A Fund For... Who, Exactly? Addressing the "A Fund For Jennie" Controversy

Those readers who have already had their fill of the A Fund For Jennie controversy, feel free to skip this post. Those readers who don't know who Jennifer Perillo is, or who have never heard of Bloggers Without Borders, Shauna Ahern at Gluten-Free Girl or GOMI, keep reading. I wrote this post in an effort to organize some of my own thoughts about acts of charity and humanity in the online world.

"Every one of our actions has a blast radius, and there are other people in it."
--The Last Psychiatrist

By now, practically everyone in the food blog world has heard of A Fund For Jennie, the charity drive set up to support Jennifer Perillo after the sudden death of her husband. This effort, spearheaded by Bloggers Without Borders, became a spontaneous internet phenomenon that went viral in late August of this year. It seemed like every food blogger was involved.

Sadly, however, this charity drive, which started out as an inspiring collaboration among food bloggers, now finds itself caught up in controversy--and even questions of fraud.

It started with a commenter named Petunia, who mentioned many of the seemingly luxurious activities Jennifer Perillo had been taking part in (and openly tweeting about too) since the charity drive started. Those comments from Petunia initially met with viscerally angry responses.

It wasn't until the website Get Off My Internets began to investigate that things became more clear. If you're interested in learning all of the details, there's an extensive list of resources, sites and posts you can refer to at the end of this post. In short, however, one can essentially summarize the entire controversy this way: it appears that A Fund For Jennie raised $76,430.50 for a woman who never needed the money.

There's a lot of blaming going on, but it isn't exactly clear where the blame belongs. Some have criticized Bloggers Without Borders for failing to acknowledge the mistakes made during and after the fundraising process. And it's true that BWOB appeared to fundamentally reframe the nature of Perillo's financial need and the nature of the financial gift.

Some have focused criticism directly on Jennifer Perillo, despite her obvious and extremely public emotional suffering. Honestly, from my standpoint, Jennifer was in a lose-lose situation all along. First, critics viewed her as complicit for remaining silent about the controversy. Later, she was criticized by people who didn't think her comments went far enough. And during all of this time, of course, she was grieving the loss of her husband.

When she finally did address the subject on her blog, she claimed, in responses to two critical comments, that the situation was not her fault. She said she wasn't aware her financial situation had been misrepresented, she wasn't involved in the fund-raising process, and she was unable to change how Bloggers Without Borders contributed the money to her. How should we receive her statements? With cynicism? Or with sympathy?

Others have strongly criticized Shauna Ahern of Gluten-Free Girl, who originally portrayed Jennie's financial situation in a melodramatic and--and as we now know--inaccurate way, and stood to gain from pageviews, publicity and general goodwill. However, let me share a reaction to this criticism too (I'll phrase this as diplomatically as I can): if you were among the thousands of bloggers, blog readers and blog commenters who participated in this charity, consider looking in the mirror before making this criticism. By participating, you also stood to gain in the same way, albeit to a lesser extent.

Finally, there are those who vehemently shouted down those first, faint voices of criticism. Yes, nobody likes it when a feel-good vibe gets broken, but why such a visceral reaction? Why, initially, did no one want to face the facts? From my standpoint, Petunia's comment was actually quite brave. She stuck herself out there (admittedly anonymously) and risked the first, harshest barrage of criticism. Remember this the next time you see a righteous consensus ganging up on a lone dissenting voice.

Clearly, there are few if any winners here. But one of the biggest losers may turn out to be Bloggers Without Borders. With just one mismanaged, high-profile fund drive, BWOB may have wrecked what could have been a truly powerful charity platform. Fallout from A Fund For Jennie may seriously compromise this charity's ability to help others.

Which brings us to the real victim in this drama: future charity recipients.

Of course, these victims don't exist... yet. But in the coming months, you can be sure that someone in a state of genuine financial need will tragically lose her husband. Someone will lose his or her home, someone will suffer some other sort of severe loss. These victims are nameless and faceless, but I assure you, they will be real. And any of these people could be recipients of charity from BWOB and the blogging community's collective teamwork.

But the blogging world has just been tapped for $76,000, donated under changing, confusing and poorly explained circumstances. When the next truly needy person comes along, will people still give?

Readers, please share your thoughts.

