The Power and the Glory

“Food Brings Hope founder Forough Hosseini informed Pierson Town Council members Thursday she will be pulling the organization’s nutrition and educational programs from northwest Volusia County.

The council rejected a proposed low-cost lease of space in a town owned building last week in an episode that demonstrated a culture clash and left people on both sides suggesting a negotiation doesn’t appear to be in the works.

“By voting down the lease agreement, versus tabling the agenda item as recommended by your town attorney, we realized you are not interested in working with (Food Brings Hope),” Hosseini wrote in a letter to the Town Council. “We understand and appreciate that it’s your town and you know what is best for your community.”

–Reporter Mark Harper, writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Food Brings Hope to pull programs from Pierson,” Monday, December 5, 2022

Look, I need to preface this preachy screed by telling you: I’m not the most philanthropic person you know.

Like my tightwad father before me, I believe in the adage, “Charity begins at home” – which means I am a cheap bastard who only begrudgingly bails out my own ungrateful family, let alone perfect strangers. . .

Besides, while I can regularly pay my sizeable bar tab (which is no small feat), all of my money is tied up in what chartered accountant’s call “liabilities.”

Which is why I have such a soft spot in my beat-up old heart for those successful individuals and entities in our community who give of themselves and their fortunes for the common good – and why I have been so terribly disappointed in the unfortunate (and avoidable) rift that developed between one of our areas most generous charities and the small town of Pierson.

At the end of the day, Food Brings Hope made good on its threat, took its football, and went home after the strapped townsfolk of the rural West Volusia community had the abject temerity to deny the philanthropic arm of the omnipotent House of Hosseini lease space in the Town Center.

Late last week, FBH founder Forough Hosseini fired off a snarky note to the recalcitrant villagers announcing she is pulling some $250,000 in charitable resources from the community. 

That’ll teach ‘em. 

In my view, this became a David and Goliath powerplay – a shoving match between a tiny town of 1,491 and Volusia’s undisputed High Panjandrums of Political Power – when FBH sought to lease several rooms in the Town Center after space ran out in a local mission owned by the Catholic Diocese of Orlando.

As I understand it (and I’m not sure I do), under preliminary terms, the town would have been responsible for monthly utility bills and insurance coverage on the space leased by FBH (for $1 per year for the next decade) – which some citizens saw as a recurring drain on tight public resources.

Ultimately, the elected officials rightfully felt Food Brings Hope’s monthly nut was prohibitive in a community with a per capita income of just $20,000.

In November, things turned heated when Pierson officials balked at the lease arrangement and the sharp-elbowed FBH attorney Nika Hosseini sent a shot across the town’s bow by threatening to pull charitable programs out of the community:

“If the town would like Food Brings Hope to route every call that we get from your residents to the town itself, we’re happy to do that,” she said. “… If you don’t want these services, we will allocate the quarter of a million dollars to other jurisdictions that are actively asking for them.”

And that is exactly what they did.

According to a recent frontpage story in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Forough Hosseini left open the possibility of returning services to needy children in Pierson – so long as the townsfolk are willing to prostrate themselves – hat in hand – and ask for them:

“Please note that we are true to our mission of eradicating hunger amongst children in our community; so, if you start a food pantry and would like us to bring groceries for the townspeople to distribute, please let us know,” Hosseini wrote. “If the residents are in need of cleaning products, diapers, etc. to distribute, we are happy to deliver. If a storm happens and there are leaks and your residents need tarps again, please contact us. If school supplies are needed throughout the year, we will be happy to provide.”

Yeah.  That’s called L’esprit de l’escalier – the perfect comeback that occurs to you only after reaching the bottom of the staircase, that you might have said to overwhelm your opponent in an argument. 

Happens to me all the time.

But I’m not running a successful charity who has assumed responsibility for feeding underprivileged families in the most vulnerable small town in Volusia County.

That’s like taking in a puppy, then abandoning it when he can’t substantially contribute to his own upkeep.

Now, in a weird twist on the Law of Reciprocity – a social phenomenon where people feel obliged to give back to someone who gave them something – Food Brings Hope storms out of the needy community in a snooty snit, weaponizing the charity by withholding services from innocent children who have no influence over the town’s difficult decision.

That’s unfortunate.    

Frankly, its cruel.

In my view, this unfortunate brouhaha has nothing to do with bringing much-needed food stability and literacy resources to those who desperately need these services in Northwest Volusia – and everything to do with power and control.

And when you are the biggest kid in the sandbox, it never hurts to bring an obstinate elected official or two to heel as an example to the others. . .

