An East County charity with close ties to a notorious sex cult has received tens of thousands of dollars from one of La Lolla's most prominent foundations. Records filed with the Internal Revenue Service show the Waitt Family Foundation gave $28,305 to the Family Care Foundation in Dulzura between 2001 and 2003.
Waitt Family Foundation chief administrator Al Panico told LOCAL 8 that he was "shocked and surprised" when he found out about the connection between the Family Care Foundation and a sex cult called The Family that once advocated sex with children.
Panico says the money given by the Waitt foundation was donated through matching grants involving to two former employees who selected the Family Care Foundation as a recipient.
"I was under the impression they were involved in good work," said Panico, who admitted that background checks on the Family Care Foundation were not stringent. He said he believed the money went to AIDS relief in Africa and environmental projects in the Himalayan Mountains.
According to its web site, the Waitt Family Foundation gives some $7 million annually to nonprofit groups in support of families and communities, especially in programs to reduce violence. In the past, the Waitt foundation has supported the Polinski Center in Kearny Mesa, which houses abused and troubled children.
Panico said he would have to give the Family Care Foundation a "hard look" before donating any more money to the nonprofit. "It's not one of our normal charities," he said. "That won't come up again."
A recent LOCAL 8 investigation showed that the Family Care Foundation is run by a board of directors who were longtime members of the The Family, an evangelical cult formerly known as the Children of God.
Former cult members say Family Care Foundation president Grant Montgomery and executive director Larry Corley, were both high-ranking members of The Family up until they established the Dulzura charity in 1997. Their current status with The Family currently is unknown, although several former members say both Montgomery and Corley remain active in the cult.
The Children of God sect was founded in the late 1960s and became notorious for preaching open sexuality as an expression of God's love. The practice led to widespread abuse of children in the cult, according to former members. The group changed its name to The Family of Love in 1978, and then to The Family in 1987.
Current cult leaders deny that child sex abuse was widespread, even though the organization formally banned all sexual contact with minors in 1986 and apologized to the victims.
The Family Care Foundation also is listed as a member of several trade organizations set up to assist nonprofit groups. San Diego Grantmakers - also based in La Jolla - lists the Family Care Foundation as a member on its web site. The group instructs and trains nonprofit foundations in the distribution of grant money.
Grantmaker executive director Julie Holdaway expressed her surprise, after reading articles about the Family Care Foundation on the San Francisco Chronicle web site.
"We are disturbed," Holdaway said. "If any of this is true, we are concerned about how this makes other local nonprofit foundations look, who are doing good work all over San Diego."
Holdaway says the membership status of the Family Care Foundation will be "item number one" on the Grantmakers board agenda next month.
Family Care Foundation also is listed as a member of the Council on Foundations in Washington DC, a national organization of nonprofits that will hold its annual convention in San Diego in April.
The Council's director of media relations Jeff Marin said he, too, was unaware of the Dulzura charity's ties to the The Family until seeing media reports. He said the Family Care Foundation has been a member since January 2001 and his organization does not do background checks on members, except to review IRS filings that prove nonprofit status.
Other organizations that conduct major fundraising campaigns list the Family Care Foundation on their list of approved charities.
Those organizations include:
The web site of Home Depot, Inc. lists the Family Care Foundation as a recipient of funding from that company in the areas of disaster relief and preparedness.
The Family Care Foundation has denied any financial affiliation with The Family cult. However, many of the independent charities funded by the Family Care Foundation also have close ties to The Family.