Operation Homefront is shrouded in scandal this morning after a news organization learned that $36,000 in donated goods is unaccounted for and their co-founder, Amy Palmer, later fired.
Update Oct. 15: Amy Palmer has filed a lawsuit against Operation Homefront alleging that she was terminated for refusing to falsify reports to conceal the missing goods, according to The Navy Times. Operation Homefront officials, however, say that is not true.
The news has left the military community, many of whom have been touched in one way or another by Operation Homefront, shocked and disappointed. How could this happen in one of the largest military support organizations just when we need them the most?
Operation Homefront officials have not said what donated goods are missing. They also did not say how, exactly, the co-founder was involved. The news story simply says that she was fired for "allegedly possessing goods." Did someone donate a $36,000 car that ended up in her garage? Or are we talking about $36,000 in fluffy bathrobes?
But it doesn't really matter. That this happened is disturbing and, frankly, hurtful.
And despite that, I'm going to suggest something crazy:
That we dig in and donate more.
First, let's look at some facts about Operation Homefront.
As one of the largest most impactful military charities Operation Homefront received $66.8 million in donations -- both goods and money -- in 2012, according to the non-profit Charity Navigator. A meager 2.5 percent of their donations goes to covering administrative expenses, including all overhead and salaries. By comparison the USO, which raised $102.9 million in 2012, spends 11.8 percent on admin expenses and the Wounded Warrior Project, which raised $143.7 that year, spends 5.6 percent, according to Charity Navigator.
In 2012 alone Operation Homefront met 150,150 military family needs, according to their annual report. That's everything from little stuff like helping almost 3,000 families with their homecoming celebration to bigger things like helping 108 military families with either auto repair or an auto donation, or major things like giving 79 houses to wounded warriors in need.
Operation Homefront also does a lot for our kids. Every year their Military Child of the Year Award highlights the MilKids who are standing there doing big things in their own communities. And their Back-to-School Brigade makes sure the children of lower-enlisted have a bag bursting with school supplies. With 20 field offices plus their headquarters, they are around the country making an impact.
We really don't need statistics to tell us any of this because we have seen them in action. Here at SpouseBuzz we personally know a vet family who received a home. We have seen the Back-to-School Brigade folks on Fort Campbell, Ky. doing their thing. I've attended a military spouse pampering night at Joint Base Lewis-McChord during a deployment so hard just thinking about it makes you wanna cry. Those folks are right where they are needed, when they are needed.
And that is why it's heartbreaking to see those doing so much good under such a questionable light. Because these organizations are just as needed now as they were at the beginning of the wars. Despite a "drawdown," men and women are still dying and still getting injured. There is an ever increasing queue of wounded warriors and their spouses who need help.
It's also a terrible time of year for questions to be raised about this or any organization. Charitable organizations typically see their largest donations during the holiday season. And with the Combined Federal Campaign, through which this family, at least, regularly donates to organizations like Operation Homefront, in full swing there is no way that this news does not make an impact on what is coming through their doors.
Scandals like this do make you hesitate before signing that donation check. They make you wonder if the school supplies you dropped off really DID go into backpacks after all.
But there's something else about Operation Homefront that you need to know: according to the Charity Navigator, they have a perfect score for transparency and accountability.
And they still do in my book. Because when $36,000 went missing instead of covering it up, they did something about it. To me, in a way, that builds trust -- not decreases it.
So I vote that we continue to give, that we get more involved. Because Operation Homefront does too much good to be dismantled by this scandal. They have touched too many people to fall over what may just be a very bad decision by one person.
I vote: move forward.