Caring for Our Own

Whatever the size, your contribution makes a tremendous impact.
BY ROBERT PORTER

n September 11, 2001, firefighters and police officers rushed to Ground Zero. In the weeks and months that followed this national tragedy, America looked on as firefighters from across the nation traveled great distances to rally around, support and care for their own. And we all have seen news accounts of funerals for police officers killed in the line of duty. Law enforcement officers from neighboring communities and states send representatives to honor their fallen brethren. Is this support unique to these dangerous professions? Perhaps. But citizens of this country have a history of being there for neighbors, coworkers and business associates who have experienced a catastrophic illness or event. And so it is with our profession and our association with the AICPA Benevolent Fund.

I’m guessing that many of you have chipped in your $10 annual contribution with little knowledge of how the fund directs the money or the history behind the AICPA’s tradition of assisting members in need.

T he AICPA Benevolent Fund was started in the 1930s to help members and their families struggling through various medical and financial hardships. The accounting profession has been very good to us—many of us are first-generation college graduates who have achieved a fairly affluent lifestyle within a single generation. The fund is a great way for us to support those who have gone before us in the profession and to “take care of our own.”
The AICPA Benevolent Fund was started in the 1930s to help members and their families struggling through various medical and financial hardships.

For the past year, it has been my privilege to serve as a trustee of the fund and to see the vital assistance we offer to many AICPA members and their families. The work of the fund committee is excellent, a combination of compassion and tough love as we consider each case and discuss whether we should increase, decrease, initiate or discontinue support. These are very challenging personal tragedies. Typically we are approached when a colleague has fallen through his or her own safety net and when government assistance is either very limited or unavailable.

Here is a typical composite case of a beneficiary of the fund: A 39-year-old female CPA named Tina has a history of working for small CPA firms in her home state. Since her college days she has struggled with periodic bouts of serious depression and anxiety that have affected her ability to work. She was married for eight years (now divorced) and has shared custody of her two children, ages 11 and 9. Following her divorce her struggle with mental illness progressed to a case of chronic bipolar disorder with a suicidal tendency. After years of various medications and therapy, Tina’s psychiatrists have found new drug treatments that are effective in treating her condition. However, Tina is unable to consistently work part-time due to loss of concentration and other side effects, and the cost of treatment is beyond her current resources.

Her support is effectively a team effort; she works whenever possible but earns less than $10,000 per year. Tina’s younger brother and his wife often help her financially because their parents are deceased; her former husband now provides all of the children’s financial support. Even with this help, Tina relies on credit cards just to meet routine expenses. The increasing weight of debt adds to her anxiety and she seeks assistance from her friends at the local CPA firm. Through colleagues at the firm, Tina learns about the AICPA Benevolent Fund, and with the firm’s assistance, she submits the information needed for a fund review.

In many cases like this, the fund will step in and cover the cost of medications, therapy and even routine household expenses. At least twice a year, the AICPA staff person assigned to the fund committee will check on the member or family to assess ongoing needs. Support and resources often extend beyond monetary assistance.

T hat’s just one example of how each AICPA member who contributes to the fund offers a helping hand to needy colleagues. Such kindness reminds me of the angel Clarence, who told George Bailey in the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “Every man’s life touches so many other lives.” For me, it’s a simple gesture of giving back to a profession that has provided so much.

So the next time you hear about the outpouring of support shown by firefighters or other professionals, understand that we, too, can make a meaningful difference for our members and their families. And if you hear of a fellow CPA in need, remember that we, too, have a tradition of helping—the AICPA Benevolent Fund.

To learn more about the fund or to make a contribution,
please call Elizabeth Cich at the AICPA at 201-938-3490
or e-mail her at
ecich@aicpa.org .

ROBERT PORTER, CPA, is CFO of Brim Healthcare, Brentwood, Tennessee, and a member of the board of trustees of the AICPA Benevolent Fund. His e-mail is bob.porter@brimhealthcare.com .

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