Fake fundraising for suicide prevention hits Steamboat’s grocery stores
Mindy Marriott’s 14-year-old daughter Finley called her mom, concerned while getting lunch with friends on Wednesday at Natural Grocers. Finley saw a group with a table collecting donations for an organization called “Stand for the Silent” outside the store. The name sounded familiar.
She called her mom to ask, “Was this not the same group that was in front of Safeway this time last year scamming people into donating to a false cause?”
Marriott went down to Natural Grocers to investigate herself. Sure enough, Finley was correct, it was the same group. Marriott approached the table displaying the “Stand for the Silent” sign and began asking questions.
Asked where the donations were going to, the group told Marriott they were collaborating with a few groups in town to raise awareness on suicide prevention. They told Marriott about their partnership with a local nonprofit, Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide, or REPS.
They had no idea that the woman questioning them at their table in front of Natural Grocers was Mindy Marriott — the executive director of Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide.
The group also said they were collaborating with Steamboat School District and that it was $3,000 away from their $30,000 goal. The Steamboat School District has stated it does not have a working partnership with the group.
The group told Marriott the money that is raised will go to the communities that are the most in need and the communities with the highest suicides rates. Marriot questioned who determined that before finally starting “we’ve never received any money from you.”
“Once I notified them that Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide has received no funding from them, that’s when they started really stumbling,” Marriott said. “It’s sad because people are calling me that gave them money saying they donated to REPS, but they did not.”
“Stand for the Silent, Inc.” may have been collecting funds under false pretenses, but the organization is in fact a registered 501(c)(3). The organization’s tax filings dating back to its creation in 2011 are public records that can be easily found with a Google search.
“Stand for the Silent, Inc.” has a website that claims the organization is based out of Perkins, Okla. The site states, “The Stand For The Silent (SFTS) program addresses the issue of school bullying with an engaging, factual, and emotional methodology.”
This past December St. George News in Utah reported that “Stand for the Silent, Inc.” was using “unethical and immoral” fundraising practices claiming to raise money for Washington County School District in St. George, Utah.
Mark Beckett, interim Steamboat Springs policed chief, said that although the department is in the early stage of its investigation, it has already found a slew of online reports of the organization as being fake or having ethical issues.
“As for the group right now in Steamboat specifically, we don’t know if that’s actually the same group,” Beckett said. “What we do know is that the group claiming to be using that same name (Stand for the Silent) here in town is definitely misrepresenting their fundraising.”
Beckett said the reports the department has received and its investigation has shown the organization is claiming to be fundraising for two different causes, one being anti-bullying and the other being suicide prevention.
The police department checked in with the school district and local nonprofits and found none of the groups were receiving the funds that the organization was claiming to be giving them.
“We first learned of this yesterday and we will keep looking into it,” Beckett said.
The Steamboat Pilot & Today has attempted to make contact with the directors and founders of “Stand for the Silent” but has yet to hear back.
Kit Geary is the county, public safety and education reporter. To reach her, call 970-871-4229 or email her at kgeary@SteamboatPilot.com.
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