Looking Back: On the Upcoming 20-year Anniversary
of the Draugas Foundation

(November 12, 2012, "Draugas", Marija Remienė

 

 

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It's difficult to precisely date the birthday of the Draugas Foundation (DF).  The DF was registered with the State of Illinois as a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) charity in November 12th of 1992, but at that time, the foundation had already accumulated $45,000.  Well before this registration date, the "DRAUGAS" newspaper "moderator", Fr. Victor Rimšelis, was urging the creation of such a fund at meetings aimed at supporting "DRAUGAS".  Except that Fr. Rimšelis believed that his idea may have come too late, because at the time there were several other funds targeting the Lithuanian American community that were collecting money to support their goals.  So, the question arose, "Would there be sufficient donors among the Lithuanian American community to fund a newspaper?".  However, after conversations with Al Domanskis, an attorney, Fr. Rimšelis decided that it was not, in fact, too late to create this special foundation.

 

The initial money for the Draugas Foundation came from women. The first donation, of $500, was made by Marija Remiene.  Soon after, another $500 was contributed by Birute Jasaitiene, and then $500 more by Dr. Albina Prunskiene, and by Marija Vaitkiene.  The support poured in, and the capital of the Foundation grew rapidly, and the time was ripe for formally establishing the Draugas Foundation.  The Bylaws were put together with the help of attorney Al Domanskis.  The founding directors of DF were Jurgis Riškus, Ramunė Kubiliūtė, and Bronius Juodelis.

 

Per the DF Bylaws, the Board of the foundation is made up of 7 Directors, each elected during the Foundation's Annual Meeting.  In addition to the Directors, ex-officio, the Chairman of the Lithuanian Catholic Press Society (publisher of "DRAUGAS") is also invited to be present.  Those who served as DF Directors include:  Vytenis Lietuvninkas, Julius Lintakas, dr. Petras Kisielius, kun. Viktoras Rimšelis, Antanas Ruginis, Antanas Valavičius. Members of the Audit Committee included: Liudas Ramanauskas, dr. Kazys Ambrozaitis ir Danguolė Kviklytė, Antanas Paužuolis, Sigutė Užupienė and Vida Sakevičiūtė.

 

From the inception of DF until December 31, 2005, the Chairman of the Board of DF and Treasurer was B. Juodelis. Under his leadership, the capital balance of DF reached 1 million dollars.  From 2005 onwards, the duties of Treasurer have been very capably carried out by Leopold von Braun, and the investment portfolio has been managed by Gytis Kavaliauskas.

 

The current DF Board of Directors is made up of Marija Remiene (Chairman), Rūta Jautokienė (secretary), and Leopold von Braun (treasurer).  The other directors include: dr. Ona Daugirdienė, dr. Augustinas Idzelis, Vaclovas Momkus, dr. Algis Norvilas, Vacys Šaulys, and ex-officio, Vytas Stanevičius. The financial audit commission is made up of: Antanas Paužuolis, Sigutė Užupienė and Vida Sakevičiūtė.

 

Voting members of DF are those who have contributed at least $200, with each additional $200 giving members an additional vote.  Those who have contributed fewer than $200 are considered members but without vote.

 

 The initial main goal of the DF was to accumulate a capital balance of 1 million dollars, invest this money well, and use the earned income to support publication of the "DRAUGAS" newspaper.  This goal was achieved over 7 years.  Unfortunately, the accrued interest alone was not sufficient to cover the newspaper's annual operating deficit:  over the first 15 years, DF supported the publication of "DRAUGAS" to the tune of 1.26 million dollars!  Over the 20 year period of its existence, DF has given 2.2 million dollars to the Lithuanian Catholic Press Society to support publication of the newspaper. 

