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Food bloggers' fundraising effort leaves a bad taste

BloggersWere you among the hundreds of people who donated money to Bloggers Without Borders, which ultimately raised well over $70,000 on behalf of New York food blogger Jennifer Perillo?

If so, you face a deadline today to ask for your money back.

The deadline caps a controversy that has been roiling the online food blogging community for months, replacing warm friendship with harsh words, hurt feelings and recriminations. This much, however, seems to be clear:

Earlier this summer, the online food community rallied to find a way to help Perillo, who writes the popular blog "In Jennie's Kitchen." Her husband, Mikey, died suddenly and unexpectedly, leaving behind Perillo and their two young daughters.

Bloggers Without Borders, a fledgling nonprofit, offered to wrangle donations and host online auctions on her behalf. All involved were astonished when the money began pouring in, with $76,000 raised in all.

The funds were ultimately earmarked as college seed money for Perillo's daughters. But that sparked a backlash online, with some questioning the need for such a fundraising effort. Amid the controversy, Perillo has refused to touch the money.

"I don't want anyone to think I am ungrateful," she said, "but if just .01% of the people gave money because they believed that I was in a dire financial situation, then it's just not right."

As a result, Bloggers Without Borders co-founder Maggy Keet said that all who donated or held an auction were sent an email last month giving donors a Dec. 10 deadline to ask for a full refund. The overwhelming majority have not requested it, she said. The money will be used for other charitable campaigns, especially those benefitting women and children, she said.

"There was a need, people in our community wanted to give, and we just created a way for everyone to do that," Keet said. "It's really sad how it has turned out."

For her part, Perillo says she feels humbled and blessed to know that so many people -- so many strangers -- were willing to open their wallets. She says, however, that the feeling is bittersweet.

"It breaks my heart all over again that some had the impression that my husband left me and my girls destitute," she said. "My husband lived a life of honor and integrity and left us very well taken care of. He provided for us. He provided for his family."

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--Rene Lynch
Twitter / renelynch

Image: Bloggers Without Borders

 
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