We are so incredibly thankful for the outpouring of support we receive from our community. There is absolute strength in numbers and belonging to such a wonderful community only exemplifies this!
We would like to recap the turn of events and our opinion on these matters. As we were busy planning our first free Thanksgiving Community Dinner we received a letter in the mail from the State of Maine Attorney General’s office. Upon opening the letter it appeared someone had reported us for acting in a manner that we legally have no right to do. We were confused that the letter stated “This office directs you to cease engaging in solicitation as a charitable organization…” We have never advertised that we are a charitable organization. All of the fundraisers we hold are either for an individual who has fallen on tough times due to injury or illness, or for non-profit organizations that need our help.
So there are a few issues that proliferated this letter from the Attorney General’s office, the first being someone reported us for breaking the law and was either misinformed or purposefully lying to instigate us to be forced to halt our charitable efforts. It is incredibly sad that there are people who put their interests above all others in this community we have helped.
Secondly, the Attorney Generals office was just doing their job, There are Maine statutes that it appeared we were not in compliance with because of an instigators report and these statutes were written to help protect the people of Maine from being bilked from our hard earned money by causes that don’t actually benefit those in need. Our Attorney General, Janet Mills visited Laura personally on a Saturday to apologize for the harshness of the letter and to let us know the form letter will no longer be used! We thank Janet for taking the time out of her weekend and personally coming to see us! She had no knowledge of this letter before it was sent and is now aware that we and others may interpret the letter as harsh. We were not visited by our Governor, but his wife Ann LePage did comment to a Representative on our facebook feed, Mr. Timberlake, that her husband would be contacting him. We’re not sure why he wouldn’t contact us, but he hasn’t and we are already working with our representative Lori Fowle and Senator Colleen Lachowicz on a fix to solve this issue for other small businesses that do not have the resources we do. We also have Matt Pouliot’s support in this matter. We will be working very closely with Lori, Colleen, and Matt to amend legislation in order to streamline the process of helping our communities while still operating as for-profit businesses.
Receiving this letter from the AG’s office was also our “tipping point” We have been considering forming a charitable arm of the Red Barn for quite some time in order to build more capacity and grow the momentum. Our next step is to file for a 501(c)3 organization so we can operate as a charitable organization and contribute even more to the growing needs of our community. We are thankful that we received this letter because we now realize that we must go forward with this endeavor now. We also realize many of our friends who are small business owners do not have these resources so we will be following through with the work with the help of Representative Fowle and Senator Lachowicz with the support of Representative Pouliot and Senator Katz. Any other political commentary on this issue is not with our knowledge and we will not be used as a tool to boost any political opinion, especially by officials who have not been in direct contact with us regarding how we go forward.
We are also working diligently on our 501(c)3 paperwork and filing with the Secretary of State to operate as a charitable organization in the state of Maine. Mr. Mahaleris from Senator Collins office has offered to help us navigate the expediting process of filing our paperwork. We have an amazing board of volunteers lined up who are leaders in community service, including Laura Benedict, Roger Pomerleau, Chuck Mahaleris, Colleen Lachowicz and Maeghan Maloney. We plan to do some amazing fundraising events once we have our non-profit status back from the IRS which will enable us to increase our capacity to support the needs of our community.
We will keep everyone updated as we move forward and we wish to thank everyone for your support!