For Further Reading:
1) Gluten-Free Girl's post
A Fund For Jennie. This is the post that started it all. Pay particular attention to the paragraph starting with "As you can imagine..." for the key (mis)statements of Jennie's financial situation.
"Petunia's" initial critical comment at Blogging Angels
3) Examples of Jennifer Perillo's tweets that deeply confused donors:
1, 2, 3, 4, 5
4) The initial articles from Get Off My Internets: first,
Did Jennifer Perillo Use Her Husband’s Death To Swindle Money? and then second, Widow Donation Scandal Continues To Raise Questions. Note also this influential comment.
A Fund For Jennie: The Final Update at Bloggers Without Borders' site. A post that's oddly silent about the controversy surrounding the charity drive. Note also these two key dissenting comments (update: Bloggers Without Borders has since deleted this post, and as far as I can tell, deleted from their site almost all mentions of A Fund For Jennie.)
6) Jennifer Perillo finally responds with
a post that thanks donors. And then responds to a commenter, sharing more details. And then responds with still more details to another commenter (update June 2012: this post and these comments have since been deleted).
UPDATE 7) Bloggers Without Borders responds to donors in a post, admitting that mistakes were made in the administration of the fund, but denying that they intentionally misrepresented Jennie's financial situation. Further, BWOB alleges that Jennifer Perillo was "regularly kept abreast of developments" throughout the handling of A Fund for Jennie. BWOB offers to refund any donations. Later, BWOB blocks comments on this post (this post has since been deleted from BWOB's site).
UPDATE 8) Jennifer Perillo updates her "Thank You" post (update June 2012: again, Perillo appears to have deleted this post) alleging again that Bloggers Without Borders misrepresented her financial condition without her knowledge. She follows up with increasingly combative tweets on Twitter.
UPDATE 9) (January 2012) Jennifer Perillo gets a two-book deal with publisher Running Press to write a cookbook and a memoir about her husband's death.

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Emmy said...

Look, I'm not trying to skewer JP or anything, but her comments leave me so completely disgusted. I haven't lost a husband, I haven't had to tell my daughters that their daddy isn't coming back. I have, however, lost a baby and had to watch my 7yo son hold the lifeless body of the baby sister he prayed for. Grief is HARD, it can be all consuming, it can render you completely motionless.

That being said, JP seems to be doing a good job of apartment-hunting, dining out, parenting, shopping, basically FUNCTIONING. She doesn't get to use the "grieving" as a free pass when it comes to this money. She can't be oblivious in just this one particular area of her life. And she can't keep bringing up her grief as an excuse - that's just sick.

I've said enough about this on your last post, Dan. There's a whole bunch of reasons that this stinks. But you have the most valid point of them all - this situation has ruined it for someone who will truly need the help. That's the saddest point of all.

Anonymous said...

Think globally (some blogger that you don't & never will know) Act Locally (every town these days has a homless shelter, soup kitchen, widow who had been married to a police officer/fireman/teacher/soldier, etc.) You get the picture.

FYI - I did not know about this controversy...

Anonymous said...

Good for you for speaking out. And creating such a clear timeline and explanation of the situation. I really think everyone involved needs to address this in a transparent way. Also, Jennie claimed not to know anything about the "afundforjennie" even though she retweeted several tweets about it--most significantly, ones from Shauna that are addressed to Jennie directly. I think those retweets are the most damning off all of her actions in light of her current claims that she knew nothing about it and didn't encourage it. See her August 29th tweetstream for examples.

Anonymous said...

I'm not following: I almost donated funds via PayPal, based on Gluten Free Girl's original post. What would I have gained from that? That's the only thing I'm not following in this otherwise comprehensive post. Or perhaps you just meant the folks who donated things to for the auction, since that came with publicity? In any event, I do hope the three parties issue some sort of clarification. They owe it to the community. Going out on a limb and asking for donations and going out on a limb and sharing your grief, they both come with responsibilities, and one of them is accountability.

dazy chain said...

I think that you are correct that the real losers will be future charity recipients--something Jennie and the organizers should perhaps keep in mind every time they slam the "anonymous cowards" who dare to raise questions. Their hysteria and defensiveness, rather than a willingness to look hard at how they handled things and consider how to make the situation better, will undermine their credibility.

bashtree said...

I'd heard something about the pie thing, but not the broader scandal. It's interesting that she gave the 529 account numbers "before the fundraiser was even established" - her comments in the final link are vague but gives the impression that the college funds were the intent all along. And to shirk all responsibility with how her story was presented is laughable - unless she and her friends have the type of friendship that lends itself to NOT reading each other's blogs AND her grieving involved no reading all the condolences through social media, she most certainly was aware of how the story was presented. I agree with the comment here that accountability is part of the deal when you ask for donations.

Anonymous said...