 

None from the Board of Directors of DF, nor members of the Audit Committee get any reimbursement for their efforts.  Much of the work by the Board is done at home:  writing support request letters and thank you notes, and checking on finances (using one's own computers).  Inflows to DF and payments by the fund are publicly disclosed, and each year the DF reports its financials on From 990, as required by all not-for-profit organizations.  The finances and books are managed without compensation by the DF Treasures, L. von Braun.  All of this volunteer effort saves the foundation several thousand dollars each year.   Administrative costs are below 2% of income, and are limited to office supplies and postage costs to support requests for funds and thank you notes.  Two fund drives are launched each year, one in the spring and one in the fall.  All of the funds that DF receives have been donated by generous readers of "DRAUGAS", many of whom, alas, are no longer with us. We thank especially our large donors, whose gifts are in the thousands of dollars and whose names appear on the list of special donors at "DRAUGAS" and in our readers' hearts. This year in September, the capital balance of DF was $522,956.48.


Twenty years in the life of an organization is not a long time. Nevertheless, it's important to realize what the organization has accomplished during that time and what value it has been to the Lithuanian community.  During this time period, DF was able to preserve the functioning of one of the remaining large cultural and general newspapers serving the Lithuanian community, namely "DRAUGAS", which now has been publishing for 103 years!  Lithuanians, scattered throughout America, nonetheless are able to maintain a link among themselves and to their national roots by way of such ethnic newspapers.  Such newspapers are essential to our homeland and to maintenance of our ethnic identity.  In 1992, the Editor of "DRAUGAS", Fr. Pranas Garšva, wrote:  "Neither country nor national identity arise in and of themselves, nor can they grow by themselves.  Concepts must be accompanied by streams of thinking that live and flow through the country and through the Diaspora."  And he wrote further: "Whether one likes it or not, he or she is a member of this particular culture and Nation, and not of another. One can abandon and forsake one's national identification, but one cannot abandon one's own inner soul, nor one's deepest characteristics, even though these sometimes express themselves in their negative aspects."

 

In considering the 20 year anniversary again, let's look at the members of DF.  Already one-third of them have moved on to the great beyond.  Where are the other subscribers to "DRAUGAS"?  We have hundreds of functioning Lithuanian organizations, and they all advertise themselves through "DRAUGAS".  Are they all members of DF?  We apparently have thousands of educators and professionals who have attained positions of importance in the world, and who earn large salaries.  However, we rarely see their names among the lists of DF supporters and members.

 

Please look around you and at your friends.  Do they subscribe to "DRAUGAS" or to any Lithuanian newspaper? There are many Lithuanian families who have become well-established in the US and wealthy, and they share "DRAUGAS" with others rather than subscribing.  It was explained to me that they would rather spend a larger sum of money at an expensive restaurant than come up with the $150 annual subscription to "DRAUGAS" -- this for them is too expensive.  New Lithuanian organizations are being formed, including new regional branches of the Lithuanian American Community.  "DRAUGAS" writes about them all, and if "DRAUGAS" writes about them, everyone reads this and their activities become widely known.

 

None of us live in the desert apart from our peers.  We are surrounded by people with whom we associated beyond the bounds of our families; at work, and in various organizations.  How do we reach those people who will not be reading this article?  How can we convince such people that a Lithuanian newspaper is as needed by them as water is needed by fish in the sea?

 

It's unfortunate that the number of subscribers to "DRAUGAS" is decreasing.  Even though the number of new immigrants is increasing, the number of readers, unfortunately is not.  The expenses related to "DRAUGAS" are increasing: postal costs, printing charges, and employee health insurance premiums.  If we all work together; if each of us could find 5 new subscribers each year, this would help us all, and especially the Draugas Foundation which is supporting "DRAUGAS".  And what would happen if, one day, "DRAUGAS" ceased publication? Then readers would regret having lost an important cultural newspaper!  These are thoughts running through my head as the 20 year anniversary of DF approaches. 

 

I urge the Lithuanian community, and especially "DRAUGAS" readers to better understand the role and importance of the Draugas Foundation.  I also urge those readers of the paper who have not contributed to DF to please join and become members.

 

Marija Remienė.  Chairman, Draugas Foundation