Group’s $1.3 mil. raised in donations prompted GoFundMe to intervene
NASSAU, BAHAMAS- HeadKnowles Co-Founder Lia Head has announced her separation from the well-known non-profit organization (NPO) in The Bahamas, citing “certain measures to defame my name and reputation” among the reasons for her departure.
“Over, the last week, I have been disheartened by certain measures to defame my name and reputation as a Bahamian whose only goal has been to assist those devastated from natural disasters,” wrote Head, who said as a Bahamian living in Orlando, Florida, it has been her role to secure donations and partnerships, global communications and coordinating logistics for HeadKnowles from the U.S.
“I’ve tried very hard over this time to ensure that I satisfied all requests made of me and I am really disappointed that we are on different paths now.
“My goal remains the same since day one, which is loyalty and assistance to any and all Bahamians and residents affects by Hurricane Dorian or any other natural disaster.”
In the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, the HeadKnowles raised over $1.3 million on the crowdsourcing website gofundme.com, a figure that prompted GoFundMe to request that the group satisfy paperwork related to how the funds were raised and ensure compliance with the IRS.
In a statement announcing the split, Head said all requests were satisfied and the funds collected through GoFundMe has been, and will continue to be released and turned over to the local branch of HeadKnowles headed by co-founder Gina Knowles.
However, Head said as agreed with co-founder Gia Knowles, a request has been submitted for the GoFundMe HeadKnowles Emergency account to close.
In a separate statement, Knowles said the group and its work to bring relief to those in need cannot be “distracted at this crucial time”.
She said disasters and times of crisis bring out the “best and the worst in people” and while some get on the ground and work in the trenches to bring relief, others “often get distracted by the fame that comes with the morbid fascination that people have with death and devastation”.
“I have always been in the former group, working tirelessly to make a difference in the lives of my fellowmen,” Knowles said. “Hurricane Dorian, though not the first hurricane I’ve worked, has proven to be the most intense and biggest in a number of ways. The sheer magnitude of assistance needed over two of the larger Islands in The Bahamas and the logistics required to work intimately with numerous local and international relief organizations, NGOs and NPOs has stretch all of us to another level.
“The generous outpouring of financial aid, volunteer help and rescue teams has been at a level greater than we have ever experienced before and we are truly grateful to each and everyone of you that have helped.
Knowles added that after the group was recognized as Not-For-Profit Organization, it contracted a certified accounting firm to scrutinize its account, donations, and the GoFundMe set. She said the group intends to provide a full accounting of all pledges and donations received.
HeadKnowles, which began on Facebook in 2015, became an instrumental network of volunteers and coordinators assisting impacted residents in the aftermath of Hurricanes Joaquin, Matthew and Irma.
HeadKnowles has continued those efforts with its vast network of partners in the private sector following the devastating blow dealt by Hurricane Dorian on September 1-3.
Within 24 hours after the group created itsDorian relief account of GoFundMe, it had raised more than $80,000 of its then $1 million.
Head also thanked everyone who donated.
As it relates to the way forward, she said, “After much deliberation with my team, it has become our decision to focus our efforts on building global relations, bringing much-needed awareness and assistance to The Bahamas to ensure the rebuilding and restoration of our beautiful country.
“My network continues to reach out to me and I am grateful for their support.
“Bahamians, I remain committed to you. I have refused to step into the arena and lower my standards with those who question my integrity.
“Instead, I will be using all of my energy and efforts to support organizations such as BAARK Bahamas, Our Grand Bahama, Abaco — The Rebuild Fund and other as they come. I look forward to continually service you. Stay tuned.”