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Bloggers Without Borders Vaguely Blames The Widow

The Widow Donation Scandal that rocked the insular food blogging world continues to be a delicate subject for those involved. After Shauna Ahern of Gluten Free Girl basically put the blame on widow Jennifer Perillo, not much else was heard about the situation. Now BwoB has apparently responded privately to one commenter who had questions:

Dear M,

I am writing to you with regards to the comment you left on our most recent post, “A Fund for Jennie: The Final Update.” I hope you will understand our decision not to publish some comments. Recent developments have indeed been saddening, and we have remained quiet thus far because Bloggers without Borders and its board of directors believe that engaging a public discourse with commenters or even with Jennie herself about recent events would be more hurtful than helpful to all those involved. Our mission has always been to bring community together, not tear it down.

What you should know is this: we would not and could not have embarked on a month-long fundraising campaign without the knowledge and support of the beneficiary. There are e-mails, text messages, Tweets and Facebook updates that not only verify her need at the time but also show that Jennie privately and publicly supported our efforts throughout the campaign. At no time was there a request to modify the language of the post or suspend or cancel our efforts.

When we started this campaign Jennie was a grieving widow with the weight of the world on her shoulders. She still is. We are trying to respect her and her process. While it is our decision not to engage anyone publicly, we do recognize our responsibility to respond to our supporters and other concerned individuals, which we are doing privately.

As for some suggestions to donate the fund or a portion of it to another organization that sincerely helps widows/widowers in dire financial need, it is our understanding that, as a non-profit organization, we are legally bound to transfer any fundraising proceeds to the beneficiary named at the outset of the campaign. However, we are currently consulting with our lawyers regarding any legal alternatives that will satisfy the wishes of any donors who express a desire for such, while remaining within the boundaries of the law.

You should also know that we are working with our board of directors to create clear-cut guidelines and a new protocol, including stricter vetting procedures and establishing reasonable fundraising limits. We are doing our utmost to ensure that situations such as this do not happen in the future, particularly when supporting individual beneficiaries.

Kind regards,
Maggy Keet

In a nutshell it sounds as if BwoB is washing its hands of wrongdoing, since they were just going by what they were told. This seems like an odd way to run a nonprofit. It’s nice that NOW they are putting in vetting procedures but maybe they should have thought of that before opening up their site and begging for funds for a well off widow just because she she was wringing her hands crying “omg I don’t understand personal finance”.

In the end the widow has never apologized for basically misleading people – and she now has almost 80k in the bank to pay for her pretty daughters’ educations and a new apartment full of new furniture. In this economy, we should all be in such tragic circumstances. I hope BwoB’s “board of directors” takes a long hard look at future requests for fundraising and does a little more research than “oh that’s so sad, let’s help”.


  1. avatar KAS

    How these people can all be so feckless and yet have raised such a huge pile of money is the greatest mystery of all here.

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    • avatar KAS

      Seriously, I'm totally jealous. I'm on the board at a non-profit, and things we could do with 80k!

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    • avatar zandra

      Ha, so true.. imagine what they could do if they had proper organisation?

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    • avatar Albie Quirky (No Relation!)

      It's the cool kids tax. People donated because they wanted to suck up to the in crowd.

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      • avatar zandra

        Aaah! Thanks for articulating what I was thinking.. like they thought if they donated they'd be Jennie's next BFF or that she would engage with them? That or they wanted props from Shauna for being SO GENEROUS!

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  2. avatar vapidcunts

    I truly feel bad for the widow, but she has repeatedly dropped the ball. It's completely possible that I'm wrong in my belief that Jennie could give the money to another charity, maybe it's locked up and her hands are tied but I find that VERY hard to believe. She should admit her involvement and do the right thing. Just tacky and gross all around.

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    • avatar meems

      I think she believes that because the internet has such a short memory this will all blow over and she'll be 80K richer. Which she is.
      What I'm wondering is why people are so damn scared of her. Is she God to these people that they refuse to call her out directly and instead make oblique references to her role?
      Why not just come out and say "Yeah, even when she found out she wasn't going to have to blog about soup kitchen food she still didn't tell us because she's a greedy pig who realized that free money could fill her closet with hot widow boots for winters and winters to come"
      Is she the Don of some vapid food blog mob that we don't know about?

