Asleep at the Wheel
It’s very easy to get excited and wrapped up in a feel-good story. When I ﬁ rst started writing for a newspaper, my editor and publisher had to dampen my enthusiasm for some of the stories I came back with. They taught me, or rather reenforced in me, one of the most important rules of journalism. You can’t take a story at face value. You’ve got to dig
.I think that’s pretty much true about most things in life. You have to consider the source, consider their angle and consider what’s in it for them. Then you have to make sure that everything you hear and are led to believe is factual.
This is where a lot of people fall into a trap. Some would argue that its only the cynic that looks at life this way. I would say they’re wrong. Case in point, the trials and tribulations of the Jubilee House.
When the news first broke that Extreme Makeover: Home Edition was coming to Fayetteville, I was a little excited. I watch the show from time to time, and like the feel-good stories it promotes. My first thought was that maybe some old retired veteran whose home was destroyed by the tornado would be helped, or maybe some young Soldier and his family who had purchased a house with mold or something like that would benefit from the show’s arrival in Fayetteville. When they made the announcement about the Jubilee House, it sounded good. But I had never heard of the organization, so I went into research mode.
They were not registered as a 501(c3) with the Secretary of State’s Office. And other than the announcement, I couldn’t really find anything out about them. That’s when, as a management team, we decided not to be involved. The idea didn’t seem to pass the common sense test. Turns out, we were right.
In the past few days, I have followed all of the coverage about Jubilee House, and no matter those who say, “It’s all good,” I see dark days ahead for Barbara Marshall and a big black eye for our community.
I really wanted to know how things got this far. So I started asking questions. How did this start? How did an unvetted, unqualified organization get such resounding support from community leaders that thrust them into the national limelight?
And, the answer was kind of surprising. A young journalist from the Fort Bragg Paraglide went down and did a story on the Jubilee House. The journalist went back to the paper with a heart-warming, feel-good story, that got everyone excited and the ball started rolling. Unfortunately, no one tempered the excitement, and everyone took the story at face value.
But there were a lot of different places in this cycle where someone, anyone could have asked ... Is this actually a charity? Where is the organization’s bylaws? Who are its board members? Is there a board-certified and approved budget? Is there a financial means of support for the organization?
If any of these questions had of been asked by our community leaders, we would not be where we are now.
I’ve worked in nonprofits. I’ve sat on boards and I’ve run an organization. Donations are earmarked for specific things, and, when you are struggling to pay your light bill, you don’t make a facility investment like buying two new houses for homeless veterans to live in, especially when the facility you already have sits empty. Your board, also has to impartial, because they are the stewards of donated money. That means that it can’t be someone who could possibly benefit from that money — like your family.
Marshall says she didn’t know the rules, and that she made a bad mistake by buying new properties. At face value, that argument could be made. But Marshall, as a military chaplain has been responsible for public funds. She is an educated woman. A mistake? We aren’t buying it.
Photo: Last summer First Lady Michelle Obama showed sup-port for the Jubilee House. The organization is now under investigation.