Thursday, October 17, 2013

Loaves & Fishes' Great Flimflam Parade

Chris Delany and Libby Fernandez lead "The Great Parade."
A photograph that appeared in the July/August 2013 issue of Homeward Street Journal, showing Chris Delany and Libby Fernandez leading a long train of people in a parade heading north on Ahern Street is, I am told, a piece of nonsense.

The "parade," part of an event that took place on June 13, was in self-honor of Loaves & Fishes winning an Award from KCRA for getting the most votes in a competition for Best Charity in Sacramento. The voters were the public. Since Loaves & Fishes campaigned for the award, urging those in its large databases of past donors and newsletter recipients to vote for L&F and since L&F is a large well-known charity in the city -- perhaps the best-known -- Loaves & Fishes got the most votes. The parade also marked the thirtieth year of the charity's not-humble existence.

Of course, the public did not evaluate the city's charities objectively to try valiantly to determine the one of greatest merit, they just -- you know -- voted by, essentially, blindfolding themselves and pinning the tail on the donkey's ass. [This was a popularity contest having nothing to do with valor or excellence.]

Loaves & Fishes, gleeful at winning the meaningless award, planned a grand, triumphant celebration. Leadership at Loaves got word to homeless folk that on June 13 there would be a parade to see -- whee -- and a barbecue -- yum. The usual humdrum inside-the-cafeteria lunch for the day would be cancelled. I mean, who needs it? There's a feast; a bar-be-cue! Wah-Hoo!

The organization CharityWatch is greatly critical of the type of award Loaves sought and "won." It is critical, too, of charities that congratulate themselves for this sort of award which is often used to deceive.

Says CW,
One problem is that reviewing nonprofits is far more complex than reviewing consumer products and services. When a customer at a restaurant pays for a meal, he can smell, taste, and experience it. In contrast, when a donor gives to a charity, he pays for goods or services that someone else receives. His review is often not based on any firsthand knowledge of the quality or efficiency of the charity's programs.
CharityWatch analysts scrutinize charity financials to provide the donating public with independent, meaningful information about how charities spend their money. This kind of information only comes from a rigorous analysis of a charity's finances; it cannot be gleaned from a few short reviews posted by donors and volunteers, or by self-interested charity employees and their hired public relations agents.
I am told that homeless and other poor people showed up at the Loaves Compound on the day of the event -- titled "The Great Parade" in Homeward Street Journal -- and were met with a place to be sheltered from the sun. When events were about to take place, the homeless and others were expecting to find places to sit or stand to view the parade, but were instead told they were part of the parade and that to eat, you march. So, in good spirits and in expectation of a hardy meal, they participated, as instructed.

The parade ended up being a ruse to (among other things) feed the considerable narcissism of co-founder of Loaves Chris Delany and CEO Libby Fernandez who had themselves pictured leading the parade. It is not known which of them saw herself as the Grand Marshal and which the Rose Bowl Queen.

L&F named Best Local Charity by KCRA.
At the later barbecue, there was a single line, though the grill was large and -- had things been competently organized -- something other than snail-pace line movement in the hot sun could easily have been achieved. The food for the much ballyhooed barbecue turned out to be a single hotdog on a bun and a half cup of Kool-aid. It was the stark opposite of a stellar feast that was intimated, at an event that turned out to be a deception to fool news services and potential donors.

A couple of Loaves & Fishes employees are known to have either complained or refused to participate in the ruse with its faux parade and stinting lunch for the poor. These employees suffered repercussions for their unhelpful attitudes. I am told one was fired.
Note: The rather rare word flimflam, used in the title of this post, means "a trick or deception, especially a swindle or confidence game involving skillful persuasion or clever manipulation of the victim."  Maybe it's not the best word for me to use; there was nothing much skillful or clever about the parade or event. It was mostly just sad or pathetic, though all the hoo-ha is likely to have deceived some people.


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