Food Blogging

Widow Donation Scandal Continues To Raise Questions

Five days after the internet began to question the fundraising activities on behalf of Jennifer Perillo, rumors are swirling that despite her protestations of ignorance and innocence she was aware of the fundraiser and even provided information to the campaign.

Jennifer attempted to address the confusion on her own blog but her comments seem to have raised more doubts about her level of culpability:

I had hoped to not have to disclose any of the personal dealings I’ve had with Bloggers without Borders over the last 72 hours. The coordinators no doubt had sincere intentions when launching the Fund for Jennie campaign, but you should be aware that I had no involvement in how the project was presented to the general public.

As you might imagine having lost my husband I was a little busy grieving and caring for our daughters. If you hadn’t noticed I still am grieving, yet choosing to share my experiences in hopes it helps others. To make an accusation against me without asking is a bit unfair, don’t you think?

That said, I am sure this is a question others may be wondering. It is for that reason that I will share with you my own disappointment in the misrepresentation of my financial situation. When the idea of a fundraiser was first mentioned to me, I said repeatedly that I was in no immediate financial need. I said there were many other people suffering far beyond myself.

Still, I was told people wanted to do something, to help me directly in some way, so I said if it made people feel like they could help, donations could be made towards my daughters’ college education. I do not know why the initial post didn’t reflect the reality, but you need to understand that I was not involved and cannot bear any responsibility. Would it have made a difference in the amount raised had the post been written to accurately reflect the fundraiser—that is something I can’t answer. I do know, and agree with you, that people had the right to be better informed

Unfortunately, none of this came to my attention until after the fact. I asked BwoB to donate a portion of the funds to a foundation that helps widows and widowers in true financial need. As of this past week, I even implored them to please donate all the funds to that charity. My request was denied. I was told by their Board of Directors that by law they were legally bound to distribute the funds as the donors had directed. If you contributed, or anyone else who reads this comment donated, you should contact BwoB regarding a refund. I do not know if this possible.

In sharing this information, I will also say that I will not publish any further comments of this nature. My blog is not the place to have this conversation. Any issues with how the fundraiser was presented, is an issue the donors need to discuss with BwoB. I regret having to cast any doubts on BwoB, but my feeling is that if even 1% of the people who donated to the fund feel betrayed, then they deserve a proper explanation.

So it seems her daughters’ college fund account info was available to the Bloggers Without Borders campaign directors, who chose to present the campaign with a word from Shauna of “Gluten Free Girl”:

As you can imagine, Jennie is overwhelmed not only by her grief, and the sudden responsibility of raising two children by herself, but she is also struggling with this financially. She just learned that she cannot collect widow’s benefits from Social Security because she earns too much money each year. The health insurance for her and her kids runs out in December and she just learned that the total she will have to pay will be more than her mortgage. It’s possible she’ll have to pay off the entire mortgage in one lump sum because the apartment was in his name alone.

And more than anything, Mikey wanted Jennie to continue living her dream of being a food writer. And he wanted to make sure his kids were taken care of well. That’s why he worked as hard as he did.”

This fund will help Jennie to do just that: to continue to work and take care of the girls with some peace of mind.

Doubts are being raised as to Jennifer’s actual knowledge about the direction the campaign had decided to go – apparently because despite claiming she was busy grieving with her daughters, her twitter feed was full of proof that she was online and busy informing people of her shopping habits and links to her blog. Many people seem to think at any time she could have addressed the claims of dire need and cleared up any confusion about the exact nature and intended use of the donations, but did not, thus any claims of no fault are ridiculous.

What do you think of all this? Do you blame BWoB simply because Jennifer is a widow, do you have doubts but think it crass to express them because of her recent loss? Or does the whole situation make you question everyone involved? More importantly, how should BWoB handle this situation, since no matter what you think of the widow, they were responsible for the public push for donations?