national monument dedicated to America’s Heroes will do just that.” This made her very angry and that was the end of the conversation. “It is my thought that the Freedom Angel should belong to the people and should have a common placement where anyone can go a visit her every day of the year.” Well…. Innocence is bliss and God protects the innocent and the stupid. Never the less, I was ready to attack this challenge with both guns blazing.
Through Artspan.com, I was able build a basic website which you can visit yourself at: www.FreedomAngelFoundation.org This website defines out mission and tells all about theDirectors and Advisors on board. It also allows visitors to make donations on line. Artspan.com is an outstanding website for artists. It is inexpensive about $19.95 a month and they take no commission on sales. Close to 100% of all my sales are because Artspan.com does a great job. Setting up your own website pagesare easy to do and the company markets its websites around the world. You can’t beat that!
Once the 501(C)(3) was established, we originated a mailer to our own lists of friends and neighbors, detailing the mission of the Foundation. Little by little, the dollars started to come in. Soon we had enough money to commission the Foundry to enlarge the little Lockerbie Angel to seven feet in height. Seven feet is the size when finished, that we will enlarge to its final height of thirty feet. In the event that I should die during construction, the seven-foot figure will be executed so precisely that the Polich Tallix team could finish the new thirty-foot monument without me. I did not think that this undertaking would be a problem for me, as I have done this sort of work before, but I had no idea of the time-line for this project, as there were so many unknowns.
In April 2010, the enlargement process was started in the Polich Tallix Foundry by Peter Ross, who specializes in sculpture enlargement. We worked together as a team to grow the Angel from a twelve-inch bronze to a seven-foot clay. Although enlargements are proportionately exact, they must be detailed and finished by the sculptor. Originally, I had planned to bring the Angel back to Roxbury and finish the clay here at home. I had quite forgotten that an additional eighteen inches would be added to the height of the figure due to the size of the supporting platform for the sculpture and the large rubber casters (wheels) that support the platform and allow you to move the whole structure about quite easily. “ O-good-grief! ” I suddenly realized that I had a door and ceiling problem and that it would not be possible to finish the clay at home!
“Where am I going to finish the seven foot clay,” said I to myself?
“Time for creative thinking to kick in…think….think….. think! How about the Danbury Fair Mall? Mmmmmm…. Huge doors, high ceilings, music, air-conditioning, flush toilets, McDonald’s and Subways…I mean what more could an artist want? What a great idea Sterett! Wow! Now that really would be a perfect studio…. that is, if I can persuede the “powers-that-be” into letting me work right there in public, in the middle of their Mall. Mmmmmm. This might also be a great way to introduce our mission the nation. Maybe we could have a reception of some sort. Maybe an official debut?” Sounded good to me, inside my head. “I wonder if the board members will concur.”
More chapters are coming... as they hapen. XOS