This letter is in reference to Charles A. McDonald’s letter regarding welfare recipients (“Welfare, illegal aliens take funds, jobs from Americans,” March 27).

Mr. McDonald writes, “One would have to be deaf, dumb and blind not to notice the lifestyles of many welfare recipients. Late-model cars, cell phones, brand-name clothing, personalized license plates, the best of meats and groceries, etc.” The truth is that one would have to be deaf, dumb and blind to believe those words!

I work at a library and every day come into contact with real welfare recipients.

Most of them walk to the library or take public transportation because they can’t afford any car, much less a late-model one; their clothing, at best, comes from Goodwill (perhaps Mr. McDonald considers Goodwill a brand name); and their diet certainly doesn’t consist of the “best of meats and groceries” — I doubt if it consists of the best of McDonald’s many days.

Has Mr. McDonald also considered that some welfare recipients are people who have been laid off from work and may still have (for now, anyway) a car and clothing left over from their more prosperous days? We see those people at the library every day, too — they’re using our computers to apply for jobs because they can no longer afford Internet access.

Of course some people cheat the system, and have done so since time immemorial. But the majority of people who use welfare such as food stamps, housing assistance and Medicaid honestly need help, do not have “personalized license plates” and do not deserve to be demonized by the ignorant and selfish among us.

So, Mr. McDonald should turn off his computer, the radio and Fox News, and see for himself the real world. Yes, he’d have to face reality, but it would do him a world of good.

Sarah Stanton

New Gloucester

IRS staff rises to occasion when taxpayers need help 

As the April 15 deadline draws near, it is usual to complain and grumble about the injustice of the tax burden and the unfeeling attitude of the IRS.

One year, my husband and I had neglected to include an item on our original return and needed to submit an Amended 1040. This filled us with dread, horror and woe.

But no! The ladies and gentlemen of the IRS patiently and kindly walked us through the steps — on four different visits — until we successfully submitted the now familiar 1040X.

We are grateful to the staff of the IRS South Portland field office. We did enjoy meeting all of you, but we’ll try to be more careful in the future.

Kenneth and Charlene Hagen

Scarborough

Culvert upkeep mandate will ensure health of fishery

Next time you go for a walk or a ride, look to the sides of the road and count how many culverts you see — you’ll be surprised. Culverts under Maine roads are everywhere, even though we don’t think too much about them until frost heaves them up and they crack the road and cause our bikes and cars to thump.

Culverts are installed to carry stream water under roads. But unless they’re designed to help streams flow naturally, they also prevent freshwater fish and other aquatic species from moving up and down stream.

In the lower Penobscot River region, for example, more than 90 percent of the 533 culverts and other stream crossings simply don’t work for fish. The same pattern has been found in many areas of Maine.

Not only is moving through streams a survival and breeding imperative for fish, but healthy fish stocks also are a must for Maine’s economy.

Latest estimates from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report that $257 million is spent annually in Maine on fishing trip-related expenditures. Residents and visitors flock to our waters in search of trout, salmon and bass; fishing is one of Maine’s favorite pastimes, and it unites people of all ages and socioeconomic levels.

As a devoted fly fisherman and president of Maine Audubon’s board of trustees, I’m proud of the organization’s work to help win the Maine Legislature’s approval of L.D. 1725.

The bill, which was signed into law Thursday, mandates practices already used by the Maine Department of Transportation and nationwide to help streams maintain their natural ecology and structure through culverts, and to help fish to move with the stream.

Installing properly sized culverts also will prevent road washouts, saving taxpayer dollars in the long run.

Unless we invest in maintaining our infrastructure, we will kill the trout that lays the golden egg.

Alexander “Sandy” K. Buck

Cumberland

Group helps service widows learn about, obtain benefits

When a military member dies in service to his country, most Americans share the family’s sorrow, but I often ask, “Who cares a year later?”

Members of Gold Star Wives try to assist other women whose spouses died of service-connected causes. There had never been a chapter in Maine until three years ago, when the Dirigo chapter was started in Saco. We are trying to reach women all over the state to share our information.

I am always saddened to learn of a military widow who is not aware of what her benefits are.

