For the past few weeks, I've been bombarded by Kars For Kids ads on the radio. I'm starting to sing that jingle in my sleep, but they never say who they are. Well? -- Don Prater, of Maryville
Just listening to KMOX in the early morning, I know how that little ditty asking you to donate your car can drive you crazy. And, as you say, they fail to say who they are other than imparting the warm, fuzzy feeling that they help kids (which they do).
But at least when the Salvation Army asks for your car they clearly say it funds the group's adult rehabilitation program right here in St. Louis. So what's the story behind 1-877-Kars4Kids? Here's the scoop:
If you follow the paper trail, Kars4Kids is the cute name that a group known as Joy for Our Youth does business as. Located in Lakewood, N.J., Joy states on its website (www.kars4kids.org) that its primary mission is to fund "educational, developmental and recreational programs for Jewish youth and their families."
As part of its programming, it partners with 180 schools to improve education and has opened ChillZone after-school programs in 20 cities. In addition, the group raises money for tuition assistance, mentoring programs, summer camps, weekend retreats, and religious instruction.
And while many find those singsong ads annoying, they must be effective. According to its financial report, Joy raised $29.3 million through donated cars in 2011, which is nearly 98 percent of its total income.
Of that, roughly $10 million goes back into advertising while $18 million went to what turns out to be the parent organization, Oorah Inc. -- or Oorah Kiruv Rechokim (Hebrew, in essence, for helping educate non-observant Jews in particular). Founded by Rabbi Chaim Mintz in 1980 to "awaken Jewish children and their families to their heritage," the group is now headed by Mintz's son, Rabbi Eliyohu Mintz, in Lakewood, N.J.
In the past, the group has been fined for not disclosing that only children of certain religious affiliations benefited from its work. It also has been criticized for not clearly disclosing all of the terms involved in the free vacation vouchers that car donors receive.
Kars4Kids spokesman Steven Weldler told me those concerns have been addressed and all terms now are clearly spelled out on its website. Just recently, for example, they gave away coats to all children trying to make it through Hurricane Sandy and the cold New York winter.
"What our donors need to know about -- and what we are rightfully proud of -- is that our funds go in large part to helping Jewish children, but on a constant basis we serve the needs of children of all walks of life in need," he said.
Now, if they'd just consider recording a new ad or two ...
Your recent column on bridges brought to mind this question: Is the Poplar Street Bridge still officially named the Bernard F. Dickmann Bridge? I know that name was still on the eastbound 8th Street ramp sign before it (and the ramp) were removed when the new baseball stadium was built. -- C.L., of Belleville
Technically, I suppose, it's actually the BWAON Bridge -- Bridge Without an Official Name.
Yes, the St. Louis poobahs "officially" christened it the Bernard F. Dickmann Bridge, which has always left non-St. Louisans puzzled over just who this guy was.
Don't get me wrong. Dickmann was a fine man. As the city's 34th mayor from 1933-1941, he laid the groundwork for the city's now-distinctive riverfront and reportedly was a major driver behind Homer G. Phillips Hospital, the Jewel Box, the Soldiers Memorial and early air-pollution ordinances. But by the time the bridge opened in 1967, Dickmann was long retired before he eventually died in Collins, Miss., in 1971 at age 83.
Besides, St. Louis really didn't have the unilateral power to name this bridge anymore than it does to name the new one. So even before it opened, people were calling it the Poplar Street Bridge, an equally questionable choice because it gives totally undeserved status to a nondescript, two-block-long street that runs nearby -- and doesn't even connect with the bridge itself.
So, at the moment, it's unofficially officially known for Bernard Dickmann and popularly called Poplar Street. But the tweaking goes on. Earlier this week, Missouri legislators introduced bills to name the Missouri half of the bridge after former Missouri U.S. Congressman William Lacy Clay Sr.
What morbid coincidences link Mamas and Papas singer Cass Elliott and Who drummer Keith Moon?
Answer to Thursday's trivia: So, did you get all six states named after English royalty? They are: Virginia and West Virginia (after Queen Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen); Maryland (for Queen Henrietta Maria, wife of King Charles I); Georgia (after King George II); and North and South Carolina (after King Charles II of England; Carolina comes from Carolus, the Latin version of Charles).
Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or firstname.lastname@example.org