The ALS ice bucket challenge continues to bring in huge donations this summer for efforts to cure and treat what's commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease. As of today, the viral campaign has raised more than $94 million for the ALS Association. That's compared to $2.7 million raised by the group during the same time last year.
Now the association faces a challenge of its own — figuring out the best way to spend all that money.
"It's amazing. It's perhaps a little overwhelming," says Barbara Newhouse, the group's president and CEO.
She says it's a huge responsibility, handling more money than they've ever had before.
"It's sort of like the lottery winner that receives a lot of money and four years later is looking in the mirror saying, 'What did I do with all that money? Where did it go?' "she says. "We don't want to be that kind of lottery winner. We want to take this money and very thoughtfully plan out exactly what we're going to do with it."
Newhouse says they've already begun consulting with clients, volunteers and their 38 chapters across the country on how the money should be spent. She says the focus is on expanding the work they already do — funding scientific research, providing care and counseling for ALS patients and their families, and advocacy. Proposals will be discussed at a board of trustees meeting in October. And then, she says, decisions will be made — very carefully.
"It's not about spending money quickly. It's about spending money thoughtfully," she says.
Ken Berger agrees, with a caveat. He's president and CEO of Charity Navigator, which rates and analyzes U.S. charities. His group gives the ALS Association four stars, its highest rating. But Berger also says the ALS charity faces a tough balancing act — investing the money well, but not sitting on it for too long. He says most donors expect the money they give to be spent in a timely way.
"You'll see situations where charities have stockpiled money when they've gotten an influx like this, and donors have gotten very upset about it," Berger says. "Because their expectation is, 'The problem is now, the need is now, the organization needs to step up and dramatically increase its services.' "
He and others recall how outraged donors were when the American Red Cross received hundreds of millions of dollars after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and then diverted some of the funds to other needs.
Berger says, no matter what it decides, the ALS Association has to share its plans as soon as possible, so people know what to expect.
Patrick Rooney, associate dean at Indiana University's School of Philanthropy, says he thinks most donors understand that curing a neurodegenerative disease such as ALS is a long-term investment, but he warns, "Everybody will be watching. So a year from now, people will say, 'Where did that money go and what's the social return on that investment?'"
Barbara Newhouse says she's well aware of all this, that she's already been inundated with advice.
"I'm getting e-mails, everything from, 'Spend the money this way,' to e-mails that say 'Take your time, do it right,' to people who say 'I've got the cure for ALS, so just pay me, and I'll give you the cure.' I'm getting it all," Newhouse says.
She admits, though, for someone running a charity, there are worse problems to have.
Robert Siegel speaks to Patrick Kidd, the editor of The Times Diary, about the sounds of mechanical typewriters piped into the newsroom of The Times in London. The idea is that the sounds will increase energy levels and help reporters hit deadlines.
Sgt. 1st Class Tom Albert is with the Army's 2nd Engineers at the massive Bagram Air Field north of Kabul and he's overseeing operation Clean Sweep here. It's a huge job, because American troops and equipment are scheduled to be out of Bagram and other bases by the end of the year.
The U.S. and Afghanistan are still trying to work out a deal that would allow nearly 10,000 military personnel to stay, but even that would be just a fraction of the force that's been here for the past 13 years.
Soldiers are in the process of tearing down small wooden barracks known in military speak as B-Huts. Some of these huts have been standing here at Bagram since the earliest days of the war.
"There's probably around 400 B-Huts left on (the Bagram Air Field) right now that need to be torn down," Albert says.
One is a B-Hut nestled against the concrete barriers that line the air field. Albert says it's too cramped here to fit an excavator, so this one is being taken apart by hand.
"We can tear down eight B-huts a day by excavator, and this right here is going to take about a week to tear down by hand," he says.
Even though these B-huts were originally built as short-term housing, they've weathered more than a decade of use as bunks and offices.
Staff Sgt. Dominic Koehl with the 304th Engineers out of Lima, Ohio, is leading the crew doing the deconstruction.
"A lot of this wood can easily be reused, it's practically brand new," Koehl says.
Tearing the hut down by hand means more of the wood can be recycled and given to Afghans.
