Every once in awhile you hear about guys like the Rev. Carl Keyes, the pastor who now stands accused of stealing much of the money that came into his charity after 9/11 (and later Hurricane Katrina). There's no question that September 11, 2001 is one of the darkest days in our nation's history, but the way people reached deep into their pockets to try to help the victims was one of the more wonderful outcomes of that tragic day. But then you have guys like Keyes.
They're the sick schmucks who take advantage of people's good hearts and generosity. They're the jerks who make it hard for people to be generous.
According to an AP investigation into Keyes and the millions he was able to collect while representing himself as a minister at a small New York City church, much of the money people thought would help 9/11 victims ended up helping Keyes himself. The report alleges Keyes spent hundreds of thousands of donated funds to pay off his credit cards, pay for his kids' private college tuition, even to pay off the mortgage on his house. Then there's this one: they claim he spent nearly $1 million on a country house for his family.
This when children had lost fathers, husband had lost wives, thousands had lost jobs? When we as a nation were pulling together to give our best? That's when he decided to go buy himself a fancy second home on the river?
And we wonder why people are still so uneasy about giving to charity?
I fundraise every year for my personal cause -- childhood cancer -- and every year it gets harder. Some of it comes down to the economy; people simply don't have as much discretionary income. But I've been out there pushing for the same charity since 2006, a charity I chose specifically after doing careful research into how they spend the donations generated, and I get the same question over and over: how do I know that my money is going to actually help sick kids?
I have a ready answer because of the research I've done into St. Baldrick's, but I'm always struck by how sad it is that I've had to do the research, that people have to ask.
And yet, we have to ask because in the face of the greatest tragedy our nation has ever faced, there were people helping themselves to that which belonged to our brave firemen, to little girls and boys, to grieving spouses, to American heroes. If Carl Keyes was one of them, he has just made it harder for every legitimate fundraiser out there ... he should be ashamed of himself.
Are you leery about making charitable donations? Do stories like this affect what you'll give?
Image via sushiina/Flickr