Petula Dvorak asks, Where are the angels?

Monday, February 28, 2011; 11:50 PM

It's time to look to the heavens. Or at least check the voice mail and e-mail.

It's that scary, back-against-the-wall budget time when lots of nonprofit and local groups are looking for an angel.

Sometimes they exist, swooping in at the last minute, usually anonymously, and save something beloved or important that's on the chopping block with a big cash donation.

Don't believe in angels? Take the recent case of Washington's endangered azaleas.

Earlier this month, U.S. Arboretum officials announced that tough times would result in the removal of one of the most treasured exhibits: the gaudy azaleas that are the backdrop for many a Washington wedding portrait each spring.

The Glenn Dale azaleas "are low on this scale of scientific merit but high for aesthetic and visitor experience," said the arboretum's interim director, Ramon Jordan said.

E-mails flew; was launched; and members of Congress were lobbied.

And, lo and behold, the angels heard. A million bucks came raining down on the arboretum from an anonymous donor, a gift that will save the shrubs.

Threaten to tear it down and they will come? Is that how it works?

Excellent. Let's see what else we can save from the budget ax.

How about a needle exchange program that gives clean syringes and condoms to drug addicts? It's designed to help stop the spread of HIV/AIDS in our nation's capital, where we have the highest rate of infection in the country.

Any angels call in to help keep the program going?

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2011 The Washington Post Company