[nagdu] A Message from a Fidelco Volunteer

Tracy Carcione carcione at access.net
Sat Aug 20 14:39:39 UTC 2011

It seems very odd to me that, in times when every non-profit is scrambling
for money, that Fidelco should casually tell long-time supporters that
their donations are no longer welcome.  It also seems odd that the board
would not at least investigate when it seems like the actions of one man
are damaging the reputation of their organization.  I'd think that either
they have, and are satisfied, or the old boy network is doing its worst,
as sometimes happens.
But I'd think, if they're losing donors, they'd drop the guy causing the
perceived problem, guilty or not.

> Dear All,
>     I have frequently referred to correspondence I have received from
> others concerned about the direction of Fidelco. Some believe that I
> exaggerate the concerns, alleging that my criticism of Fidelco is
> designed to, in some way, further my political agenda. For this
> reason, I thought it would be helpful to read what others have written
> on the subject. Pasted below is correspondence I have received from
> one volunteer. I have included the message in its entirety, redacting
> only the individuals names, since I do not have their permission to
> divulge their information. This message was received via email on June
> 30, 2011.
> Mr. Gwizdala:
> We are writing you with regard to your posting and article in the April
> 2011 Braille Monitor.  We are not visually impaired but have been active
> volunteers and donors to the Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation for over 22
> years.  We housed a breed dog, raised a foster pup, volunteered in the
> kennel and puphouse areas and participated in numerous events over the
> years as well as knowing both Charlie and Robbie Kaman.
> We followed your posting and article with interest as we have witnessed
> widespread negative  (in our opinion) change in the organization we loved
> and supported for so many years.  On June 10, 2011, we wrote a letter to
> all of the members of Fidelco's Board of Directors (mailed to their homes)
> outlining several areas of concern. We asked only that the Board undertake
> its own independent research and fact finding within the organization. One
> of the areas of concern was what we perceived to be a deterioration in the
> reputation of Fidelco within the visually-impaired community.  We actually
> enclosed a copy of your original posting and your April 2011 Braille
> Monitor item as one of the exhibits in our letter.
> Please understand that we do not have any personal knowledge of the
> training department, placement decisions or decisions regarding the
> repossession of guide dogs from handlers.  We will tell you however, that
> our letter outlining what we felt were legitimate, documented observations
> and concerns was met with a return certified letter to us from Mr. Russman
> stating that "The Board also has asked me to convey that, based on your
> expressed dissatisfaction with Fidelco, it believes it to be in everyone's
> best interest that you cease all activity with Fidelco including volunteer
> efforts and financial donations."  Until receipt of that letter, {my wife}
> had been spending 1/2 day per week volunteering in the Puppy Raiser
> Department at Mr. Russman's request.
> In our case, what we felt were well-thought-out feedback and concerns
> brought forward in a professional, documented way were summarily dismissed
> by management and the Board of Directors and resulted in our "dismissal"
> as volunteers and donors.  We have personally been approached by
> employees, puppy raisers and those housing breed dogs who will not come
> forward with concerns or questions fearing that their dogs will be taken
> from them.
> In short, Mr. Gwizdala, sadly you could not have made a more valid comment
> than "the Fidelco of 2005 is not the same Fidelco with which we are
> dealing today".  We just thought you should know that unfortunately,  your
> astute observation appears to us to apply across the board within the
> Fidelco organization.  We are greatly saddened by this development.
>     So, there you have it from someone else's perspective. This writer has
> been the victim of retaliation when the only agenda was to ask some
> questions in an effort to improve the organization.
> Fraternally yours,
> Marion Gwizdala
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