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      • avatar zandra

        Kinda like the EA personal shopping scandal where people were too scared/embarrassed to speak up. This woman should be called out but people probably think it would only make themselves look bad considering she's a recent widow.

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    • avatar o for the love of god

      Beyond dropped the ball, more like flung it from her as hard as she could.

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      • avatar vapidcunts

        I get the pull sometimes to not want to admit when you're wrong. Being stubborn and deluding one's self about one's own involvement can be a seriously powerful force, but she is being so willfully ignorant and full of it that I'm almost in awe. She flung the ball far away and has done absolutely nothing to show humility or grace.

        I guess she's waiting for it to blow over, but that's insane... Talk about hiding one's head in the sand.

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  3. avatar zandra

    It sounded like a shitfight from go to whoa (is me). This BWOB 'organisation' seemed like they had no idea what they were doing. I mean, that last paragraph of their letter? Really? That stuff should have been done at the beginning of setting up the non profit and I agree with PP's commentary.

    While this woman was horribly unlucky to lose her husband, she did not seem to need any financial assistance from the public let alone 80k's worth. For her to still insist she had no idea the money was being raised for her makes her look like a bald faced liar because both Gluten Free Girl and BWOB have said otherwise. Unless they're both trying to cover their asses for rushing in without all the facts?

    What really got me is that it seemed like a lot of the people who donated were not really in a position to do so and were far worse off than Jennie.

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  4. avatar Albie Quirky (No Relation!)

    it is our understanding that, as a non-profit organization, we are legally bound to transfer any fundraising proceeds to the beneficiary named at the outset of the campaign

    Fucking fuck fuck fucks, that's exactly the OPPOSITE of your legal obligation. If you want to live up to your obligations as a not-for-profit corporation, let alone ever become a 501 (c) 3 charity, it is actually illegal for you to fundraise for a specific individual.

    Fundraising for specific individuals is best done by creating an LLC, or better still by working through a bank or other financial entity that includes trust administration in its services.

    I don't know if this lady is just lying like a lying liar, or if she has the worst attorneys in the history of whenever.

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    • avatar zandra

      Yeah, that seemed a bit weird to me too. Not that I know anything about legal obligations or anything of the sort but to be legally bound to donate money that was raised under false pretences? Seems fishy. The donors were under the impression this lady was losing her house and insurance, not that she was at risk of never being able to purchase $600 boots again.

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      • avatar Albie Quirky (No Relation!)

        I am not a lawyer, but I worked for years as a consultant to non-profit organizations and I had this stuff drummed into me by very good lawyers.

        There are a couple of folks here who are lawyers, and a couple of folks whose careers have been in non-profit administration, and there may even be folks here who are both---I can't recall at the moment.

        The bottom line is that BWOB is pissing on contributors' legs and telling them it's raining.

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        • avatar zandra

          I didn't say you were a lawyer.

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          • avatar RollsRoyceRevenge

            Where's Afghani?

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          • avatar zandra

            Princeton reunion.

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          • avatar dogsandmovies

            Where's Angela!?

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          • avatar Albie Quirky (No Relation!)

            No, I'm saying I'm not a lawyer! Because I know there are lawyers who hang out here and all.

            But also saying that this is stuff that I learned from lawyers in a former jerb.

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        • avatar Super_Nintendo_Chalmers

          But did you at least go to law school?

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          • avatar zandra

            Yes.... on the internet.

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          • avatar Albie Quirky (No Relation!)

            I walk by one most days. And I can neither confirm or deny that I have watched "Phoenix Wright." But otherwise, no.

            Sorry, I know it's weird to basically say "I am not a lawyer" out of nowhere, but I know there are actual lawyers who post here who may know this stuff better than I.

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    • avatar jpa

      Seriously, I don't even think they're officially a non-profit yet. Isn't it illegal to claim you're one when you've only filed for status?

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      • avatar RollsRoyceRevenge

        YES. YESITY YESITY YES WITH YES SAUCE.

