This week, we’re visiting the small town of Buellton, Calif., about a half hour drive north of Santa Barbara. It’s the kind of place you might miss if you’re heading to touristy Solvang, the Danish-themed village a few miles east of here.

But Buellton has its own charms, including the Mendenhall Museum, a private collection of gas pumps and auto memorabilia, a quirky inn dedicated to the movie Sideways, and an ostrich theme park.

And yet, people miss it all the time.

Do you know what that’s like? I do.

I’ve been thinking about missing the things that are right in front of you as the third week of our fundraiser gets underway.

If you don’t pay attention, you might overlook a few things about my advocacy site:

✓ Did you know that the case-to-story ratio is about 70-to-1? That means for every 70 cases we take through our help form, only one turns into a story. That’s a lot of questions to answer and a lot of cases to mediate.

✓ Did you know that my consumer advocacy site is run entirely by volunteers? Yep, everyone from the forum advocates to the production managers donates their time, and that includes yours truly. I earn my living by selling stories to newspapers (although I also give away quite a few stories).

✓ Did you know that we have a “no case left behind” policy? We answer every single legitimate query that comes to us through the site. Personally, I can’t stand to see anyone get taken advantage of by a large company, so we tilt against the occasional windmill. It’s just what we do.

How much does this advocacy journalism cost you? Nothing. People are constantly asking me how much we charge, and the answer is always the same — zero.

When we help consumers and they ask how they can say “thank you” I send a link to our support page, but you’d be surprised at how infrequently readers actually make a donation.

So today, I’m asking for your help. The advocacy journalism my site does for you every day may cost nothing, but it is not free.

We have expenses, including web hosting, mail servers, development costs, coding and various other unavoidable bills. And we have powerful enemies who constantly try to take our site out with denial-of-service attacks. Your funding support will literally keep this site up and running.

This is an especially critical time. We’re just a few dollars short of reaching our first matching grant level, made possible by our friends at Allianz Travel Insurance. It will kick in after we hit the $5,000 level.

If you don’t participate in our fundraiser this week, you could also miss this: Our friends at Bluffworks have offered us a few gift certificates to be given away this week. If you don’t know Bluffworks, you should. I’ve written about the company’s innovative travel apparel numerous times.

Thank you, Allianz and Bluffworks, for supporting the advocacy on this site.

Here are this week’s stories:

Thank you for your support. Have a great week!

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