Hi. I left the comment at 12:08. I just noticed the quote about the blast radius. Um, count the bodies? When we're talking about a grieving widow whose husband died very suddenly? Maybe zap that part, out of sensitivity? Quotations have a blast radius, too!

Petunia said...

I'm Petunia.

I felt I needed to speak up, because the shenanigans went too far and the community in which this happened (and Shauna Ahern in particular) likes to alternately censor and skewer people with dissenting opinions, no matter how politely voiced.

If I had provided my real e-mail address, Bloggers without Borders would have kept the conversation offline/private- they said so as much in their response to my comment.

I'm glad people are finally standing up for the little guys here!

Emmy said...

Petunia, you're sort of my hero. I'm a little starstruck that you're here!

Kelly said...

I think what went down with all of this is truly unfortunately. No matter what happened behind the scenes there is no denying that it is poorly managed. Not only does it stand to make a lot of people look bad, but it also diminishes the credibility of the blogging community as a whole when it comes to fundraising and humanitarian efforts. I think that is the thing that bothers me the most out of all of this. I wasn't involved in this effort, but it does bother me that in general sponsors and readers might think twice about aligning with bloggers who want to support worthy causes.

I think the other question I have is, going forward, how will BoB select what causes it represents? I think the hard thing is that bloggers represent a large community so it stands to reason that based on sure odds, many bloggers will lose spouses or homes in fires. How will they decide which ones to raise funds for? I understand that for many people, raising money for someone they know is more personal and inspires more action than raising money for something that does not personally touch them, but when it comes to supporting individuals, how will they be selected in a way that does not start to feel like a popularity contest or weighing one tragedy over another? It honestly seems like a mess and that they would have been better either supporting only causes outside of the blogging community or creating one general fund that bloggers could have access to in time of need.

I'd be curious to hear about other charities that are more peer to peer based and how they handle these issues.

I will also say the issue of standing to profit is a difficult one because one could also say that by writing this post you stand to profit because curiosity and interest in discussing will have people clicking over. I'm by no means saying your intention is wrong, only pointing out that there are many instances when people stand to profit, even if that was not their initial intent or main motivation. I myself have participated in the national food blogger bake sale for share our strength. Did this result in some links back and page views? Yes. Did I make friends out of it? Yes, but my primary motivation was always to use my talents to help someone else.

Kelly said...

I meant truly unfortunate. Spelling is off today. Sorry about the poor grammar.

Petunia said...

Aw, thanks! I'm in awe of your comprehensive takedown. You and GOMI rocked this one.

Petunia said...

Thanks, Daniel! Sorry for my hasty typing... my "you" above is collective. Nice work here.

Daniel said...

Thanks for the good discussion everyone.

Anon (8:56am) I share your thoughts: We should try easing the suffering of those we know, not of online personas who we don't really know.

Anon (11:53am): True. I didn't go back to capture all of her tweets, but yes, many others are saying what you are saying.

Anon (12:08 and 12:52): Most likely I could have expressed that point more effectively. What we gain is both the good feeling of giving, and in the cases of bloggers who drew donations from their readers, added pageviews, traffic and publicity. I'm just trying to look at the criticism of Shauna Ahern in a different way.

Regarding the quote above from the Last Psychiatrist, I hear you and I emended it. But please keep in mind that the quote is really more about knowing the effects of our own narcissism.

Kelly, you raise some excellent questions. In particular, believe me, I'm aware of the irony of the idea of "standing to benefit." I am still struggling with whether weighing in on this issue here at CK was a good idea or not. At the end of the day I believed it was worth writing if only to explain the key concept that the people who stand to suffer are the nameless and faceless people--who we don't yet know about--who will be crowded out by this ill-managed charity drive.

And finally, Petunia, I'm glad you're here too, and I meant what I said in the post above. You did good.


Joanne said...

Well, I'm going to try not to stick my foot in my mouth too much or offend anyone so here goes. Even though I knew that the peanut butter pie thing was happening and had blog friends who were very involved with it and even though I heard about A Fund for Jennie, I didn't donate or bake pie. You see, I didn't know Jennie. I hadn't ever read her blog. And I'll admit that I did worry for a second that NOT baking a pie would make me look bad or uncaring in the blogosphere, I decided that wasn't a good reason to bake a pie. I was very sorry for Jennie's loss and thought it was awful, but I didn't think that some girl who she didn't even know's pie was really going to make her feel better. Instead, I commented on those blog friends' blogs who did bake for Jennie and lauded them for their compassion.

