Second Mile Finding No Support among Other Nonprofits

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January 4, 2012; Source: Patriot-News | How tainted is Second Mile in the wake of the continuing and deepening scandal involving founder Jerry Sandusky? For those readers who really can’t remember, Sandusky is the former Penn State assistant football coach who has been alleged to have sexually abused several young boys entrusted to his care through the charity for at-risk youth he founded, which he is alleged to have used to identify and recruit his victims.

There has been huge blowback from the scandal on Second Mile as an organization, which did just about nothing to monitor or control Sandusky, even after allegations were brought to the attention of some executive staff. In the wake of the revelations, the CEO resigned, charitable donations plummeted, and the organization under the direction of the new CEO launched a reassessment of Second Mile’s future, looking at alternatives such as continuing to operate, giving some of its programs to other nonprofits to run, or dissolving entirely. The decision was supposed to have been announced by the end of 2011, but Second Mile is still thinking—in part because some of the other nonprofits it had hoped would consider taking on some of Second Mile’s programs have pulled out.

According to unnamed sources, the “first- and second-choice charities” Second Mile was considering as managers of some of its programs have declined the opportunity because of the general miasma surrounding anything connected to Second Mile. But a source close to the charity said top officers were meeting to discuss how to move forward after their first- and second-choice charities said they wanted no part in assuming its programs.

The Patriot-News quoted Alan Garner, president of Volunteers of America Pennsylvania, who said, “Their programs by all accounts seem to be excellent . . . [b]ut the situation spans beyond the program itself. We just concluded that we probably shouldn’t continue to pursue that. Certainly, the young people being served are deserving of services, but [we] felt it wasn’t the right time for us.” The Patriot-News also reported the collapse of negotiations between Second Mile and the Centre County Youth Service Bureau, and, unlike those two Pennsylvania-based charities, Second Mile is also apparently talking to a nonprofit from Texas called Arrow Child & Family Ministries, which reportedly has some sort of program activity in Altoona, Pennsylvania.

It looks to us like some charities simply want to steer clear of Second Mile, wary of the association with Sandusky and likelihood of civil suits to be filed by alleged victims naming Second Mile or its program successors as defendants. The prospects for Second Mile’s survival, or even the survival of some of its programs, look very iffy. It is a story that should remind all nonprofits that the alleged misbehavior of individuals in an organization can have reverberations on the organization as a whole.—Rick Cohen