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      • avatar some girl

        Yes and No actually; you are basically given 2-3 years to prove you are doing "non-profit-y" type work. You are in "pending" mode until then and can operate as a 501c3. You file your application & fee (the application is actually quite cumbersome, rightly so, and often gets sent back a few times for clarification and challenges - much more so than creating a corporation), and assuming your application is then complete & accepted (most are, if done right), you are granted status, but it's conditional. Within a certain time frame, usually 3 years, you can have that status pulled (AND be liable for back taxes from the past fiscal years) if you are deemed to be doing actions outside the rules of both the 501c3 regulations as well as adhering to the spirit and intentions of your stated non-profit mission. Basically they don't want people setting up shelters to hide money or use as a cover for collecting money for services or via donations for fraudulent reasons.

        The IRS has in a few cases also moved a 501c3 to a 501c6 (association) for their practices.

        You can fund raise for a cause which may be a person or a family, but the write-offs for the donors may or may not be allowed (it depends on the nature of the non-profit), and the org may deduct operating expenses for doing so (you read about the shady ones actually giving a pitiful % of the money and keeping the rest as "operating expenses"), and you also do not *have* to give all the money to that person, but what's at risk is your status (ie misleading practices) again where the IRS can yank your status (again make you liable for taxes on past "income").

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    • avatar RollsRoyceRevenge

      BRAVO!

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    • avatar It's Always Shitty in Donkadelphia

      it is actually illegal for you to fundraise for a specific individual.

      I disagree. I've seen it done time & time again through 501(c)'s where donations are made TO the non-profit IN HONOR OF the individual who's ultimately going to be the recipient. Family & friends often fund-raise for loved ones when there's catastrophic need, etc.

      Then again, the non-profit shouldn't just hand over a lump sum of cash; the non-profit should disburse donated funds for the specified purpose (in the vein of WHY donated to begin with) & only when proof (usually an invoice or bill) is presented.

      BWOB is most at fault, IMHO, & has the biggest liability ~ had they handled this correctly, a goal of the necessary dollar amount needed would have been specified up front & collections would / should have ceased if & when that goal was reached. Unused donations (when administered properly) usually go into a 'reserve' or a pool set up to be used for like-purposes, e.g. to help other widows make their mortgage pymts & pay their kids health insurance premiums.

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      • I never understood why they felt like it had to be done RIGHT AWAY. Wasn't the insurance supposedly going to run out at the end of the year? And who knows how long before the supposed paying off of the mortgage would have happened. This was not a house fire or a tornado. No one was going to be homeless and without insurance within a week. Everyone just seemed to have gotten all worked up and hysterical over things that MIGHT happen in the coming MONTHS.

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        • avatar o for the love of god

          IMVHO these are mainly people from social circumstances where you're supposed to have the money for next year's bills locked down now...they don't really live in the world of paycheck-to-paycheck, which bill do I pay this week, if I lose my job there's no money next month...
          NO INSURANCE AT THE END OF THE YEAR!!! UNIMAGINABLE, MUST FIX NOW!

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          • avatar Miss Noir

            You can start a donation account at any local bank branch, with the money going to said recipient. Then, the only people who can take money out are the ones who have been designated with the bank, etc. If the donations were going straight into the college funds, the only person who can touch the money is the administer of those accounts, which "appears" to be Jennie.

            She can still take it all out and donate it to a charity that serves people with legitimate needs. I think we may have covered this, but I am thinking that she'll owe taxes on it if it is taken out.

            The IRS is going to have a FIELD DAY with this.

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          • avatar Albie Quirky (No Relation!)

            Well, exactly, Miss Noir. Which is what every little Podunk town does when some cute kid has a horrible disease, or when people lose everything in a fire.

            The BWOB people are acting like they're douchebags.

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          • avatar Albie Quirky (No Relation!)

            Sorry, that last statement (though true) was truncated. Should read "...acting like they're douchebags who know everything, whereas they're fucking up left and right."

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      • avatar Albie Quirky (No Relation!)

        I’ve seen it done time & time again through 501(c)’s where donations are made TO the non-profit IN HONOR OF the individual who’s ultimately going to be the recipient.

        The IRS really hates that, and when they catch it the violators get flak from them. (At least in the education field, where otherwise it would be ripe for abuse by douchewads who would just "donate" the cost of their kids' tuition for a "grant" to their kids, and then take the tax break.)

        Maybe there are exemptions for grants for things like medical expenses? I am infinitely less familiar with that field. Or funds around some kind of emergency?