I also didn't donate to A Fund For Jennie, mostly due to my own tendency towards inaction more than anything else. I, like many other readers, find it hard to believe that while she was still very much present on Twitter and on the internet, she selectively didn't read those posts that pertained to A Fund For Jennie or to her financial situation. It's just a little too coincidental, in my opinion. I don't want to point any fingers or make any accusations, but that is certainly how it seems to an outsider.

kitchenMage said...

This entire thing is such a mess and sadly, I agree that the long term impact is likely be a decrease in giving by people who participated in or watched this fiasco. This is particularly sad because there is so much real need and, as you saw with my post on charity, so many established, ethical organizations.

I appreciate your willingness to even address this issue. The silence from the community right now is as profound as the cacophony of #pieformikey and #fundforjennie tweets just a few weeks ago.

Jen Blacker said...

I don't know how to feel about this. We all understand that people grieve in their own ways. When I think about what happened, how her husband just dropped dead in the middle of the sidewalk while they were all out for a walk...to die in front of the kids....it's tough. Thinking if that would happen with my husband makes me sad and wanting to kick his ass to exercise more often. Then seeing the controversy...what did she know, when did she know it, who knew what first....

In the end it's others in need that will suffer for whatever did or didn't happen. As someone above said, think locally. Help those in need in your neighborhood. There are plenty of people that are suffering due to loss and could use your help.

It's just a sad situation all around.

Holly said...

I appreciate the summation, as I'd been vaguely aware of it going on but had missed the fundamentals.

I grieve for Jennie over the loss of her husband. And I understand the desire to try to make sure her children are provided for. But to be honest, I tend to regard a lot of the NY Food Blogger crowd with a bit of a jaundiced eye in terms of the lifestyle they lead and the fact that their standard of living is so much higher than mine - as nearly as I can tell.

I didn't bake a pie, I didn't donate. Whether that makes me a "big meanie" in the blogosphere or not. To be honest, I have my own problems. Caring for 2 ASD daughters keeps me hopping and drains the ol' wallet fairly effectively. At least too much to donate money for a college fund for two girls I don't know while being utterly unsure mine will even ever be independent and not need constant care even after I'm gone. This doesn't mean I'm above charity. It means my 10% usually goes to Autism Speaks, or the Angel Tree Project at Christmas, etc. etc.

Still a little confused by the whole business. And also mightily disappointed in some of the high profile people who, if nothing else, deliberately misled a lot of people.

partypants said...

Just wanted to say I'm glad it's being discussed somewhere besides just GOMI.

Anonymous said...

I was the winner of one of the online auctions. I can honestly tell you that my desire to help was coming from a positive place. I have no blog to promote, nor public image to raise. My understanding of Jennie's need come straight from Shauna Ahern's summary of the situation. The parts that stuck in my mind were specifically the possibility of losing her house and health insurance. As a compassionate human being, I did not want to see these things happen to a family that just lost their husband/father. I will admit to be a bit dismayed that the circumstances layed out by Shauna Ahern were not true, and the money donated is going into college fund for the girls. One has to wonder if Jennie lied to Shauna as to the true state of her financial affairs, or if Shauna simply chose to spin a tale of woe to garner as much sympathy as she could, so that she could be seen as Jennie's white knight and rescuer.

When all is said and done, a woman lost her husband, and two little girls lost a father. They deserve our sympathy. The bloggers who chose to take advantage of this situation deserve out scorn.

Anonymous said...

Daniel, I appreciate your honesty on this blog in all areas, and particularly with this controversy. Emmy's right that it's a long way from grief. This post, from GOMI, made it stink even more, in my estimation:

Anonymous said...

I so appreciate you writing this.

I am floored, absolutely FLOORED that nobody involved in this fiasco is saying anything! KitchenMage was spot on in her statement that the silence from the community is as dramatic as "the cacophony of #pieformikey and #fundforjennie tweets just a few weeks ago."
Perfectly stated.

The hypocrisy is what's killing me right now-- from BWOB, from Shauna, and from Jennie. All of them claim to be honest, ethical, and transparent individuals and yet they seem to be burying their heads in the sand and pretending like nothing happened. There NEEDS to be some accountability-- even if it's just admitting that there was a massive breakdown in communication. Just give us SOMETHING, people!

I don't think anyone's goal was to be intentionally deceitful, but I do think there are a lot of high-profile bloggers, like Shauna, who are good people but who are also always looking for new ways to draw traffic and attention to themselves. Shauna, specifically, has lost a lot of loyalty from people in her own community because of her rapidly inflating sense of importance over the past year or so.
Because of this, I suspect that this situation was exaggerated by her from the beginning. That said, I think Jennie needs to also take some responsibility and acknowledge that she does play a part here. She knew exactly what was happening and she needs to own it.

