Summer 2010: St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. Check.
Witte Museum. Check.
Texas Highway Patrol Association. Uh… no.
I put the pen down and asked him why he wanted to send a check to the Texas Highway Patrol Association.
“Because they called several times and told me I owe them money.”
“Owe them money?”
“They said I pledged it.”
“I don’t know. Probably. I always send them money. A couple of times a year.”
I started explaining to him again how telemarketers generally are wolves in sheep’s clothing. Even the Texas Department of Public Safety posted warnings about this unrelated wart tarnishing its reputation.
“But what about the poor families? The wives and children whose husbands are killed in the line of duty.”
He was but one victim among many who fell prey to an extremely lucrative fundraising scheme. According to a 2012 story by John Tedesco in the San Antonio Express-News:
The operation generated nearly $12 million in revenue from 2004 to 2009. Tax records showed it gave only $65,300 to troopers and their families over the same period, or roughly one-half of 1 percent of its fundraising.
The scam was busted. The Texas Highway Patrol Museum in Southtown, the front for the fake “charity,” was shuttered. The building sitting prominently at the intersection of Alamo and St. Mary’s Streets was sold; although the sale of it was quite contentious.
No one in the neighborhood missed the ”museum;” the only thing appealing about it was the outside signage. Soon, though, the storefront windows were covered with plywood. An affront to the ‘hood.
But photographer Sarah Brooke Lyons has helped the building save face by adding faces to disguise the plywood façade.
The faces peopling the building represent a small portion of the 1,005 Sarah is capturing as part of her public art project, which received a boost earlier this summer from a $1,000 grant from The Awesome Foundation. Here is her description of the project:
The desire is to showcase the diversity of San Antonio through the faces and thoughts of our community, and in doing so provide a clear image of what our city really looks like. Promoting the movement of DreamWeek San Antonio, and moving away from cliche’s of Riverwalk and margaritas; San Antonio is a cosmopolitan, multicultural epicenter with eclectic people looking to create an awesome place to live and celebrate our talents and interests. 1005 faces is a collaborative art project as it can only be created by the coming together of friends and strangers to create the full scope, and fulfill the goal of photographing 1005 distinct faces.
These faces, particularly that of centenarian Bill Sinkin, make me feel much better than the man sitting at the museum reception desk twiddling his thumbs while telemarketers scammed the elderly to plump his payroll.