Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster announced today that settlement proceeds of $39,200 from a woman who illegally diverted Joplin tornado charitable donations for personal use would be deposited with the CFO, which will direct the funds to Rebuild Joplin.
Sidney Ray-Bazan agreed to pay that amount after the Attorney General’s investigation showed she diverted that money from more than $133,000 she collected for Relief Spark, an organization for which she never sought nonprofit status from the IRS.
Koster said Ray-Bazan spent the donated funds where she lived in New Orleans on restaurant meals, personal services and babysitting for her children.
“In 2011, good-hearted people donated lots of money to help the people of Joplin recover and rebuild,” he said. “Unfortunately, we know that some individuals diverted charitable donations for personal gain. I am pleased that today we return a portion of that money to the people of Joplin.”
CFO President Brian Fogle said he suggested Rebuild Joplin when the Attorney General’s Office asked for recommendations for the settlement funds because of the agency’s good work in rebuilding and renovating owner-occupied homes for Joplin tornado survivors and families. Rebuild Joplin uses largely volunteer labor, coupled with donated funds for materials and equipment, to help pre-tornado homeowners who were uninsured, underinsured or had other extenuating circumstances such as contractor fraud.
Rebuild Development Director Thomas Corley said the new funding comes at a great time because hundreds of volunteers are planning to visit Joplin during the spring break season. The money will be used to buy materials and supplies to work on the remaining homes. Rebuild has completed 10 projects so far this year and plans to complete 70 more by the end of the year and wrap up its work.
“We will not rest until the final homeowner in Joplin is back in their own home,” Corley said.
The Joplin Recovery Fund, established by the CFO and its Joplin-based affiliate, the Community Foundation of Southwest Missouri, Inc., has granted about $4 million, with 58 percent of that targeted for housing-related recovery efforts.
The Community Foundation of Southwest Missouri, Inc., recently awarded two more grants from the Joplin Recovery Fund.
Children’s Haven of Southwest Missouri, which provides temporary shelter to children and teens in crisis situations, received a grant of $84,940 on Feb. 11. The funds will be used to support the agency after two years of unreimbursed services following the May 2011 tornado.
Joplin Habitat for Humanity received a $60,000 grant on Feb. 25 to support construction of two more homes for tornado survivors.
These grants bring the total amount awarded from the Joplin Recovery Fund to more than $3.8 million.
We owe a belated congratulations to the crew at Arc of the Ozarks for its success in re-establishing its facility in Joplin, which was leveled in the May 22, 2011 tornado. The group broke ground on the brand new duplex facility, totaling 2,680 square feet, in late November.
The construction is made possible, in large part, by a $100,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Southwest Missouri’s Joplin Recovery Fund and $25,000 from the City of Joplin’s First Response Fund. Private donors made up the rest of the $260,000 tab.
The new four-bedroom duplex will host individuals with dual diagnosis and will be built specifically to accommodate the treatment program that allows them to become valued members of the community, according to a release from Arc of the Ozarks.
The Community Foundation of the Ozarks salutes Arc of the Ozarks and all the other agencies still working to improve lives in Joplin, even as they seek to put their own organizations back together.