5 High-Profile Charities That Flew Off The Rails

The bigger they are, the harder they fall ... isn't something that should apply to charities
5 High-Profile Charities That Flew Off The Rails

If Bono has taught us anything, it's that we don't particularly care for Bono. If he's taught us two things, it's that charity work is only for the rich and famous. That's not a good lesson, but it's what Bono has to teach. What are ya gonna do? Yet not all of our wealthy and famous elite are good at helping the less fortunate. Some of their high-profile charities have backfired so badly that you'd think their biggest donor was your drunk uncle's 1983 Ford Fiesta.

Brad Pitt Builds (Unlivable) Homes For Hurricane Katrina Victims

Disasters have a way of bringing out the best in people, and that includes our best people -- celebrities. They might help the cause by raising awareness or releasing some terrible group song, but some want to do real boots-on-the-ground good. So when Hurricane Katrina turned many New Orleans homes into swampland, Brad Pitt went to build residents some new ones. The only problem? Having a pretty face doesn't mean you're good at working with your hands.

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Jaap Buitendijk /Make It Right
A real money Pitt.

Pitt formed the Make It Right Foundation, a nonprofit with a mission to build 150 affordable, "green," and (especially) flood-proof houses in New Orleans' worst affected district. It was a dream come true for the low-income families, who could not only buy a fancy, flood-proof house for a mere $130,000, but could also brag that they got it from the weird dude from Snatch.

5 High-Profile Charities That Flew Off The Rails
William Widmer/NBC News
On a scale of 1 to 100, these homes score a solid Ocean's 11.

But sadly, Pitt's humanitarian efforts weren't as perfect as his dimples. After people moved into the Make It Right homes, many started complaining about mold, rotten wood, leaky roofs, and other unsafe conditions. As it turns out, these fancy postmodern pads were built out of materials unsuitable for a humid climate. And how the hell are your flood-proof houses going to withstand another Katrina if they can't withstand "existing"?

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Doug MacCash/The Times-Picayune
It's the fanciest shack Brad Pitt's money can buy.

Requests that the charitable foundation repair their handiwork were met with "years of ongoing lies and broken promises," according to one resident. Anyone hoping for Make It Right to, uh, make it right shouldn't hold their breath (though it's not a bad idea, with the mold and all). The company hasn't filed a tax form or built a shoddy house since 2015.

Today, most of the Pitt houses lie abandoned, and many owners feel so betrayed that they're suing for fraud. Of course, we should all agree that none of this is Pitt's fault. His lawyers claim that "even if the homeowners' claims against Make It Right are credible, Pitt isn't to blame." After all, does he look like the kind of guy who would recognize a 2x4 if it hit him in the head? We don't know, but plenty of Katrina victims would sure like to find out.

Related: 5 Popular Forms Of Charity (That Aren't Helping)

Madonna Keeps Failing To Build Schools In Malawi

In the late 2000s, for reasons only known to her and the Kabbalah Monster, pop icon Madonna decided to turn the small African country of Malawi into her personal pet project. She visited countless times, attended local ceremonies, and even started adopting Malawian kids like she was trying to complete a set. This interest eventually turned into Raising Malawi, a huge charity that would build a glorious school for impoverished girls, who would then become the leaders of the future. And that's going to happen ... any second now.

Raising Malawi got off to a shaky start, with Madonna and her partners kicking several villagers off their land to make space for the school. When they turned to their own government for aid, they were told to get bent, and that they "should be grateful" someone as awesome as Madonna was doing them the honor of taking their homes.

But to this day, Raising Malawi has done very little "raising" to speak of, as the $15 million school still hasn't been built. Unless you count raising champagne glasses, since they sure knew how to do that. Under the expert stewardship of Madonna's former personal trainer's boyfriend, the charity was caught squandering a cool $3.8 million on absurdly high salaries, private cars, and golf memberships.

In 2011, after a few rounds of firings, Raising Malawi confessed that the school wasn't going to be built after all. But instead of admitting she screwed up, Madonna claimed she was now working on a different, better plan that would build ten schools instead of one. This was an offer Malawi's greatly underfunded Department of Education gladly refused the hell out of, saying they were "fed up" with her disruptive antics.

Madonna's organization eventually got them to change their minds, and then built ... absolutely no schools whatsoever, instead managing just a few extensions on schools that were already there. In 2018, she announced on Instagram that the charity will be building four different schools, which she proudly said would make her contribution "14 schools in total." Apparently she's not too great at math. If only there were some sort of institution she could go to that would help her improve ...

Related: 6 Side Effects Of Famous Charities That Make Things Worse

A Charity For Wayward Children Stole $1 Million To Produce Terrible Plays

Hale House was founded in 1970 by Clara McBride "Mother" Hale, one of New York City's greatest humanitarians. The house's purpose was to care for children with absentee mothers (i.e. drug addicts). When Mother Hale died in 1992, her daughter Lorraine Hale was left in charge. But Lorraine and her husband Jesse DeVore didn't have the same love for underprivileged children as Mother Hale did, so they decided they'd much rather strip the charity for parts and get rich from it.

