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When Integrity Meant Something to Corporate America

From the official application guidelines for the Pepsi Refresh Project: The Pepsi Refresh Project is an online grant program which makes available millions of dollars to be granted to projects which are intended to improve communities through an online, democratic voting process (“Grant Program”).

This program has such amazing potential providing 60 grants totaling $1,125,000 per grant period to help individuals improve their communities.  Its funded ideas have included the replacement of equipment for high school marching bands, building community playgrounds, the shipment of care packs to deployed soldiers, and the funding of animal shelters and rescues.  So how does the magic begin?

A person, or organization (for-profit or non-profit) submits their idea via the online application.  The idea is then put up to a public vote on the Grant Program website.  The top ten ideas receiving votes then go up for final certification prior to funding.  Sounds simple enough.  There are stories that the competition for these grants, especially during the last stages of voting, can get quite cutthroat.  Sadly, I think that sometimes it can bring out the worst in people while attempting to promote good.

The “founder” of Siberian Snow Babies’ Animals for Autism, Lea Kaydus, applied for a grant during the May voting period.  She solicited support from everyone and anyone she thought might be able to help her gain the grant, including partnering with other organizations competing for grants.  In her Animals for Autism Facebook page she sought support from her Facebook fans.  Her press release dated May 1, 2011 titled Animals for Autism to Place 10 Autism Service Dogs Free of Charge? does very clearly identifies her organization as the grant requester.  The posts on the Facebook page were the same.  If you had asked the families participating in her service dog training program who would be the grant recipient I am fairly certain the response would have been Animals for Autism, and not Lea Kaydus.  So in this way we all felt very misled.  I suppose things like this happen and I should not be surprised.  So I am going to just ignore this for now.  I would like to focus on other things.

A few days ago I decided to pose a few questions to Lea Kaydus on her organization’s Facebook wall.  Here is my post:

Hello Animals for Autism. I was wondering why are you still listing your group as a NON-PROFIT organization when you are not? I know that we were not the only ones waiting as you told us the paperwork was filed. 

Why are you posting pictures on the Animals for Autism Facebook page of puppies that are clearly listed for sale on PuppyFind? I would think that it would be better to post pictures of service dog training, since that is what you do (after all, you don’t just breed puppies and sell them) 

I would love to know the thinking behind it but am sure my post will go the way of many others like it on your wall, unanswered.

And the reply coupled with a picture of yet another group of puppies playing.

 

Animals for Autism

Because I applied for a grant as an individual, I am required to remain an individual until the end of the grant period. Fortunately, this detail was discovered before the application was processed with the correct user fee. However, the IRS allows Form 1023 to remain unfiled as long as an organization has gross receipts in each taxable year of not more than $5,000. Since Animals for Autism’s receipts are far less than $5,000, the NFP can accept contributions without filing until the end of the grant period. It is allowable to file the form within 27 months after the end of the month in which you were legally formed. I did, however, overlook a $15 required state fee for accepting donations on behalf of our families, and that was rectified several months ago – along with a late fee. As far as pictures are concerned, there are thousands of beautiful puppies out there, most of whom do not qualify to enter into a service animal training program. Twila is just one example, as she’s entirely too shy. However, she is still quite adorable, and most people tell me they enjoy just seeing the pictures, so I share them here. Profits from ineligible puppies like Twila are donated to the Animals for Autism program. =)
Ms. Kaydus, there are people who enjoy seeing pictures of cute little puppies (even puppies for sale) but on your Animals for Autism Facebook page and (when it was active) your Siberian Snow Babies’ Animals for Autism web site the people who are YOUR training program – the members of your Spring ’11 Autism Service Animal Training Class – really want to see you post pictures of their dogs working in a training setting.  To see them out around town wearing their Service Dog In Training vests becoming accustomed to that which many of us still dread dealing with.  They want to see them growing and advancing.  While the puppies may be cute; they are irrelevant.  It can be likened to the realtor showing you a Barbie Dream House, pointing out all the wonderful accessories and additions when you just want to see your new house.
This is from the IRS website regarding recognition of Tax Exemption which I believe is where Ms. Kaydus has pulled the numbers in her response from.  Wish I were a tax lawyer and understood the wording a little better.  Is there anyone out there who does?  I would love to hear from you.
Some of the families have been told that the Pepsi Pups are currently in emergency shelters because you have not received the entire $50,000 grant from Pepsi.  When you modified the funding agreement, and your detailed line item budget as required by Global Giving did you not also include a line item for food and medical supplies?  The families were informed by both Dennis Dowd and Terri Maini of the Pepsi Refresh Project that their funds provided automatic feeding systems, crates, leashes, harnesses, collars (wonder why none of the dogs wear collars or name tags) as well as building upgrades.  When you consider that you normally already have all of that lined up through donations prior to offering up the service animal and are only requiring the recipient to cover training costs at roughly $5/hour I would think that should have been a priority.
Ms. Kaydus has not upheld her portion of the many verbal contracts in which she has entered.  She has repeatedly and continuously ignored requests for information from those in her service program.  She has repeatedly ignored requests for information from the Better Business Bureau, and the Attorney General of Illinois.  Ms. Kaydus told the Attorney General that the families knew funds were nonrefundable and yet her application includes a refund policy.  Where is the integrity in your organization Ms. Kaydus?  Why have those in your local area not heard of the service you offer?
One last thought: there were numerous families receiving upwards of 30 Power Vote codes each day during the month of May from Ms. Kaydus.  Where did all these codes come from?  Did you truly collect them and distribute them?  Was that where the money from the families was spent?  Or were you part of the Mister Magic fiasco as well…
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