If the leadership of FBH were truly altruistic, wild horses couldn’t prevent the powerful non-profit – which is backed by the enormous resources of the Hosseini Family Foundation – from feeding the hungry in Volusia’s most challenged community – a foundation which, euphemistically, could fund the Pierson programs, rental, and overhead in perpetuity from the spare change found in its gilded couch cushions. . .

The fact is, it is one thing to fill a very real need in a challenged community like Pierson – it is quite another to become a burden on limited public resources while touting your virtuous deeds to those who simply cannot afford to help – then taking personal offense when those responsible for stewarding scarce public funds are forced to look the gift horse in the mouth. 

Perhaps in the true spirit of selfless and philanthropic giving, Ms. Hosseini and the powerful leadership of Food Brings Hope – who are actively soliciting private donations by showcasing their many good deeds in The Daytona Beach News-Journal this Holiday Season – could find their way to reconsider – allow the citizens of Pierson to maintain their civic pride and sense of independence – and use their resources and influence to seek an alternate means of funding a permanent presence in the community.

I hope so.

Sometimes being the bigger person means putting ego aside – remembering what is important – and what is not.

9 thoughts on “The Power and the Glory

  1. “If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous he will not bite you. This is the principle difference between a dog and a man.” – Mark Twain

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  2. Since we are being snarky I would suggest there are a lot of hungry starving children in 🇮🇷 Iran….
    And that the Hoessini family could fly their whole team in their PRIVATE Jet and make a lot of children happy. And they could add the endeavor to their paid subscription to the News Journal!
    I don’t know I’m just asking….

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  3. Think Nascar and Speedway should ask what they can do in Pierson as we give them all the money for their private properties as they sold Amazon all that land and all the money we gave to One Daytona.This time I am on Moris side as he does lots more for our community than Nascar.Nascars time to put up some bucks for people with no homes on the beach

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  4. Sad! Maybe she will get a visit from the three ghosts of xmass! Gos to show u wealth doesnt buy everything. I’ll pray for her and her sad life.

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  5. There was some mis-information in the news journal article. Right out of the chute, the attorney for FBH threatened the citizens of Pierson with a state that if you do not want this, we will take our money and go home.
    Needless to say the citizens in Pierson do not take threats very well. The sudden inhaling of breath from the audience was audible, to say the least.
    It was even stated that “We do not pay rent for any building we occupy”, from the CEO of FBH.
    After a near 20 minute dissertation from the FBH, the citizens took their turns.
    How do I know this, I was there, and yes I spoke.
    I was introduced to the audience as the past County Chair of Volusia County, Which I am, and I do have a little insight into what was going on, and I pointed out the flaws, shall we say in the lease agreement.
    1. This was a lease for after school programs, as specified in the agreement, nowhere did it say anything about food banks, soup lines, or anything about adult education programs. So why did they need a cafeteria?
    2. 1 dollar a year for ten years sets a precedence, which I stated I would gladly pay 2 dollars a year for the adjoining classrooms, for ten years , what is good for one is good for all.
    3. I would also require that the city holds the insurance, pays the power bill (especially with the cost rising) and also pay for the liquid gold, or so it is priced, water and sewer usage. Once again good for one, good for all.
    From a humanitarian point of view, this is a great organization, they do good work where they are needed, but from a business point of view, this is a loosing situation from the leaser.
    I did suggest that the hold a work shop in the sunshine, and discuss this issue with FBH, and change the lease so that it would benefit all parties. Apparently FBH does not want to do this, and will withdraw all the assistance that they have been giving in the local area.
    Basically, making those in need suffer, and have to go with out.
    Shame on them., but that is FBH’s choice, and they will have to deal with the repercussions.
    So the Citizens were not objected to the program, we just want the lease to be what they were actually going to do (the omission of this was suspect at best), equitable for the city, and not be another burden on the tax payers of the Pierson area, like the multi million dollar homeless shelter on international speedway boulevard.

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  6. It is a shame that more discussion wasn’t had on how the town and FBH might partner on the financial arrangement to the benefit of both sides and those served. For example, the town might help Food Brings Hope in finding property the organization could simply buy outright. Real estate is an attractive investment for non-profits as well as a further commitment to the communities in which they do their work. And, FBH already owns the property at 1400 Richmond Ave., Daytona Beach so it seems to be within their approved policies to acquire property. Another idea would be a joint grant application with the town? FBH is a stand alone non-profit under the IRS rules so it has the ability to accept gifts from banks, foundations, state and local governments, individuals and others. The town does not have this authority or 501c3 status as it is called. FBH already has a strong track record in fundraising. With this reputation, it could be the fiscal agent for a joint application in which the town could also receive reasonable reimbursement for its space and overhead services. But, FBH would need to be open to that model with some sort of a memorandum of understanding between the parties.

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