        I do know that it's a giant no-no in the education and arts non-profit sphere, and the impression I got from the trainings and seminars I did was that it was against tax law in general, but I can see how it would be different for medical and emergency relief charity than with the education, arts, and sports organizations I consulted with.

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  5. avatar meems

    I think it's interesting that a non-profit is so censorship friendly. This is the reply I got when I tried to post a perfectly respectful comment on their web site some weeks ago when this was all going down. I was most amused by the fact that they so staunchly stand by the campaign.

    Hi there,

    I just wanted to take a moment to respond to your comment on my "Open Letter." To address your point - we are in no way trying to "whitewash" our intentions or "rewrite history." While Jennifer claims that we amended the original post to remove the word "dire", I can assure you that we did not and we have the complete WordPress revision history which confirms that. Furthermore, the fact that Jennifer is even able to allege any change in the text of the post confirms that she did read the original post (which we have proof that she did). The facts speak for themselves. The way that Jennifer has chosen to represent the situation on her blog and Twitter feed is her prerogative, but we see no benefit in a public war of words, which is why we decided not to publish the evidence which not only confirms Jennifer's knowledge of the campaign but her full support of it too.

    With regards to your comments about us "whitewashing" our intentions, I addressed that in the "Open Letter" post. At the outset, we acted quickly on the information that was provided to us. When it became clear that her financial situation had changed, we decided the best use of the funds was in the 529 accounts for her daughters. Knowing that some people were/would be dissatisfied with this, we offered refunds to this individuals.

    Though we are in the process of making changes to ensure that this never happens again, we stand by our actions and are proud of the community for coming together in such an incredible way. We hope to find new ways to do that in the future. We hope we'll have your support and will always do our utmost to earn it.

    Best Wishes,

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    • avatar KAS

      We won't engage in a war of words, but we'll bash this woman to anyone listening. We're proud of what we did, but we'll never do it again. These people are crazy.

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    • avatar meems

      In my original comment which was never published I was pointing out that they were whitewashing it all by not allowing people to comment and discuss the issue if BWOB was criticized in any way within the comment.

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      • avatar zandra

        Do you really expect them to take blame for a campaign they mis-managed and mis-represented? That's crazy talk! Fawning comments only, please.

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  6. avatar RollsRoyceRevenge

    I just can't wait for this greedy, manipulative, sociopathic cunt to start trolling the coments again.

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  7. avatar self help

    This whole situation was ridiculous and now everyone just wants to point the finger.

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    • avatar melondrama doesn't even have a blog

      The finger-pointing has been going on for months now.

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  8. avatar RollsRoyceRevenge

    They are all so equally incompetent, dishonest, self-obessessed and just plain loathesome that it alomst creates a black hole of WE FUCKING SUCK that cancels out any actual reality attached to their actions.

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    • avatar Megling

      in order to keep my character count to the correct number I will just say: ALL OF THIS. SO MUCH.

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  9. avatar Anon

    I made a, fairly big, donation to the fund. I had an email from BWOB a few weeks ago asking whether I wanted a refund, the money to be donated to the causes Jennie wants or for the money to be retained for another BWOB project. I requested a refund as I think the money could be better used on other charitable projects and I don't want to be associated with BWOB any more. I've heard nothing since (not even an acknowledgement) and haven't received my money back as far as I know. The whole thing is a complete mess.

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    • avatar dogsandmovies

      Would you update us when you (hopefully) get the refund?

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    • avatar DirtyLakeMichigan

      That's interesting. I too am curious to see if your money is refunded. This has most definitely stamped and sealed my distrust of 'fundraising' and any guilt I may ever feel about not giving to a cause. I sure hope St. Jude's Childrens Hospital is somehow really using my donations to help kids with cancer. Those bebhehs tug at my heart.

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      • avatar fashionroadkill

        Charities that are 501s or 503s are trust worthy and safe to give to. Any charity that offers tax deduction has to answer to the IRS and has to answer in detail. There was a major issue this past year because many charities lost their status due to improper filing.

        If St. Jude's asks you to donate to help kids with cancer, then they are. If St. Jude's is asking you to donate, they're probably using it for any general use - which in the long run helps kids with cancer. Its all in the wording itself.

        Groups like BWB give real non-profits a bad name.

