How "The Millionaires Club" Grinches Stole Christmas: Imagining A New Hershey Dawn
This Christmas, throughout America, increasing numbers of needy children will do without.
They won't have fancy toys or pretty clothes under Christmas trees. Many will have little food or heat.
Their bleak schools will lack funds for academics, let alone athletics or creative programs.
Parents of 16 million poverty-level children will endure another year of seeing the Christmas morning disappointment in their children's faces.
1.6 million children will be homeless.
In a nation with a battered economy and evaporated child welfare funds, the poorest children feel it most -and most of all, they feel it at Christmas.
But one group of greedy Grinches will be insulated from all of this. Indeed, they will be lavishing presents on themselves and their loved ones, or perhaps taking fancy holiday vacations, paid for, in part, by needy kids.
We of Protect The Hersheys' Children, Inc. (PHC) call these Grinches "The Millionaires Club;" that is, individuals who have each amassed one million dollars or more in total pay from membership on the board of the Milton Hershey School Trust -the world's largest child welfare charity with assets totaling nearly $9 billion.
The Hershey charity's stewards, through their part-time board service, have boosted their own pay to these fantastic sums from funds that would otherwise go to our nation's poorest children -children who again will do without this Christmas.
Nor are fat pay packages all: these board members similarly squandered a fortune of child welfare money on dubious uses. The follies include a luxury golf course ($17 million), a reckless housing experiment ($40 million), unnecessary renovation of a luxury hotel (according to a breach of fiduciary duty lawsuit filed by a former MHS board member) ($70 million), and more.
While these Grinches profited handsomely and squandered charitable money, Pennsylvania public officials, primarily Governor Tom Corbett, turned a blind eye. Corbett served as Attorney General for six of the most egregious years, before being pressured into launching an investigation. More than two years later, that inquiry remains open and not one penny of restitution has been made.
To highlight this travesty, PHC has compiled the following "Millionaires Club" membership list. It consists of current MHS board members along with former board members Tony Colistra (now MHS President) and LeRoy Zimmerman (a Corbett political ally):
"The Millionaires Club"
Name Cumulative Total
1. Robert Cavanaugh $2,741,199
2. LeRoy Zimmerman $2,649,988
3. James Nevels $2,515,259
4. Tony Colistra $1,550,068
5. Joseph Senser $1,068,583
6. James Mead $1,064,746
7. Velma Redmond $1,032,026
Notes: Figures are as reported in MHS Forms 990 for all years of service on all Hershey boards, including for-profit subsidiaries. Totals will rise for all but Mr. Zimmerman and Dr. Colistra as future pay is added. Dr. Colistra is also being paid an MHS President's salary that averages over $500,000 annually, for a current salary total of $1,576,286 and a board fee/salary grand total of $3,126,354.
But dollar figures alone do not convey the MHS board's sense of "la vida loca." The following photo helps illustrate this, and was taken by "Millionaires Club" members to commemorate the hotel renovations mentioned above. The photo was reportedly staged by current MHS board chair Robert Cavanaugh, who succeeded LeRoy Zimmerman this January:
"Millionaires Club" Grinches pose at the entrance of Hotel Hershey, or "ZIMM'S PALACE," the luxury hotel where they regularly stay, all expenses paid. The photo commemorates completion of $70 million in renovations. L to R (Total Hershey Compensation In Parentheses): James Mead ($1+ Million), Joseph Senser ($1+ Million), Robert Cavanaugh ($2.7+ Million), LeRoy Zimmerman ($2.65+ Million), Velma Redmond ($1+ Million), James Nevels ($2.5+ Million).
PHC has fought for years to end MHS board abuses, self-enrichment, bullying of frontline staff, and mistreatment of MHS children. We have persevered despite Pennsylvania oversight official indifference, campaigns to marginalize us, and worse.
But a Christmas miracle may be underway this year, inspiring hope of a positive outcome after all. For in January, a new Pennsylvania Attorney General, Kathleen Kane, will assume office and be empowered to reform the Hershey charity definitively.
While six decades of wrongdoing can never be undone, the future can still be brighter at a charity with the potential to save children's lives as nowhere else possible.
42 years ago, John Lennon invited people of all faiths to imagine a better world.
This holiday season, we ask everyone to reflect on this and join us in imagining a better Hershey trust -one that uses $9 billion of child welfare funds impeccably, is managed by our nation's leading child welfare professionals on a volunteer charitable board, and deploys all its resources strictly on proven programs, solely to help needy kids, and in a manner that saves at-risk children as never before.
Or, to paraphrase John Lennon's song, imagine a world in which more needy kids have clothes and proper education, more parents can send their children to safe schools, more children have toys at Christmas, and more children have proper homes. It's not that hard to do, if you try.
Blessed holidays to all of you.
Very truly yours,
Protect The Hersheys' Children, Inc.
Ric Fouad Ken Brady George W. Cave
MHS Alumnus MHS Alumnus MHS Alumnus of the Year
Linda Remsburg Bob Chalmers Charles E. Hill Harry Chalmers
Concerned PA Citizen MHS Alumnus MHS Alumnus MHS Alumnus
For more information please visit www.protecthersheychildren.org.