Editor: I was a donor to the Music for the Mind fundraiser over the past two years. As a donor, transparency and accountability around the money I donate is very important to me.
Because of this, back in November 2020, I reached out to the founder of Music for the Mind, Elisha Banks, to inquire how the $30,000 that was donated in February 2020 had been used to support the Inpatient Mental Health Unit to date. Elisha informed me that she was not privy to that information but would reach out to the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance Foundation to find out. A few weeks later, I received an e-mail from Elisha that included an attachment that listed supplies purchased for the Inpatient Mental Health Unit from money raised through Music for the Mind. The e-mail was to Elisha from the Foundation.
I was thrilled as a donor to see the results of our efforts. We as a community worked hard to help Elisha raise those funds and provide assistance in a tangible way to patients struggling with mental health who had no family or friends to support them while on the unit. Some of these people, like the homeless in our community, come to the unit with nothing and just getting some clean clothes or daily hygiene products can make a huge difference and show them the community cares about them.
Then I was shocked and confused when I read the newspaper articles about the Music for the Mind fundraiser coming to an end, and reading Mary Lou Crowley’s statement that no funds had been spent. How can that be? When I asked about the funds raised and how they were being spent, and the Foundation provided a list of supplies that was claimed to be purchased for the unit.
So, my question as a donor is what is actually true? Both statements can’t be true. How can a big organization like the Foundation give out information that isn’t true to donors?
After realizing this discrepancy, I reached out to Elisha to try and find some answers, and I was further shocked when she explained to me she had made the Foundation and hospital aware of the conflicting statements, but couldn’t discuss it publicly because she had received a letter from a lawyer who threatened to sue her if she went on social media or to the newspapers.
I spent a lot of time thinking about this and wanting to come forward, but was worried about the potential consequences after the way they treated Elisha. Now, however, I believe this wrong needs to be righted and the community needs to know that when they inquire about how their money is being spent, they may not be getting the truth from the Foundation. That is unacceptable.
As donors, we deserve more from charitable organizations like the Foundation and we must demand that action is taken to ensure this never happens to another donor in the future.
I am amazed they would treat a donor like this, and more so, get away with it. The community that worked so hard to support Music for the Mind and people struggling with mental health need accountability from the Foundation and we need to stand behind Elisha and all the hard work she put in to making Music for the Mind such a success over the past two years.
I was proud to be involved and am disgusted with the Foundation’s actions. While I cannot in good conscious ever support the Foundation again, I will continue to support any fundraising initiatives Elisha is involved with through Music for the Mind going forward, and hope this community will continue to do the same.