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      • avatar non-profiteer

        Whoa whoa let's not throw the behbeh out with the bathwater. These BWOB morons aside, many nonprofits strive to be wise, accountable, transparent and responsible stewards of donor-raised funds; nonprofits for whom these are in fact core values. (As you might be able to tell from my username, I have spent my career working for several of these and can attest that the type of morass created by Shauna, Jennie et al. is thankfully pretty rare -- first and foremost because it ain't easy raising $80K.)

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    • avatar DrCP

      That answers my question: Where is the money now?

      JP said on her webpage that she locked the kids' 529s so that deposits could not be made without her approval. The last public word from BWOB is that they're giving her the money, unless donors ask for a refund.

      From your email, it looks like the money is in limbo in a BWOB account, waiting for their incompetent asses to get organized and actually write refund checks.

      I do hope you get your refund.

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      • avatar Albie Quirky (No Relation!)

        What fucking liars they are. The public "Oh, legally we have to give her the money because we said we would" garbage is thus exposed as the sham it so obviously is.

        Keep us posted on whether you get your money back, Anon! If you don't, I'd be glad to chip in on your small claims court costs, just because this fuckery cannot stand.

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    • avatar Miss Noir

      Hopefully you get it. The deadline to request a refund is today.

      Daily Dish
      The inside scoop on food in Los Angeles

      Food bloggers' fundraising effort leaves a bad taste
      December 10, 2011 | 6:30 am

      Were you among the hundreds of people who donated money to Bloggers Without Borders, which ultimately raised well over $70,000 on behalf of New York food blogger Jennifer Perillo?

      If so, you face a deadline today to ask for your money back.

      The deadline caps a controversy that has been roiling the online food blogging community for months, replacing warm friendship with harsh words, hurt feelings and recriminations. This much, however, seems to be clear:

      Earlier this summer, the online food community rallied to find a way to help Perillo, who writes the popular blog "In Jennie's Kitchen." Her husband, Mikey, died suddenly and unexpectedly, leaving behind Perillo and their two young daughters.

      Bloggers Without Borders, a fledgling nonprofit, offered to wrangle donations and host online auctions on her behalf. All involved were astonished when the money began pouring in, with $76,000 raised in all.

      The funds were ultimately earmarked as college seed money for Perillo's daughters. But that sparked a backlash online, with some questioning the need for such a fundraising effort. Amid the controversy, Perillo has refused to touch the money.

      "I don't want anyone to think I am ungrateful," she said, "but if just .01% of the people gave money because they believed that I was in a dire financial situation, then it's just not right."

      As a result, Bloggers Without Borders co-founder Maggy Keet said that all who donated or held an auction were sent an email last month giving donors a Dec. 10 deadline to ask for a full refund. The overwhelming majority have not requested it, she said. The money will be used for other charitable campaigns, especially those benefitting women and children, she said.

      "There was a need, people in our community wanted to give, and we just created a way for everyone to do that," Keet said. "It's really sad how it has turned out."

      For her part, Perillo says she feels humbled and blessed to know that so many people -- so many strangers -- were willing to open their wallets. She says, however, that the feeling is bittersweet.

      "It breaks my heart all over again that some had the impression that my husband left me and my girls destitute," she said. "My husband lived a life of honor and integrity and left us very well taken care of. He provided for us. He provided for his family."

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  10. avatar Miss Noir

    Someone just tweeted this to me:
    http://www.simplebites.net/bloggers-without-borders-christmas/

    REALLY? AND WRITTEN BY AN EMPLOYEE?!?!?!?!?

    FAIL.

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    • avatar Alex

      Did anyone else notice that glutenfreegirl's feral child is the only kid in that photo? They take that kid everywhere, whether the situation is kid friendly or not.

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      • avatar Miss Noir

        Probably because nobody will babysit her. I have heard she's lacking in the discipline department. Poor thing.

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      • avatar melondrama doesn't even have a blog

        LU IS THE SPECIAL-EST SNOWFLAKIEST WONDERCHILD IN THE WORLD

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        • avatar Miss Noir

          I feel badly for Lu. She's always a mess, (except when Grandma's there, then she looks cute and clean), her parents are more interested in branding her than raising her and her little life is all over the damn internet.

          I hate hate hate HATE when people make fun of Lu. Poor baby.

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      • avatar mea culpa

        Shauna, learn to sit like a lady, for everyone's sake.

