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Brian Baer

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HELPING HANDS INITIATIVE INC
July 14, 2009

BEWARE OF THIS ORGANIZATION: Despite its well intentioned mission statement, I would not recommend donating or getting involved with this organization in any matter. OUR INVOLVEMENT IS AS FOLLOWS: My architectural firm was retained by HHI to design a new music school for autistic persons on Staten Island. We were originally matched by a design/non-profit service in October 2008. We completed a feasabilty study in mid-march 2009, where we spent a total of $35,500.00 in personnel time. This time was generously performed on a pro bono basis. We received a follow up email and phone call at the end of March '09 from the president of HHI indicating that an "angel donor" had granted $400k as seed money for the design services. We were directed by the president to author and initiate an Owner/Architect Agreement. We did so, and it was executed by both parties in early April. We requested a small 5-figure retainer check to be enclosed with the returned O/A Agreement. It bounced. According to the president it was due to a banking error based on a previous instance of identity theft. We continued work on the good faith that the banking issue would be resolved by the first invoice which was issued in mid-May. We were assured that the replacement retainer check, plus payment on the first invoice (a mid-5-figure dollar value) can be deposited and that there would be no problems. Both bounced; twice. An additional invoice was submitted for the remainder of the work, now totaling a mid-six figure dollar value. None of the monies that we have worked hard for in creating this beautiful structure have been paid to us. We have been given response, run-around, un-answered and un-returned phone calls. Email responses have been brief, evasive, deceptive, and blatantly untruthful. We are considering initiating both criminal and civil legal actions against the president and the organization; as the actions by the president are presumed to be fraudulent, but definitively breach of contract.

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What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

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The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

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If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

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Ways to make it better...

The president was truthful about capacity, existing relationships with all stakeholders including the board members, and honest intentions to execute the stated mission.

In my opinion, the biggest challenges facing this organization are...

The president's honesty and unwillingness to be truthful.

One thing I'd also say is that...

The few board members that I have had met and spoken with are professional, courteous, and gracious.

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2009

MY ROLE:
General Member of the Public & Provided architectural design services.