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Charity caught in scandal's backwash shuts down

Charity caught in scandal's backwash shuts down

Reported by: Brent Hunsaker
Last Update: 8:08 am
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC 4 News) - More ramifications from the arrest of Lon Harvey Kennard Senior, a prominent Heber Valley businessman. 

Kennard is charged with sexually molesting several young girls over a long period of time.  Some of those girls were Ethiopians -- the very children Kennards was supposedly helping through his charity, Village of Hope.

Village of Hope worked in southern Ethiopia to educate children, house orphans and bring the people clean water and sustainable agriculture.

The scandal surrounding the arrest of it's founder has led to a temporary shutdown.  On it's website was this announcement:  "We are devastated by his actions which are  completely  inconsistent with our core values and basic human dignity.  Because of this we have decided to temporarily suspend operations here in the U.S. while we evaluate how to best move forward with the good works that continue within the village."

Beyond that, Kennard, who parted ways with Village of Hope last year, left other problems behind. For one thing, in the 14 years he ran Village of Hope out of his home in Heber City, he didn't registered it as a fundraiser in Utah as required by law.  "Based on our records, they never have been," said Francine Giani, Executive Director of the Utah Department of Commerce.  "This is causing some red flags for us ... and certainly we'll pursue an investigation."  An auditor with the Division of Consumer Protection notifed Village of Hope of the violations in a letter mailed Wednesday.

What's more, a source tells ABC 4 Village of Hope is also drawing the attention of the IRS.  Last year the charity failed to file what's called a form 990 -- a financial statement for non-profits.  If a charity failed to file form 990 for three consecutive years, it loses its 501c3 tax exempt status.

The man who took over the reigns of Village of Hope last year, Daniel Alger, admits Kennard "didn't operate with a good business sense."  He also told ABC 4 they've been "working the last four months trying to put (financial) pieces together."
Alger pledges the charity will again file a form 990 this year.

Whatever Kennard may have lacked in business sense... he made up for as a fund raiser.   Earlier IRS filings show he raised close to a $100-thousand for Village of Hope in 2006 and $350-thousand in 2007.   Travel was by far the biggest expense for the charity.  In those two years Village of Hope reported spending nearly $255-thousand on travel.

Here is the full text of the announcement on the Village of Hope website:

The news of Village of Hope co-founder Lon Kennard Sr.’s arrest and the charges against him came as a complete shock to all those working within the organization.

Within hours of the arrest leadership in Ethiopia formally met with and notified government leaders of the news. Even though Lon has not been involved in the operations for some time, we are uncertain if or how this might affect our work in Ethiopia. We continue to work closely with officials there to help protect the safety of our staff and those children who rely on Village of Hope for food and shelter.

Lon and DeAnna Kennard removed themselves from the Village of Hope operations last year for reasons completely unrelated to this issue. At that time a new board of directors assumed responsibility for the operations.

The new leadership began to move in a new and dynamic direction by strengthening our commitment to partner with individuals and families in the village to better “care for the poor, foster self-reliance and promote service to others.” New leadership set a goal to increase individual family crop production, family income, and health and sanitation standards to a level so that within five years the villagers will no longer need outside help or assistance. Programs recently started that will help impoverished widows care for and meet the needs of their children and to become self sufficient.

We remain hopeful that we will be able to continue to provide educational opportunities for children as well as those programs that support family independence and community service. We remain committed to our efforts to work with rural farmers in an effort to triple crop production and alleviate poverty and malnutrition.

We believe that being given the opportunity to work with the good people of Ethiopia is a sacred responsibility that requires the highest level of trust. Kennard’s name has been synonymous with the Village of Hope. We are devastated by his actions which are completely inconsistent with our core values and basic human dignity. Because of this we have decided to temporarily suspend operations here in the U.S. while we evaluate how to best move forward with the good works that continue within the village. Funds that have been donated for specific sponsorships, families and projects in Ethiopia will continue to be made available for those purposes while we complete this evaluation.

As you might imagine DeAnna and her family are devastated by these events and we ask for your thoughts and prayers on their behalf.


Village of Hope Leadership

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