The Rebecca Foundation was a non-profit founded by Amanda La Bell, disgraced former Orgeon House candidate. Focused primarily on providing cloth diapers to families in need, The Rebecca Foundation reportedly had 80 chapters in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. In recent weeks, controversy has surrounded La Bell. In August, La Bell saw an opportunity to run for the District 54 seat. Given her extensive background leading a now-international non-profit for the past six years, La Bell seemed to have the credibility the Working Families party values.
Oh, how wrong they were. The Bend Bulletin reported on September 18th that La Bell had falsified claims on her voter pamphlet, specifically a claim that she had a college degree. The university La Bell claimed to have graduated from could find no record of any former student with her name. More skeletons came tumbling out of the closet as La Bell’s shady history came to light. Alarming revelations include past felony charges, arrests, and an outstanding debt of $8,000 to a Florida health club.
La Bell probably thought the worst was over when she withdrew from the campaign, all the while claiming the voter pamphlet issue was an accidental oversight. But the storm was just beginning.
In a letter dated October 1, 2018, the majority of the Board of Directors of The Rebecca Foundation resigned. They cited a lack of faith in the operational ethics of the organization as their key reason for leaving. The letter, signed by Loraine Torres Barreto, Sadie Cora, Stephanie Fisher, Tamra Frank, Jessica Johns, and Susan Byrnes (board term 1/1/15-9/7/18), caused an uproar within the internal structure of the organization, which was already in a crisis of sorts.
According to our confidential source, the Board of Directors had announced the resignation of Amanda La Bell as CEO just days prior. In a strange turn of events, Amanda La Bell’s husband, Jesse La Bell, involved himself in organization affairs shortly after. Jesse was a board member but was reportedly inactive and uninvolved with the organization, per several volunteers. Jesse accused the Board members named above of conducting a smear campaign against Amanda La Bell, claiming that the recent news stories were misleading and being used to slander Amanda’s name. He claimed the Board had wrongly and “illegally” ousted Amanda.
The Board of Directors responded by issuing their resignation.
The content of the letter called into question what information had come to light to cause such a break in their trust. Volunteers began to ask for answers, demanding transparency. Some questioned why the Board didn’t cite specific reasons they could no longer stand by the organization. Others began to come forward with specific experiences that raised concerns of financial misconduct. Jesse promptly appointed himself as CEO and proceeded to point fingers, promising he would produce financial statements to prove no such misconduct had occurred. He provided a timeline for his disclosure of these documents. The deadline he set came and went.
Meanwhile, volunteers had begun to organize behind the scenes. Note: we have spoken with many of these volunteers firsthand, and all have asked to speak confidentially. Please take this into consideration when reading the following. Because so many got involved with The Rebecca Foundation to help families experiencing diaper need, many volunteers focused their efforts on taking care of existing family needs. Many diaper packages had been promised to families, yet were never delivered. Some had even prepaid shipping costs and were still waiting for their packages months later.
Other volunteers began piecing together stories of financial misconduct. It became obvious that Amanda La Bell had intentionally misled volunteers, per their statements. One former member said, “I resigned because I had raised money from my town. They (my town) know who I am and trust me. But I never saw that money come back to my chapter so I could help my local people. I was told it had to cover shipping costs for the whole group instead.”
Allison Snoddy, the foundation’s former Midwest Regional Manager, resigned months before the implosion. She suspected financial wrongdoing and brought her concerns forward. At the time, she claims she was ignored. “No one knows what happened to the money. Thousands upon thousands of dollars. A grant from The National Diaper Bank is probably missing - grants from Walmart, Target, grants that are hundreds and thousands of dollars are just gone.” In a chat with Cloth Diaper Podcast, Snoddy suggests that the former Board simply weren’t experienced enough to run a non-profit of this scale. That inexperience left a blind spot, according to Snoddy, which was made worse by the trusting nature of many volunteers involved.
Another volunteer spoke confidentially, stating, “I personally received $2000 from a local church. Amanda told me I had to send her the funds, so I did. She promised they would be earmarked for my chapter to use as needed. I requested new diapers, and I was sent used diapers with a few new diapers thrown in. I thought it was weird, but assumed that Amanda was rationing the funds. Then, I asked for her to disburse funds to cover shipping costs. She claimed that my funds had been depleted, but I had record that I hadn’t used the full amount. When I questioned her on it, she stopped speaking to me. I eventually resigned before this whole thing came to light.”
Volunteers have totaled the lost funds to estimate, at a minimum, $9000. The organization’s Amazon Smile account page states that the organization had raised over $500 during the month of August 2018 alone through Smile. If that’s an average month’s payout, the La Bells had been receiving transfers from Smile to the tune of $6000 per year. This would increase the suspected fraud to be at least $15000.
Ciera Wages, a former volunteer, spoke to The Bend Bulletin. Wages raised funds through grants from Walmart. “I handled all the Walmart donations to chapters around the country. That was at least $3,000.” Amanda La Bell told Wages that she was required to send all checks directly to Amanda. “Maybe I was a little naive. She said she was the only one who could cash the checks. I just trusted her.”
The cloth diapering community has been rocked by news of the alleged misconduct. Many volunteers are sharing their experiences within the community, some even going so far as to include screenshots of their private conversations with La Bell. Members of the organization had been resigning with suspicion of misconduct. Some were even asked to leave when they started asking questions of La Bell. Following the Board’s resignation on Monday, volunteers began resigning left and right. “It was like watching rats flee a sinking ship,” said one volunteer. “Once we started to put the pieces together, we knew we had to speak out. It was wrong, to do what Amanda did. She hurt families, she betrayed volunteers. I just wanted to help families who couldn’t afford clean diapers for their babies, and I am (angry) that she took advantage of me.”
Reportedly, former members have been reporting the La Bells to their state Attorney Generals and the IRS. We will update this story if the authorities decide to launch an official investigation.
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