In the wake of Paul Ryan’s soup kitchen photo op, his supporters have targeted the kitchen with angry phone calls and have been withholding donations, hurting its ability to feed the city's poor and homeless.
Two weeks after a small family-owned Mexican café in Denver received death threats for refusing to stage a Mitt Romney campaign 'photo op', the Mahoning County St. Vincent De Paul Society soup kitchen in Youngstown, Ohio, received hundreds of phone calls and dozens of letters from irate donors who will no longer give to the nonprofit after a Ryan campaign stop.
Last week, Republican vice presidential candidate and his wife Janna used the soup kitchen for a 15-minute photo opportunity on his way to the airport following a campaign stop on the area, CBS reports.
But neither the campaign nor the soup kitchen had obtained permission from the charity president for the photo-op. The Society's bylaws stipulate that such appearances are prohibited, says the Huffington Post.
Screenshot via YouTube
Paul Ryan's photo op at a soup kitchen in Ohio.
“We’re a faith-based organization; we are apolitical because the majority of our funding is from private donation," said Brian J. Antal, president of the Mahoning County St. Vincent De Paul Society, according to Forbes. "It’s strictly in our bylaws not to do it. They showed up there, and they did not have permission. They got one of the volunteers to open up the doors.”
The monetary losses have been big. “It appears to be a substantial amount,” Antal said. “You can rest assured there has been a substantial backlash.”
Per the Huffington Post:
Some members of Antal’s volunteer staff have had to endure the barrage as well, he said. “The sad part is a lot of [the callers] want to hide behind anonymity,” he said, adding that if someone leaves their name and number he has tried to return their call. In addition to phone calls, people have posted a few choice words on the charity’s Facebook wall, including statements like “I hope you lose your tax [sic] emempt status,” Anyone who is thinking about donations to you should think twice” and “Shame on you Brian Antal!”
Antal confirmed that donors have begun an exodus, and that the losses have been significant, putting in jeopardy a mission that serves over 100,000 of the city's poor and homeless annually, says the Huffington Post.
Not only that but Antal believes the damage has the potential to be more far reaching to other St. Vincent de Paul Society soup kitchens across the country, WFMJ reported.
Strangers band together
Per Huff Post Hill, Democrats have risen to the challenge and saved the soup kitchen that Romney/Ryan supporters tried to put out of business, the American blog says.
”The soup kitchen facing a donor backlash in the wake of Paul Ryan’s embarrassing photo op has been rescued by the internet. The day after HuffPost broke the kitchen’s sad news, Corey Snow of Olympia Washington, organized an online fundraising drive on the charity’s behalf. In about 30 hours, Snow had raised $10,000. By Monday morning, donations had reached more than $12,600. Snow said that he was upset that the most needy would become pawns in presidential politics.‘People are hungry regardless of whether you vote Democrat or Republican,’ he said. ‘I thought it was not cool that they were pulling donations.’ Snow, who has talked with the charity’s director, plans on keeping the campaign going long past the election. He plans on turning in his donations to the soup kitchen by mid December. ‘The election will still be over but people will still be hungry,’ he said.
After news that donors were pulling their support for the Youngstown soup kitchen, users of Fark, an online news aggregator, started a fundraising campaign for the embattled charity on Indiegogo. So far, Fark.com's efforts have raised over $11,000 for the branch of the Saint Vincent DePaul affected by the boycott.
Fark was hoping to raise $10,000 in total, and with 44 days left, it seems the campaign may double that amount, with all proceeds going directly to the Ohio non-profit.
According to the Huffington Post, Fark decided to start the campaign in order to "thumb our noses at the people who would take away money from the needy in the name of punishing someone politically."
Indiegogo notes that the campaign is not affiliated with the Society of Saint Vincent DePaul. "We're just a group of folks who think it's unfair for a charity that feeds homeless people to be caught in the crossfire of the Presidential campaigns."
If you would like to help the charity fulfill its mission to the poor and homeless, a direct donation site has been set up by the Mahoning County Society of Saint Vincent de Paul. The national site also provides a direct link to the St. Vincent's website, if you would rather give directly to the charity.
You can also send donations to P.O. Box 224 Youngstown, OH 44501, WFMJ reported.