Many widows who remarried years ago and lost benefits do not know that some of them could be reinstated if the second marriage has ended.

Many do not know that if they remarry after the age of 57, they are entitled to keep some benefits. As well, because laws have changed over the years, some are paying for Medicare supplements unnecessarily.

Service widows are entitled to what has been voted into law, but that does them no good if they do not know about it. We invite widows or family members to call 284-8147 for information or advise them to contact a service officer affiliated with a service organization. Benefits need to be applied for — they are not just given.

If your spouse died on active duty or from a service-connected injury or illness, including Agent Orange, you probably qualify for membership in our organization.

We enjoy working with and for our veterans. We take part in parades, benefits for wounded heroes and transitional housing.

Our motto is “United we stand to win, divided we fall” and are forgotten.

Sandra E. Taylor

Saco 

Writer feeds misconceptions about origins of our nation 

I am writing about Leigh Donaldson’s column in Monday’s paper (“Has ‘socialism’ become another red herring in political debate?”).

I would appreciate it if he would stop referring to America as a “democracy” when it is in fact a “republic.” Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela is a democracy. I certainly hope that that is not the direction we are heading to.

I am also frustrated with people trying to change history and label the Founding Fathers as “racist” and “hate mongers.”

This country used to be a place where immigrants could come and, with hard work, determination and no government interference, could accomplish great things. There was no expectation that the government would take care of you — only that it would stay out of the way and let the individual prosper or fail on his own.

Michael Harwood

Standish 

Columnists inform, inspire on wide variety of subjects 

The Commentary page on April 2 was simply wonderful! All three columns brought fresh air to my soul.

A retired teacher wrote with deep feeling and intelligence about how great teachers must not only know the content of teaching, but also must reach students as people, making them feel, inspiring them with a passion for experiencing the world (“Judging teachers: Open the door”). Rather than “teaching to the test,” this was about teaching to the students! So refreshing.

Another column pointed out how our president is “seizing the offensive with his energetic and broad attack on problems” in spite of the messes he’s inherited (“Obama’s on the rebound”). A refreshing commentary about our exciting president!

This page was topped off with M.D. Harmon’s essay on springtime (“Of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower”). Pure poetry, absolutely beautiful, the kind of writing that one sees in great books but rarely in newspapers.

I won’t try to summarize it. I’ll just say this: If you didn’t read it, read it. Whatever you may think about Mr. Harmon’s political views, this guy can write!

He concluded with this — “We learn from nature and our innermost beings a truth: The meadows that have been bare for oh, so long, so long, are due again to bloom.”

The column wasn’t merely about the changing of seasons — it’s about life. It makes me feel that life can be as fresh and beautiful as the thoughts in that column. I’ve framed it and put it on my wall. I’ll read it first thing every day. Thanks, Mr. Harmon!

Elliot Burton

Portland 

Coverage of education overlooks success stories 

Just about every day the paper has an editorial or article on education, yet it failed to cover the Maine State Math Meet, which was on Tuesday.

These kids practice and work hard on these most important skills. It’s great to talk about the many ways our system needs retooling, but how about some focus on these successful high school students?

Charlie Oransky

Kennebunkport 

Cringing at ‘excess’ when so many remain in need 

Whatever possessed Justin Ellis to write an article on someone who “revels in excess” (March 22)? There is no humor or wit or intelligence or purpose in what Joe Ricchio blogs about or in how he conducts his life. “I believe in this decadent, ridiculous, bacchanalian kind of lifestyle and try as hard as I can to live it,” he says.

According to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics, some 691,000 children went hungry in the U.S. sometime in 2007, while nearly one in eight Americans struggled to feed themselves adequately.

A USDA report for 2007 showed that the number of children who suffered a substantial disruption in the amount of food they typically eat was more than 50 percent above the numbers in 2006 and the largest figure since 1998. The numbers for 2008 were predicted to be greater because of the sharp economic downturn that followed.

The ability to obtain enough food for an active, healthy life should be an inalienable right, particularly in a country as rich as ours. Justin Ellis should know something about the shame of hunger in America, though his March 22 column was totally oblivious to it. I expected better of him.

Barbara Doughty

Portland