Updated March 12, 2015 with a response from I Am My Sister’s Keeper
According to the woman behind I Am My Sister’s Keeper, Bella Beaudreux, the organization is not a scam.
“I got into this because I just wanted to help women who were in trouble,” Beaudreux said. “I never gave anybody information that wasn’t true. I said this is where we are and this is where we want to go.”
Beaudreux first said that individuals applying for jobs filled in their social security number as part of the application. When pressed about the fact that most employers don’t collect social security numbers until the first day of work in order to fill out tax paperwork, Beaudreux paused and then said that maybe her applications didn’t ask for social security numbers after all.
“Then maybe I’m wrong then,” Beaudreux said. “My mind is boggled right now. But I know this: I did nothing wrong. I never even looked at the information.”
Beaudreux said that anyone who filled out an application is welcome to come and pick it up or request that it be shredded. She said that she still feels called to help women who have been abused but doesn’t know whether the safe house will become a reality anytime soon.
“Maybe it won’t be tomorrow; maybe it won’t be a year from now. But I won’t give up,” Beaudreux said.
Beaudreux said she has not collected donations from anyone and never promised payment for attending meetings.
She also said that she is not responsible for the I Am My Sister’s Keeper website incorrectly stating that it was a member of the United Way because she did not build the website. The website has since been taken down.
An organization claiming to be opening a safe house for abused women in St. Louis may be a scam. The Better Business Bureau of St. Louis issued a warning Wednesday about “I Am My Sister’s Keeper.”
A document filed with the Secretary of State shows that a B. Beaudreux registered “I Am My Sister’s Keeper” as the name of a Missouri business on February 13. But the document is not accompanied by registration for a non-profit corporation. It’s not listed as a non-profit with the state or with the I-R-S.
According to Better Business Bureau investigator Bill Smith, Beaudreux told the bureau on February 12 that she was working extensively with an unnamed state agency to start the shelter. The next day her business was filed with the state, but the usual documents accompanying the start of a non-profit have not been filed.
Smith also said Beaudreux claimed to have purchased a building to use for the safe house. But a call to the land owner proved otherwise.
Smith said the bureau began looking into the organization about a month ago, after being contacted by prospective employees of the safe house.
The prospective employees were “given a lot of promises but they weren’t seeing anything come to fruition,” Smith said. “We started doing some research and a lot of things we found out just didn’t make a lot of sense.”
Erica Tompkins was one of the people who contacted the BBB. She said she was hired in December to be a program coordinator for “I Am My Sister’s Keeper” after attending a job fair. She later attended an orientation at a local church, where she filled out tax paperwork listing her social security number.
But when her January 22nd start date came and went without word, Tompkins called the Better Business Bureau and found out “I Am My Sister’s Keeper” was not listed as a charity with United Way or with the state of Missouri.
“Where I thought was a great opportunity at first has been nothing but a horrible experience. And I don’t know from here what to do,” Tompkins said. “I am definitely afraid of fraud, (of people) opening different accounts in my name.”
Smith said the biggest concern right now is what “I Am My Sister’s Keeper” will do with the personal information they have collected. So far the organization appears to have collected little to no funds through donations. A crowdfunding account on Fundly.com has been set up, but no money has been raised.
St. Louis Public Radio reached out to “I Am My Sister’s Keeper,” but requests for comment were not returned.
Follow Camille Phillips on Twitter: @cmpcamille.