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The dance of change
Having been associated with FundRaiser (and its founder, Gene Weinbeck) for more than a quarter century is, frankly, rather difficult for me to consider without thinking of the myriad changes (personal and professional, local and international, physical and metaphysical) that have occurred during that time. Some reflections bring out nostalgic yearnings for a return to a simpler life, while others evoke a sense of gratitude that “it” isn’t what “it” used to be. Change, in itself, could care less about how I view what was, and change will continue regardless of what I think.
In the mid-80’s my brother asked me to come to Missouri to help with his business, where, he assured me, I’d get the chance to learn computers while earning “Ozark” wages. With not a little trepidation, I agreed, packed everything I owned, including my best pal, Harry S Trudog, into a VW microbus (remember those?) and drove from Louisiana to the sleepy south central Missouri town of West Plains. I quickly learned that “Ozark” wages consisted of $50.00 per week and a place to stay, and that my education in computers was to be in the form self-education, using a then-new IBM PC with both the MS-DOS and BASIC manuals, and a single software program called Lotus 1-2-3. And, while it seemed a rude awakening in one sense, I’ll be forever grateful to my brother for the introduction to my mentor, and friend, Gene Weinbeck, who not only taught me about computers, but also about what it means to care about other people, the value of supporting others’ endeavors, and the ability to adapt to change.
From the beginning, Gene programmed software so that others might use their time more efficiently to reach their goals: a candidate for political office to reach and maintain a database of supporters; a boy’s home to raise funds to support their work; even a funeral home accounting program that doubled as an inventory program. And then came FundRaiser. Dedicated to helping people who help people, Gene’s ambitious project was to create and maintain a program for non-profit organizations, and make a modest living at the same time (unlike AOL, Google, or FaceBook, none of us have become wealthy).
Over the years, computers changed, becoming faster, cheaper, more accessible to everyone, and FundRaiser changed, albeit slowly, remaining a DOS-based program long after Windows was the accepted platform for many of the “new” software packages being produced. It was faster using DOS. It was easier to program for DOS. It was keyboard-oriented, as DOS had always been, and since we had grown up learning typing skills on mechanical typewriters (yes, we’re that old), it just made sense.
Gene has since given up the reins of the company to Autumn and Joshua Shirley, as most of you know, but remains the lead programmer as of this writing, and his legacy of inexpensive software to promote the good works of non-profits continues with no end in sight.