Some 9/11 charities fail in their mission

A decade after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, some of the charities and non-profits that raised money to serve victims, families and to memorialize them have failed miserably in fulfilling their missions. The AP story includes an Episcopal priest who raised money for a ground zero garden of forgiveness that was never built.

The Associated Press reports:

Americans eager to give after the 9/11 terrorist attacks poured $1.5 billion into hundreds of charities established to serve the victims, their families and their memories. But a decade later, an Associated Press investigation shows that many of those nonprofits have failed miserably.

There are those that spent huge sums on themselves, those that cannot account for the money they received, those that have few results to show for their spending and those that have yet to file required income tax returns. Yet many of the charities continue to raise money in the name of Sept. 11...

...There are other charities that can account for practically every penny raised — except that all the money went to pay for fundraising, and not the intended mission.

To be sure, most of the 325 charities identified by the AP followed the rules, accounted fully for their expenditures and closed after fulfilling identified goals.... virtually every category of 9/11 nonprofit, an AP analysis of tax documents and other official records uncovered schemes beset with shady dealings, questionable expenses and dubious intentions. Many of those still raising money are small, founded by people with no experience running a nonprofit.

The story includes this:

There's a charity for a 9/11 Garden of Forgiveness at the World Trade Center site — only there's no Garden of Forgiveness. The Rev. Lyndon Harris, who founded the Sacred City nonprofit in 2005, spent the months following 9/11 at ground zero helping victims, relatives and first responders. He said he formed the charity to fulfill "our sacred oath" to build the garden. Tax records show the charity has raised $200,000, and that the Episcopal priest paid himself $126,530 in salary and used another $3,562 for dining expenses between 2005 and 2007.

Harris said he sees his charity's work as a success even if there is no garden at the site. "I saw our mission as teaching about forgiveness," he said.

The Forgive to Give Website, which lists Harris and the Ground Zero Garden of Forgiveness, describe the mission of the gardens in this way:

Our mission is to create a future beyond violence, with gardens as venues for conflict transformation and healing in communities around the world as well as vehicles through which we raise awareness about the power of forgiveness.

Still, where's the garden? Is this dishonesty or well-meaning incompetence?

Comments (3)

Whether dishonesty or incompetence, it's a poor reflection on Fr. Harris; and in his identification as one of us, it's a poor reflection on us.

Marshall Scott

I don't think it is fair to ask only whether this is dishonesty or well-meaning incompetence. It could be neither. Maybe Reverend Harris was unable to get permission to build a Garden of Forgiveness at Ground Zero? As noted in the link in the article, the public doesn't seem to support a garden of forgiveness at the WTC. I bet there is more to the story than is being reported in one paragraph in a newspaper article.

If you are interested in knowing more about Fr.Harris, perhaps someone should speak to Trinity Church, Wall St. Fr Harris appears to have been connected to the ministry of St Paul's Chapel, especially after 9-11.

Bro David

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