Koehl's unit is actually deployed to Kuwait to build up U.S. facilities there, but two companies have been loaned out to Bagram for this tear down mission.
"We were more than willing to come up here and use our construction knowledge to put it to good use here," he says, adding that while it's fun to build, it's even more fun to tear down.
Across the base is a lot covered with 25 graying B-huts. Sgt. William Mesing in charge of knocking these down.
"When we first got this project, we started seeing some signatures on the walls, a lot of them were dated back to '04," he says.
And once they clear out the wiring and other reusable materials, they bring in the excavator. The raptor-like claw of the John Deere machine quickly chews up a B-hut and spits out the debris into a growing pile. Mesing says it's a lot of fun to spend his days knocking down B-Huts.
"You can definitely get some stress out of your system," he says. "But at the end of the day, then you look at the pile of mess you've got to pick up, then it's kind of like 'Oh, man.'"
And a few hundred yards away, another crew is carrying out the cleanup part of Operation Clean Sweep.
Sgt. Robert Duncan of the 876th Engineer Company says their job is to clean up debris and return the land on the base to its natural state. "We've found anything from commode seats to engine blocks out here," he says. "You name it, we found it."
Duncan says they've cleared about six football fields worth of trash and debris and have about four more to go for now.
And while crews are busy knocking things down and clearing away years of debris, there is still new construction going on here.
A few years ago, the military was anticipating a sizeable troop presence in the country for years to come. But, President Obama since declared most will be gone by the end of the year, and only 10,000 troops will stay for another two years. That has changed plans for Bagram.
"Some of those things are either built or we're finishing building them because it's too late to change that plan," says Maj. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of NATO forces in Eastern Afghanistan. He acknowledges that some of the new structures are overbuilt for the future mission as planned now.
"We've actually canceled some projects, and we've scaled back," he says.
Like A NASCAR Pit Crew
But Bagram still can't shrink too much. Other smaller bases are collapsing and personnel and equipment are temporarily moving here as units sort out what will be scrapped, given to the Afghans or sent home.
Sending things home is the job of Air Force Maj. Chris Carmichael. He's commander of the 455th Expeditionary Aerial Port Squadron. He's overseeing the air transport of personnel and cargo out of the country.
"We're the busiest aerial port in the Department of Defense," Carmichael says.
Here on the edge of Bagram's airfield are dozens of M-ATVs — giant armored tactical vehicles — waiting to be loaded onto C-17 cargo planes.
"All of it is pretty much going back to the U.S. It'll probably be stored for future wars," he says.
Many other armored vehicles still remaining in Afghanistan are not fit for future use and are being shredded. And some 200 will be handed over to Afghan forces.
Others will fly to U.S. bases in the Persian Gulf where they will be later loaded on ships heading to the U.S. This form of transport is more complicated and expensive than the mission to remove cargo and tactical vehicles like MRAPs (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected armored personnel vehicle) out of Iraq.
"In Iraq you could easily just drive the MRAPs right into Kuwait," Carmichael says.
But driving vehicles and cargo out of Afghanistan requires traveling dangerous routes through Pakistan to the port of Karachi, or much longer routes to the north of Afghanistan. So flying everything out is the best option here.
One of Carmichael's crews is in the process of loading four of these M-ATVs onto a hulking C-17 cargo jet.
"It's a fast and furious process, because they only have two hours and 15 minutes to get this thing downloaded and uploaded and back in the air," he says. "It's just like a pit crew at a NASCAR event."
And, as busy as the crews are now, Carmichael says their capacity has hardly been tested.
"We have not seen the majority of the cargo we're going to see," he says. "Based on what I'm seeing on the projections, most of it is going to go in November and December."
And, he says, they can also fly out more than 1,000 troops a day.
And Carmichael says his port dogs will be some of the last ones to leave Afghanistan. "Somebody's got to load the plane," he says.
Behind the scenes of the feasts and meals at houses of worship, there's almost always an army of women (and a few men) who peel potatoes, stir stews, mash chickpeas, slice onions and make by hand the various breads essential to the central meal. They see this service as their religious calling. Here are a few stories from women in the New York City area.