Emmy said...

You have to wonder about the implications when you read the Project Summary at BWoB. They very specifically say this fundraiser is to "give (the Perillo girls) financial support during this difficult time". Somehow I don't think adding to a 529 is the same thing. http://www.bloggerswoborders.org/2011/08/project-summary-a-fund-for-jennie/

Melissa said...

Thanks for posting this, Dan. I appreciate being able to read the timeline and all the comments. You already know where I stand.

Daniel said...

Once again, I'm grateful for the calm and constructive discussion.

One reaction I have, that ties together a few of your comments, is that we can criticize the poor handling of this charity and still have sympathy for Jennifer Perillo's loss. I think that point--and it's an important one--was lost on many of the people who first shouted down the first questions about this.

PartyPants, thanks for stopping by and for sharing the kind words. You were the one who really got this issue out there.

Finally, I must agree, the silence from everyone--especially over at Bloggers Without Borders--is not helpful. In fact, people are starting to post their critical comments on GOMI's site that they can't get posted at BWOB's site. Notice, for example, this comment and this comment.

Like KitchenMage says, that silence is profound.


Daniel said...

One more thought that occurred to me right after I hit publish on that last comment. It's easy for us to stand over here and say, "Blogger Without Borders! Your silence is incriminating you! Say something!"

But what can Bloggers Without Borders really say? What would you say, publicly, if you were in their position?


Emmy said...

They only have two options - do the right thing, or do nothing. And, admittedly, the right thing would be very hard to do, and gets harder every hour they remain mute.

The right thing, as GOMI has spoken of so often, would be to offer full refunds to those who request one. It's not the best option, what would be ideal would be to refund all and start over using honesty and clarity in the fundraiser's purpose, but that would be impossible considering some of this money was gathered from online auctions. So the onus is on the "meanies" to request their money back.

Somewhere, I think on JP's blog, a banker chimed in that refunds from this money that's been placed in a 529 would be a tax nightmare for her. I don't wish to add to her pain (even thought I don't believe for one second she's without fault in this situation - there's too much evidence otherwise), but BWoB is probably not in a position to relieve whatever tax burden they would have cost her.

I don't know how I'd handle this, except to say it wouldn't have happened in the first place. They had lots of opportunities to stop this snowball from rolling downhill and CHOSE not to do the right thing. Oh, what a tangled web they weaved....

Jessica said...

I baked a pie. Even though she was a blogger I didn't know, I felt terrible for her circumstances and wanted to show my support. It came from a good place.

If anything the events that have since transpired have made me leery of bigger bloggers and organizing bodies that they've created. I think too often we put them on a pedestal thinking that they'd support us or at the very least think of us as equals. This is not the case. The community is very skewed, and this just proves it. I have unsubscribed from all the major bloggers in my reader, I just can't look at them after this.

Anonymous said...

Bloggers Without Borders could address the controversy head on instead of pretending it does not exist. Sure they'd get guff but they'd get props, too. I bet their legal and/or accounting advisers are counseling they remain silent, since Gluten Free Girl is listed as the project organizer and her comments are what got people thinking the need was greater than it was. And yes absolutely you can feel sympathy for a grieving widow at the same time you question the way all three parties handled themselves here. It's a shame all around.

Anonymous said...

The page for the fund quotes Shauna Ahern’s statements about Jennie’s “dire” financial status. Anyone reading it would think that the need was immediate and that the funds would be used to address those immediate needs.

If you feel like you have been intentionally mislead, you should report Bloggers Without Borders to your state Attorney General consumer protection and the Federal Trade Commission. Google your state’s AG to see if you can file a complaint online. As for the FTC, you can file complaints directly on the Internet at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry we have to take over your Blog (and GOMI) to discuss this, but nobody else wants to take this on and piss off Jennie, Gluten-Free Girl or BWOB. To do so makes you an outcast. But I definitely feel we've been told false information. And I'm very glad I didn't donate after all.

Daniel said...

No need to apologize. Remember, I decided to write this post in the first place. :)

I think this is a great discussion to have, and that the fact that we're having will truly be a help to people.


Anonymous said...

BWOB finally speaks:

Anonymous said...

And Jennifer Perillo responds.

Anonymous said...