Using fake reports, fake bank accounts, and even a fake board of directors, Lorraine and her accomplices stole over $1 million from the children's charity. What did she need the cash for? Why, to support her husband's failing theater production company, which she granted $398,100 in fake loans to keep afloat. The rest of the money went to more sensible causes, like bribes and a Jacuzzi for their renovated manor.

While she pilfered the accounts, DeVore went out to cover the money gap by telling donors to increase their donations, or the children would go without food and diapers. When the mayor of New York visited Hale House to deliver presents to the kids, Hale accepted them in their place, then waited until the mayor was gone and sent it all to a thrift shop to be sold. Maybe his theater company failed because he insisted on playing Ebenezer Scrooge in every production.

DeVore was even overhead openly calling the children "cash cows." But people eventually started noticing that children were being neglected by a wealthy charity that was supposed to prevent that very thing. In 2002, Hale and DeVore were charged, and a year later, they confessed. But like any rich person, they didn't do any hard time. The ensuing scandal ruined "Hell House," as some of the kids called it, and the orphanage shut down completely in 2008. Maybe Mama Hale should've put a little more time in raising her own children right.

Related: The 5 Most Unintentionally Offensive Things Done For Charity

A Chinese Millionaire Caused The New York Homeless To Riot

After making a fortune, Chen Guangbiao dedicated himself to two things: helping the poor and making sure everyone knew he was helping the poor. Critics have noted that Chen's charitable work is often overshadowed by his shameless self-promotion -- which is to be expected of the kind of man who hands out business cards that read "Most Charismatic Philanthropist of China."

Most Influential Person of Chir Most Prominent Philanthropist of China China Moral Loader China Earthquake Rescue Horo Most Well-known and Beloved Chi
Guangbiao Chen
It's on a business card, so it must be true.

In 2014, Chen planned a banquet for the homeless of New York City. Part of the bizarrely named Tour of Love and Gratitude, the luncheon promised a three-course meal, donations, and for some reason, an appearance by Chen singing "We Are The World." To get it off the ground, Chen teamed up with the New York City Rescue Mission, who were glad to take part as long as the millionaire obeyed the #1 rule of working with the homeless: Never, ever, under any circumstance, give them cash money. Which was a bit of problem, because Chen had just placed a full-page ad in The New York Times promising every homeless person $300 in cash, no questions asked.

So instead of the cash handouts, Chen compromised and agreed to donate the money to the New York City Rescue Mission. But the "Most Well-Known And Beloved Chinese Role Model" couldn't let a good PR opportunity slip by, so during the luncheon, he grabbed the microphone and reaffirmed that he would make it rain dollar dollar bills after all. And when the charity organizers quietly informed all the poor folk that no, actually, they would not be getting cash, things started to head south.

Chen eventually agreed on a compromise. A handful of homeless would receive $300 from Chen himself ... as a photo opportunity, and then they had to give it back. Tired of being treated like playthings attending a three-year-old's fantasy tea party, the guests of honor were ready to revolt. And then Chen started to sing "We Are The World," and security had to evac him because people rushed the stage. Luckily, Chen escaped unharmed, so he still had two good hands to pat himself on the back with.

It's also possible the stage rush was a desperate attempt to get the microphone out of his hand.

Related: Horrifying Things Caused By Shockingly Naive Charities

London's Biggest Charity Gala Was A Sexist Hellscape

In 2018, two Financial Times journalists posed as hostesses to infiltrate the prestigious President's Club gala, which had brought in over 20 million pounds through its charity auctions over the years. That was the only way for these ladies to get in, because the President's Club gala was a men-only affair -- emphasis on "affair." The only women allowed in the building had to be "tall, thin and pretty," wearing short black dresses and black lingerie. And the men were keen on checking.

Prizes included plastic surgery for the donor's aging wives and all-in nights at famed London strip clubs. The mid-gala entertainment even featured several burlesque strip shows. But as long as it's legal and for a good cause, right? Sure, but that doesn't cover the countless acts of sexual harassment the reporters witnessed. Surrounded by drunken slabs of hammy toffs, the hostesses were routinely groped, propositioned, and one was even flashed by a geriatric banker. By midnight, most of the young women had lost all faith in a decent society. Then one millionaire came over and shouted, "I want you to down that glass, rip off your knickers and dance on that table."

After the scandal broke out, the event's sponsored charities refused to accept the sleazy gala's donations, and the debauched night of altruism was shut down in disgrace. This left a lot of bewildered British millionaires to find some other way to assault women for a good cause. Ogling charity softball games, perhaps?

Follow Pauli Poisuo on Facebook and Twitter.

Peter posts his previous articles on his Facebook page as a diversion from donating to fake charities.

E. Reid Ross has a couple books, Nature Is The Worst: 500 Reasons You'll Never Want To Go Outside Again and Canadabis: The Canadian Weed Reader, both available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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