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      • avatar mea culpa

        The kid looks overwhelmed by the concentrated douchebaggery.

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    • avatar Tastefulhag

      Wait, isn't the Widow *in* that picture at the top of the BwoB puff piece? Black sleeveless top, second row, hand on someone's shoulder? I am almost positive that pic is from the famous Big Summer Potluck. Kind of blows my mind to put up a photo with her in it but make no mention of the HUGE fundraiser for her that put BwoB on the internet map.

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      • avatar beatrice

        that's absolutely her. impressive, BWOB. my favorite part of this cheery little plug is:

        "3. Donate! Donations will go to current projects or operating costs, etc."

        etc: jabobs boots, organic cherries, private college in 2020.

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        • avatar Tastefulhag

          "Sure you can buy your way into the Cool Kids Club. And feel smug while you're doing it!

          PS Not really on the first part."

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  11. avatar Miss Noir

    NOT EVEN A MENTION OF THE WIDOW PERILLO?

    This is an ever growing shit mountain and BWOB are the kings.

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    • avatar Shrug Bitch

      10 comments in:
      "Are you seriously not mentioning the Jennifer Perrillo incident?"

      Sorry BWOB, the internet never forgets.

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      • avatar DrCP

        And poof! It's gone. Comment scrubbing has been enacted.

        If I were BwoB, I would lay low for a while. This is NOT the time to start a holiday fund drive/cookie-swap thing.

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        • avatar Miss Noir

          OF COURSE IT IS!

          They need to close up shop and concentrate on learning.

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    • avatar melondrama doesn't even have a blog

      Aimee's involved in BWOB, and she wrote a post hyping them. Not exactly objective journalism.

      It's probably part of BWOB's PR strategy: try to suppress Jennifer Perillo-related content by writing lots of puff pieces about how great they are.

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    • avatar Tac

      Totally. I think they are both at fault in this case, especially with the sickening mutual finger pointing, but BWOB asked for the money in the first place, has repeatedly misrepresented itself as a non-profit AND has the hubris to think they can continue doing the same thing. Ridiculous.

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    • avatar Alex

      I left a comment mentioning Jennifer Perillo on the Simple Bites post last night, and it was gone this morning. I applauded their amazing fundraising efforts, and wondered why they weren't lauding that particular success. All very positive, with a few rainbows and puppies thrown in. And now, comments on the post are closed (or at least they are to me).

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  12. avatar Miss Noir

    What tremendously disappointing is that most of these women are very well educated and accomplished, but they are unable to stop showing their asses with this mess.

    JUST FUCKING QUIT, SERIOUSLY.

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    • avatar melondrama doesn't even have a blog

      Don't hold your breath. They're going to spend the holiday season tooting their horns on as many sites as possible, to help sculpt search results/public opinion and divert attention from their colossal fuckup.

      Also, from the comments on their article, it's obvious they have tons of sycophants tripping over themselves to help out and blow smoke up their asses. Those sycophants are more than enough to sustain the organization.

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  13. avatar zandra

    It is something that does need to be said... not everyone who loses a husband gets 80k thrown at them when they don't need it to keep a roof over their heads of food on their kids' plates.

    Also, if someone did get 80k given to them that they didn't ask for or know was being raised for them a decent person would refuse or give it to charities to help people in actual financial need. Especially when the people who were donating the funds weren't given the whole/acurate story.

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  14. avatar seriously?

    i have seen first-hand some very inappropriate shit some people will do when they're grieving. it is not a good and clear place to operate from, grief.

    but accepting 80K in donations sent in by well-meaning dummies and bashing the people that raised it for you when you are an upper-middle-class individual without any legitimate financial hardship and are in fact tweeting up a storm about all the shopping and traveling you're doing... and doing all of this (the collecting, accepting, bashing, shopping) publicly, on the internet, to be google-cached forever... well, that's really something.

    this whole situation is so gross as to be almost impressive.

    THIS! (0)NOPE! (0)


  15. avatar Allison

    Pffft. Even widows can be assholes.

    THIS! (0)NOPE! (0)


  16. avatar Allison

    Bingo. She scammed and scammed until she didn't like hearing criticism that she was buying Marc Jacobs boots and eating at Gramercy Tavern all the time. She should be ashamed.

    THIS! (0)NOPE! (0)


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