Jennifer Perillo really should get offline. Unfortunately, I think she is unhinged. It is right there, in her historical tweet stream, that she knew this was happening. She even Retweeted #afundforjennie tweets. See, for example, her Aug. 29th tweetstream in which she Retweeted three #afundforjennie tweets, one of which was from Shauna. She is lying. It is so sad to watch this.

Anonymous said...

Her tweet stream ends on October 1. Is that typical?

Daniel said...

Readers: I've updated the timeline at the end of the post above to include the response from BWOB and Jennie's responses.


Emmy said...

Stay tuned for Shauna and her $0.02. Hopefully. And I echo one of the later comments on GOMI - I really, really WANT to give JP a free pass, but I can't. Grieving widow or not, she's culpable here. And I wish someone would just pull on their big girl pants and admit to doing something wrong. (sigh)

Anonymous said...

From Shauna's Facebook page today:

Gluten-Free Girl
Mary, the entire story is so horribly sad. We have been trying not to address it because we wanted to protect Jennie. I don't know why she is saying this. But I can tell you categorically that she was part of all of this. She and I spoke every day during those first weeks. And if she had ever asked us to stop, we would have stopped. All I know is that grief does wild things to people. We wish her peace.

....Unfortunately, there has been so much nastiness with this. Some of the same people who have attacked me for years, which I wrote about recently, have seem to be spearheading this. It's bullying.

Brit said...

(In response to the comment above)
I have to say, Shauna does receive more hate mail and is the target of more intentionally cruel parody websites than most other bloggers. There are a lot of people who really do not like her.

Personally, I think she is someone who is well-intended and who has a good heart. I truly believe that.
I also believe she behaves like a teenager a lot of the time-- name dropping, vying for attention, and becoming a victim when people don't agree with her. She seems to have a really difficult time taking responsibility for her role in things.

One reason that people take issue with her is because when she doesn't like something, (reviews on Amazon, for example) she'll simply rally her troops around her and ask them to go and publicly defend her honor. Frankly, it's childish, and it has lost her a lot of friends--- not just "trolls", but actual friends.

Personally, I take issue with her in this situation because, while BWOB had the courage to step forward and take a stand, Shauna is refusing to acknowledge her MASSIVE role in this.

I have no doubt that Jennie knew about the fundraising-- it's been proven repeatedly in her tweets-- and that she could have stopped it any time. Her post today was dishonest, I am sure. But she is also grieving and probably a bit out of her mind.
That does not excuse anything, but it's a factor.

Shauna, on the other hand, was tweeting to every single person about Jennie's personal situation well before the fund was ever established. Several of us in the blogging community were appalled-- it seemed as though it was another tactic for getting attention. How was Jennie's pain HER story to tell??? So when she started the fundraiser and used such extreme language to describe the situation, some of us took it with a grain of salt.

I am certain that, in some ways, Shauna wanted to do something good for her friend. But I am also certain that she exaggerated the circumstances. She needs to own that part.

BWOB was involved because of Shauna. Why is she pretending like she forgot that?

Sa said...

I agree with Brit. People commenting about Shauna's appearance or talking crap about her little girl is way out of line, and distracts her from the valid criticism of the online food world. She is always using other people to advance herself. She is always whining about "haters". She should write a post apologizing and saying she went overboard. However she thinks she is above reproach. Any comment left on her sycophantic website will be deleted as "trolling." I believe people who gave because of her deserve more.

Tracey said...

The overwhelming sentiment that I am left with here is "donor beware". BWOB is not the Red Cross, or the Susan G. Komen Foundation. It was a website without a credible history of charitable donations. By their own admission, they acknowledged they did not even have a Board of Directors when they launched the charity drive. Other comments have speculated that they were not even recognized as a charitable entity by the Federal Government.

BWOB may have misrepresented Jennie's situation, which is totally not cool. Jennie may or may not have been aware of the donations, and I imagine is in a compromised state to deal with this kind of thing. I don't know anyone involved, so I just want to assume the best here.

But each donator has the responsibility to check out the charities to which they donate. BWOB was an unproven entity - and contributors may have to sit with that fact. I think the people that donated are lucky in the sense that BWOB didn't pack up and run away - they are offering refunds.

There were some great intentions here. But maybe the food bloggers should stick to cooking, and the professional non-profits should keep the fundraising efforts.

Anonymous said...

I don't think food bloggers (or other bloggers) should necessarily stick to cooking and avoid fundraising, but you are absolutely correct that it needs to be carried out with professionalism and integrity. BWOB was far too hasty in this situation and it makes me question their ability to raise funds competently in the future, sadly.

