Community support through alchemy 


As a not-very-active member of the Richard Kirschman/Doris Ober fan club, I’m writing to thank these two innovative alchemists for embarking on yet another experiment to try to help our—I won’t say “struggling,” but perhaps “occasionally challenged”) community.  

I met Richard and Doris shortly after I moved to Point Reyes three years ago and learned about the Coastal Marin Fund, the legal name for what I have lovingly dubbed “the gold coins.” Richard and Bolinas artist Keith Hansen created a beautiful $3 coin—made of metal but having the look and feel of gold (hence the reference to alchemy)—that can be used in many stores and businesses as local currency. The beauty and genius of the fund is that as the coins circulate, they make their way into the hands of people who will take them OUT of circulation, using them as gifts (kids love them!), souvenirs or part of a coin collection. The money that accrues supports local nonprofits, of which there are dozens, almost all of them “occasionally challenged” financially.

Here’s an example of how the system works: I went to Wells Fargo and bought a container of 25 gold coins for $75. Over the course of a month or two, I used the coins to make purchases—not all in one place, because I don’t want to burden the businesses, which have to deal with the coins separately. But it’s pretty easy to spend $3 or $6 at the Palace Market, the Station House Café, Point Reyes Books, the pharmacy, the Dance Palace or Perry’s Deli, to name a few of the businesses that accept the coins. (Why the bakery and Cowgirl Creamery don’t accept the coins, I have no idea. They’d be ideal businesses to move the coins out of West Marin.)  When the container is empty, I deliver it to the nonprofit of my choice, which sends it to the Coastal Marin Fund, and Doris sends them a check for $40. 

The system works especially well if you team up with friends and colleagues who share your enthusiasm for a particular nonprofit. For instance, the SAFE group (SAFE stands for “Seniors A_______ in a Friendly Environment”—no one seems to remember what the A stands for, but I’ve suggested “Addled”) has, over the years, contributed literally thousands of dollars to the Dance Palace, West Marin Senior Services, the Tomales Bay Library Association and Papermill Creek Children’s Corner, to name a few (the few I can remember).

Now Richard has come up with a new alchemy experiment that involves  transforming fog into water (see the July 23 edition). I first read about the fog-into-water idea in Positive News, which sadly is no longer in circulation since Ilonka, the editor, took off for South America, where I believe the first “fog nets” were created.  Given our current drought crisis, the idea strikes me as one worthy of our attention and support. 

Thank you, Doris and Richard, for not just reading about an eloquent solution to a pressing problem, but actually trying it out. You inspire me to be more “proactive” in helping to heal not only our community but our planet.