Snarky has its place in the Reliable Source, but it wasn't warranted in coverage of the dedication of the Extra Mile monument to volunteerism ["Those Who Gave Get Medallions," Style, Oct. 15]. Darragh Johnson, with a boatload of attitude and only some fleeting impressions, makes the startling suggestion that founders and supporters of such charities as Habitat for Humanity are "earnest," "pious," "nerdy" hypocrites who are merely fronting as do-gooders, wearing dark suits and eating crudites in a "gilded, chandeliered" ballroom while their limos idle.

Has Johnson been to an actual lavish Washington reception? I ask because she seemed overwhelmed by the carrots and dip, cheese and crackers, and iced tea of the modest -- yet tasteful -- reception at the Willard. And what's with the cheap shot at the Bushes?

Johnson would have spent her time better by listening to former president George H.W. Bush's speech, especially this part: that no successful life fails to include service. Or she could have interviewed John Johansen about the vision that kept him at this project for 15 years, even when no one else believed in it: that a monument to volunteerism might inspire future generations to careers like those of Frederick Douglass and Clara Barton, whose selflessness led countless individuals to find meaning by looking outside themselves and asking what they could do to serve others.

-- Elisabeth Hickey Carter



Darragh Johnson's article should have run in the editorial section, because it was her personal negative treatise on volunteerism and not an accurate account of the event. I attended the ceremony to support my dear friends Linda and Millard Fuller, the co-founders of Habitat for Humanity International, and I can honestly say that the only accurate thing Johnson said was that the room was gilded.

It's shameful that Johnson was so busy faulting the event that she didn't mention the living honorees: Eunice Kennedy Shriver and the Fullers. It's because of Shriver that the Special Olympics were created. And because Linda and Millard Fuller chose to give away all of their possessions and move their family to Africa to start a housing ministry, more than 1 million people around the world are living in a Habitat home.

I know it's never right to assume, but after having read her article, I have to conclude that Johnson has never volunteered for anything. Otherwise, she would have shown the honorees of the Extra Mile the respect they deserve.

-- Julie Sussman


The writer is national co-spokeswoman for Habitat for Humanity's Women Build program.

The Frederick Douglass medallion.