I hope that there will be an open acknowledgement of the situation from Gluten-Free Girl as well. I think Brit is correct that she's targeted unfairly by some people who even criticize her kid, she seems to have the emotional level of a self-absorbed teenager. In this case I think she let emotion and the chance for lots of attention run away from her. She used to blog or tweet fairly constantly about Jennifer Perillo and the fund for Jennie. Now that the fundraiser has turned sour, she hasn't made any public acknowledgement, which I think is far more damaging to her brand than an honest, mature confession that she misled people--both donors and other bloggers--would do.

Diane said...

This is exactly why I don't donate to stuff like this (and ignored Shauna's postings on this issue). As with any charity, you need to do your research and find out where the money is going and what is truly going on. And with a group like this that is very hard to do. And an hard-sell emotional plea, while heart-wrenching, is no guarantee that the money will be used well. Caveat Emptor applies to charity as well as purchases.

Every one of us has troubles and turmoil. The people who donated have big hearts and meant well, but the reality is that they might have done better to look around their own circle of neighbors and acquaintances and think about where that money could have been better used. A friend who needed a doctor's visit paid for? A family who can't afford to maintain their house needing some help?

Unfortunately, this will make good people less likely to donate to good causes in future I think.

Anonymous said...

Jennifer Perillo and Bloggers Without Borders need to settle this once and for all and issue a joint statement! It is not fair to folks who donated funds or items to have this dispute play out all over the Internet. It's really sad that both sides are not taking the high road here.

Anonymous said...

Um, Shauna doesn't have haters just because of her appearance - there's a lot of other foodie bloggers who could get similar treatment. Shauna gets the massive hate because of her holier-than-thou attitude and willingness to lie and shift blame. And her godawful, adjective-laden prose isn't helping, either.

Anonymous said...

Not everyone who gave to BWOB did it to further themselves.

I did not "bake a pie for Mikey" and use it to promote my blog.

I gave a very modest donation as anonymously as I could through paypal. (BWOB could trace me via my paypal email, I suppose.)

I got a refund from BWOB; it was very graciously given.

I have learned to be more careful with my charitable donations.

Anonymous said...

If you look on Jennie's facebook page - she didn't promote the Fund for Jennie - other people did. There are no direct posts from her. She didn’t remove those posts – but she was in the midst of grieving and I’m sure not checking the internet every day for “updates” about a future windfall from the blogosphere. I don't think this is fraud - I just think it is massive confusion. We all make comments - how are we going to pay this bill – will we make the mortgage? We all worry about the future - and when your spouse dies suddenly - I'm sure those comments were made to friends and "the internet" without thinking about how they were being perceived. My SIL did the same thing and turns out her husband provided adequately for her and her children. Panic, grief, shock - everything is hitting Jennie - and now this? I don't think BWOB, Gluten Free Girl or Jennie did anything "intentional" to deceive people. I think it really was just a huge misunderstanding and I have asked that my donation be returned so I can see that it goes somewhere else where it is wanted – did I want it to stay with Jennie’s girls college fund – yes – it wasn’t that big of an amount – but since Jennie doesn’t want that because of all the stupid nonsense being spread – I will donate it where it can be used. I had an auction and bid on auctions and that money can be directed as needed because I can't get that back to redirect. I hope Jennie heals from this insanity and I hope people can stop making this a big “Madoff” scheme when it seems like it was a misunderstanding started because Jennie’s friends loved her and rushed to her aid.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with the above comment from Anonymous at noon.

Anonymous said...

Anon (the defender above)...you DO realize that through all of that grief, Jennifer was actively tweeting (multiple times a day, starting from HOURS after her husband died)? Blogging frequently? That she was returning tweets that promoted auctions and other fundraising efforts for "A Fund for Jennie"? To say that she wasn't involved online, or aware, is completely incorrect and the point that far too many of the people rushing to her defense seem to overlook far too easily.

It's SO interesting that Jennifer has now deleted her tweets from that time - she may not realize that other people have screenshots, but they do. If she has nothing to hide, and can hold her head up about how she handled this whole thing, why go back and erase anything from that time. THAT's what stinks, THAT'S what supports what so many others are saying.

You can't deny something is going on - Jennifer used to tweet voraciously with lots of people, and none of those people are conversing with her anymore (even those close friends, it seems). Things that make you go hmmm......

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at Noon: I wish JP would take responsibility for retweeting tweets for auction items, people paying $1,000 for pizza, and spending money like it was going out of style AND TWEETING ABOUT IT. That's the only reason there's a scandal. If she'd shopped in private, and not trumpeted her lifestyle over Twitter, no one would have called her out on her finances. It's a shame she refuses to own up to her role here.

