Sedalia launched its Community Fund Drive to raise money for the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Y.M.C.A., Red Cross, and Salvation Army in October 1927. The second day of the campaign, the workers met for luncheon and a report of pledged giving at the Bothwell Hotel. The Sedalia Capital reported this event, and continued to urge Sedalians to contribute to the fund. The fund’s director, Dr. Harry McKeon, and the press used a variety of tactics, ranging from simply asking to gentle coercion to outright pressure to convince people to give.
Many of the appeals noted the prosperity of Sedalia and the need of those so blessed to help others. For example, committee member Ira Melton told folks that every resident of Sedalia and of the surrounding area “owed” some financial support to the charitable organizations in Sedalia and that those who refused to contribute were “parasites” on the community.
The notion of a parasitic relationship was furthered with the explanation by the Capital that the names of those who refused to give were written on cards and placed in the “morgue,” a box where the identity of “dead” prospects were placed.
In a similar manner, General Superintendent Walker of the MK & T Railroad Shops established a circular argument connecting employee giving to their keeping their jobs. He told his employees that as “the best paid men in Sedalia,” (a questionable claim) they owed their jobs to the Katy, which owed its success to Sedalia, which owed its prosperity to new businesses, which owed their existence to the welfare of the city. “When you help others, you help yourselves,” he stated when he encouraged all employees to contribute.
The press also tried to shame the citizens into giving by comparing Sedalia to other communities. The Capital noted that Corning, New York, a town about the same size as Sedalia, had raised $70,000, nearly $10,000 more than requested. The workers in Corning each contributed a day’s wage to its city’s fund.
Colonel Donald Lamm, chairman of the fund raising committee, threatened that if Sedalians did not reach their minimum goal, the city’ reputation would suffer and Sedalia would “have a blot on its fair name.”
The press further tried to shame citizens into giving by printing the names of those companies that had pledged contributions from 100 percent of their workers and by printing the names of individuals who contributed. Those whose names did not appear would be noted, and the Capital hoped, talked about as bad citizens.
As the campaign continued, pressure to give increased. An editorial praised those soliciting for the fund and denounced those who questioned whether the various recipients of the money truly needed or deserved it. The paper noted that both the Sedalia Democrat and the Sedalia Capital had received contributions from 100 percent of their employees, including the young boys who delivered the newspapers.
On the fourth day of the campaign, only half of the $32,117.82 goal had been raised, and the committee was scaling back its goal to $22,000. The committee then decided to extend the fund raising efforts beyond the original week in order to allow committee members to contact more potential donors.
Whether the fund actually reached its goal remains in question, but a brief article on Nov. 1 reported that a benefit performance of the movie “The Collegians” and a talent exhibition by local young people raised $160 for the Community Chest.
Rhonda Chalfant is the president of the Pettis County chapter of NAACP and the Pettis County Historical Society.