Unaccountable charities

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on September 9, 2007

The "Families of Freedom Scholarship Fund" was set up to benefit the families of victims of the 9/11 attacks. According to the New York Post, (via Don Surber) it appears the charity, that was promoted by former President Bill Clinton and former GOP Sen. Bob Dole, is better described as the a source of livelihood for its President Clifford Stanley.

In the six years since, the Minnesota-based charity, which launched its "Families of Freedom Scholarship Fund" days after the terror attacks, has doled out only $19 million in college aid to 731 recipients.

But the fund is sitting on $133 million as donations continue to flow in and the money is invested.

Yet the charity has refused or slashed aid to families that earn interest from their 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund payments, saying that's taxable income that reduces their need.

The fund says its goal is to distribute all the money to 9/11 victims by the year 2030 - but will use leftover funds as it pleases for other college scholarships that are not 9/11-related.

Such policies trouble not just 9/11 families, but Clinton, who is seriously disturbed by the way the fund has operated.

"He's adamantly against - and was never informed about or approved - the policy that interest earned from the Victim Compensation Fund be counted against the scholarships," spokesman Ben Yarrow told The Post said Friday from Clinton's Harlem office.

That policy "unfairly penalizes . . . people who tragically lost their loved ones" on 9/11, Clinton believes.

"Many ordinary Americans responded to Sen. Dole's and President Clinton's fund-raising appeal based on their desire to help the families of 9/11 victims," Clinton's chief of staff, Laura Graham, wrote to the charity Thursday in a letter shared with The Post.

Clinton also wants to eliminate the charity's decision to keep 9/11 money it doesn't give to victims. He calls that a "potentially serious conflict of interest."

Good for Clinton, because it's actions like those of the $250,000-per-year-plus-benefits fund president Stanley that will cause people to think twice about donating money to needy causes.

The charity gives the most money to families with lower incomes or the steepest college costs. But many families contend the fund has failed them.

"It was very frustrating and disappointing," said Ailish Coughlin, of Brooklyn, who was 24 when her dad, Martin, a carpenter, died in the World Trade Center.

After a two-year runaround from Scholarship America, it gave her just $4,000 for a grad program in art therapy at NYU - which cost her $25,000 a year in tuition.

Coughlin said the charity told her she was too old for more. She worked while studying, and still owes $70,000 in student loans.

Widows who invested their federal compensation money - and live on the interest - say they are being penalized for being prudent.

"That's the money I live off to raise my kids," said Debra Roberts of Kinnelon, N.J., who was left with four children after her husband, Leo, 44, a broker at Cantor Fitzgerald, was killed.

When her 18-year-old son got into Montclair State University this year, Families of Freedom gave him just $1,000 a year for a school that costs more than $17,000 in annual tuition, room, board and expenses.

The people heading this fund are scum. There's no two ways about it. They're taking money that was given to help victims of 9/11 and using it as a basis for their own lavish livelihood.

Both Stanley and Donald Lassere, the "charity's" vice president for scholarship management should be tarred and feathered.

Might I suggest that the next time you think about donating to a charity, consider one of the only ones around that acts like one -- the Salvation Army.

0 comments on “Unaccountable charities”

  1. The last three times I tried to donate to the Salvation Army, they refused my items. All were in sellable condition, all were delivered to them, and they still refused. I found charities that were willing to accept the charity.

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