Anonymous said...

I understand the aggravation - I didn't realize she was stating that she didn't know the fundraiser was happening - I thought she was denying that she was crying poverty. I don't know and I don't care anymore. I have a life to get back to. What's done is done - we all learned a lesson - no good deed goes unpunished. I had an auction - I auctioned one of my Christmas gifts to help - I don't feel cheated - I did what I did and it's done - I also bid on auctions and won one but if you are going to pay $1000 for pizza - you need your head examined or Mario Batali better be making it for your whole family plus you get autographed orange clogs too! Anon at noon.

Anonymous said...

It was $950 for a pizza dinner. This is JP's RT. How she can saw she doesn't want the funds after she actively and public participated in the fundraiser is mystifying. Yes it's time to move on. This has been the strangest thing to unfold over the Internet!

Diane said...

All these comments about how the money was spent are naive. What on earth did people THINK was going to happen? If you give money through a NON-official charity (with no one certifying how money is used) to ONE individual person (unlike a larger charity) then you are completely playing roulette. You don't have any control over how that one person uses the money. That risk is totally inherent in this structure of giving - and it's why charities usually aren't structured like this.

Even a person who might actually be about to lose their house, given $75K, might have spent a bunch on stupid stuff aside from their mortgage. Unfortunately, once you give the money you don't get to say how it gets spent. If the charity is organized, they structure a gift to limit its mis-use, but if you just give an individual a whole pot of money it's completely potluck as to whether it gets used only for virtuous stuff (house, education) or for a bunch of stupid stuff ($1K pizza).

I feel badly for people who gave, but this whole structure was fraught with the potential for abuse.

Anonymous said...

Diane - Jennie didn't spend the money on anything - she didn't even take it - the money was going toward her girl's college education. People are complaining that people were bidding on pizza parties for 1K and dinners made by bloggers etc. for high amounts to make money for "the fund". People are also complaining that while we were lead to believe that Jennie was suffering financially - which she denies - that she was eating at Grammercy Tavern, getting haircuts, tatoos, a new Mac - etc. Jennie has refused the money, BWOB is looking ridiculous and people are holding up torches and ready to storm the ? internet? It's all water under the bridge. Let it go - everyone will know better next time.

Anonymous said...

I know that when I first read of Jennie's plight that my first instinct was to donate some cash. However, I refrained, and decided instead to give (again) to a local cause that I support. My belief is that if you don't know the recipient, or the terms of the financial aid, don't donate. Fundraising within the blogging world, doesn't seem like an appropriate or transparent vehicle. But then donate some money, to something that you can verify or you hold close to your heart. If everyone did that, all charities would be well funded. LOCAL is the key.

Anonymous said...

I just noticed that Bloggers Without Borders removed all comments from its Open Letter. Oh well. It's between them, JP and anyone who donated and contributed and isn't happy with how things played out. I was a mere observer. It was genuinely one of the strangest sagas to unfold online. JP is tweeting much less. Bloggers Without Borders has moved on to new projects.

I wish everyone the best ...

Anonymous said...

Shauna Ahern may at one time been well intentioned, now she is a desperate attention whore. She's an expert at claiming anyone who disagrees with her or calls her on her bs is a bully or jealous. This incident shined a bright light on who she really is. I live in Seattle and we have many mutual friends. It stuns me what people say about her behind her back. I met her at one food event and have steered clear ever since. If you have nothing to hide and if your actions are well intentioned, there is never any reason to delete anything. Now if you'll excuse me, I am going to joyfully dance around my kitchen and photograph my child's dirty foot next to the pie crust.

Anonymous said...

I think the attacks on Shauna Ahern's appearance are because, if you read her blog or books, she makes some very derogatory comments on the appearance of others, such as "thin, wan girl with no discernable personality" or "women in high heels and sparkly dresses who laugh too much". There's one blog post where she admits her husband and her playing a "game" where they see what is in other shoppers' baskets or carts and then ridiculing the food choices with each other. Whether or not the responses are right, Ahern cannot seriously expect people to not give her the same treatment she gives others.

I agree on commenting on her daughter though. Ahern shares information on her child to the point of it becoming potentially dangerous. I am a huge opponent to children having a lot of internet presece, especially children who have no say in what is being put up without their consent.

Anonymous said...

Some of Shauna's own friends (Facebook and Twitter friends, at least) post on The Island.