The nationwide diaper bank run by troubled state House candidate Amanda La Bell is out of funds and shut down its website Wednesday, the day after reports that most of the group’s board had resigned over possible financial irregularities.
And in a expletive-laced interview, La Bell, who ran the nonprofit organization from Bend, said Wednesday that The Rebecca Foundation had no money. Her comments came as at least one of the dozens of national chapters said it would report La Bell to law enforcement for possible misuse of thousands of dollars of funds, including grants from Walmart.
La Bell gained notoriety in Bend after she suspended her campaign for the House District 54 seat when it was reported she had falsely claimed a college degree on her official Oregon Voters’ Pamphlet statement.
The website for The Rebecca Foundation and the URL for the group, clothforall.com, were online as of Tuesday night, but were both offline by Wednesday morning.
A link that on Tuesday went to The Rebecca Foundation’s Facebook page said Wednesday that the group could not be found.
Reached at her Bend home Wednesday, La Bell said questions about the Rebecca Foundation were “none of your f---ing business.” Inquiries by The Bulletin were harassment and an invasion of privacy, she said.
The foundation is closed and has no funds, she said, adding that if there are any funds, they’ll be distributed to other community organizations. Inventory of diapers and other products will stay with the community organizations that received them.
She said the foundation’s business was not a story because she’s no longer running for office and she wants to be left alone to take care of her children.
“Get the hell out of my face,” she said before slamming a door.
Ciera Wages, who said she was president of the Unionville, Missouri, chapter of The Rebecca Foundation, said volunteers in some of the approximately 100 chapters around the United States, Puerto Rico and Mexico had grown increasingly concerned about how the group’s money was being handled.
“I handled all the Walmart donations to chapters around the country,” Wages said. “That was at least $3,000.”
Wages said La Bell told her to send all checks directly to her.
“I didn’t understand it — maybe I was a little naive,” Wages said. “She said she was the only one who could cash the checks. I just trusted her.”
Wages, who said she joined The Rebecca Foundation in 2016, said her network of chapter presidents estimated this week that at least $9,000 that went to the chapters was sent to La Bell.
“That is not counting the money that went directly to Amanda La Bell,” Wages said.
Wages said her chapter received neither funds nor diapers from La Bell.
“Nope, none,” Wages said. “I saw absolutely none of it come back.”
Wages said former volunteers are discussing going to the authorities to find out what happened to the money. Wages said she planned to contact the Missouri attorney general to file a complaint.
Wages also confirmed the authenticity of a photo sent to The Bulletin anonymously of a check for $2,500 sent by Walmart to The Rebecca Foundation’s chapter in Findlay, Ohio.
“I don’t know what happened to that check or others,” Wages said.
Walmart officials at the company’s headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Wages said the sudden shut-down of the website and communications within the group was a blow to volunteers.
“It feels like a big ‘F-you’ from Amanda,” Wages said.
Sadie Cora, a member of the The Rebecca Foundation’s board of directors, confirmed she and five other board members had resigned after La Bell refused to disclose how contributions were being spent. In an email to The Bulletin, she said former Rebecca Foundation members hope to regroup in another organization in the future to supply diapers to low-income and other families.
“We plan to continue to move forward with our work to end diaper need,” Cora wrote.
La Bell touted her nonprofit work when she announced she was running for the House District 54 seat. The candidate of the Working Families Party, she had garnered support from prominent Democrats, including Gov. Kate Brown and U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley. Democratic leaders saw La Bell as an alternative to Bend city Councilor Nathan Boddie, who lost support following allegations of sexual harassment were made after his May 15 Democratic primary victory.
La Bell suspended her campaign following reports she had falsely claimed to have graduated from Valdosta State University in Georgia on her official Oregon Voters’ Pamphlet statement. After the college degree issue came to light, Democrats withdrew their support and La Bell suspended her campaign. However, the action came too late to have her name removed from the Nov. 6 ballot.
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