Buddha's Food Is Simple By Design
As the abbess who oversees the other nuns in residence at Grace Gratitude Buddhist Temple in Manhattan's Chinatown, Jingyi Shi doesn't have to work in the kitchen. But when the temple's kitchen is short-handed, she always steps in to help.
"I enjoy the cooking," she says. "I share [my food] with everyone and if you like it, I teach you [how to make it]."
Shi and the other Mahayana Buddhist nuns at the temple maintain a pure vegetarian diet with no meat or fish.
But that doesn't mean they don't eat well. At a recent meal, they made a stir-fried bok choy, Chinese cucumber, bitter melon, bean curd, tofu skin, noodles and a soup made of Japanese pumpkin and seaweed to serve to the congregation.
Shi says these dishes are fast and simple to prepare. And that's by design.
"Buddha's teaching says eating is not very important. When we eat ... food it's not very special or very delicious. It's only tofu or vegetables," she says. "What the Buddha tells us is very important: how to liberate ourselves and others."
American Chili Shines At Mosque Meals
Iftar meals served in mosques to break the Ramadan fast usually reflect the immigrant congregation's home cuisines — perhaps Bangladeshi or Egyptian or Bosnian.
But when Jennette Morgan and her mother and aunt cook the iftar meal at the Jerrahi Order of America, a Turkish Sufi Muslim congregation, their American-style chili is always on the menu.
"My mother has made [chili] almost every single time that we've cooked [in the mosque] over the years," Morgan says. "It's something that everyone here expects."
Morgan's parents, Americans who converted to Islam, are founding members of the Jerrahi mosque in suburban Rockland County, N.Y. Many of the other families there are Turkish, South Asian, Bosnian or Middle Eastern immigrants, but they have come to embrace this most American of dishes.
"[Chili] was just something easy to make for a large group of people in one pot," Morgan says. "Then everyone loved it, and [my mother] couldn't stop [making it]. She gets complaints if we decide to make something else."
The Morgans start their chili the night before a meal at the mosque, allowing the ingredients to slowly simmer and meld. During Ramadan, when they fast during the day, Morgan and her mother finish preparing their chili without even tasting it before the iftar.
Sikhs Pass On Kitchen Skills Through Service
Every weekend at the Nanak Naam Jahaj Gurudwara, a Sikh congregation in Jersey City, 30 or so volunteers transform hundreds of pounds of vegetables, lentils and atta flour into langar, the free meal served to 400 members of the congregation after Sunday morning services.
Kitchen work is one of many ways that Sikhs practice a central tenet of their faith: seva, or selfless volunteer service.
"Sometimes a group of friends will go [into the kitchen] and make rotis together," says Gaganpreet Singh, 22, who has been a member of the congregation since its founding almost a decade ago. "It's a way to give back to the community and connect to God. Everybody takes their little part."
Members of the congregation direct traffic in the parking lot or clean the gurudwara, or place of worship, as part of their seva, but Singh and her family are regulars in the kitchen.
They often spend Saturday nights there, washing and chopping chilies, onions and garlic or prepping vegetables. On Sunday mornings, Singh's father arrives at 5:00 a.m. to cook the main dishes with a group of men from the congregation. Singh and other women arrive later in the morning to prepare light snacks and put the finishing touches on the main meal.
"I cook a lot at home and I know what I'm doing so [cooking] is something I can easily contribute," Singh says. "I love doing it."
For Sikhs, who typically hail from the North Indian state of Punjab, kitchen seva is also a way of preserving their culture in a new country. Singh notes that many young girls first learn to make roti in the gurudwara kitchen, tutored by the congregation's older women.
"We are Sikhs but we are also Punjabi, and Punjabis are known for eating," Singh says. "The gurudwara is our religious home but it's also a community center for Punjabis, and our food brings us together."
This story comes to us from Feet in 2 Worlds, which supports immigrant journalists and brings their stories to the rest of America. Fi2W is a project of the Center for New York City Affairs at The New School.
Ramaa Reddy Raghavan is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism. She is also a classical Indian dancer and has performed for various festivals in the New York metropolitan area.
Anne Noyes Saini writes and produces audio about immigration and global food culture in New York City's outer boroughs - especially Queens, where she lives. She is Food Editor of Feet in 2 Worlds and Features Editor of Real Cheap Eats.