Where's The Money in Those Buckets Going?

You've seen charity workers on the street collecting money at traffic lights, but how do you know where your dollar is going?

You're not the only one who's wondered.

Philly residents called Lu Ann Cahn and the NBC10 Investigators to check out a local charity that promises to prevent teen suicide.

Dean Schoenewald, the head of Up To Par, says he's not hiding anything.

But, some people wonder if the money collected by his foundation is going right into his pocket.

"Some say? I love some say," said Schoenewald during an interview with NBC10 investigative reporter Lu Ann Cahn. "I'm passionate about trying to stop the tragedy of suicide."

Schoenewald acknowledges he pays most of the girls to ask drivers for dollars along the side of the road. The teens make about $11 an hour to fill plastic buckets with cash.

Here's their pitch to drivers:

"We're Up To Par foundation," says one girl to a driver stopped at a light. 

"What's that?" replies the driver. "We go to schools and talk about suicide try to prevent it," says the girl.

Later, the girl tells us she's never been to a school to talk about suicide.

"We also produce 30 minute assemblies for the schools," claimed Schoenewald.

When asked to identify one school at which his foundation had held an assembly he said: "Okay, we've only done one and I'm not sure which one exactly that is."

Shoenewald says he co-founded the Up To Par foundation in Melissa, Texas a couple years ago. This is his latest colorful passion.

In the early 80's, he was an Atlantic City TV weatherman. He was also known as Bird Brain, the Eagles unofficial mascot.

He says he came back to Philly because there are more people to ask for donations. "It funds these flyers, trips out to schools and whatever the school asks for," say Schoenewald while holding up a pamphlet.
He says he's passed out over 40,000 flyers. His workers are often on the Roosevelt Boulevard and at area golf courses.

And it's his neighbors that asked the NBC10 Investigators to look into Up To Par.

They've asked not to be identified. They say the girls Schoenewald hires are at his Northeast Philly rowhome all weekend.

"So where's all this money going?" asks the neighbor. "Looks like it comes in buckets into the house."

Police confirm they've been called to the house several times for minor disturbances.

Schoenewald says his foundation is an open book.

"As a public charity, that's all public record," says Schoenewald when asked how much money his charity brings in. "The entire public can see them on our website."

However, there are no financial records on the website.
When questioned again about whether all the information on the foundation website is true he says," It's a fact."

Here's a fact: Up To Par is not a registered charity, even though the website says it is.

"Well they [site visitors] can take our tax ID number, which is prominently displayed on our website, and check that," claimed Schoenewald.

We did check. The number shows Up To Par is registered as a non-profit, but the IRS says it's not a tax-exempt charity. Which means, if you make a donation, you can't deduct it. 

The attorney for Up To Par says it's not unusual for non-profits to struggle as they try to get started. But, Up To Par claims it's America's leading teen suicide prevention organization.

"I feel sad and it's concerning," says the neighbor.

Vicki Zittle is a volunteer for the Yellow Ribbon Campaign, which is one of the nation's leading teen prevention suicide programs.

She questions what Up To Par is doing. 
"He's not using any…recommended suicide programs," says Zittle.

Now, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) is taking a closer look at Up To Par.

"Websites can be deceiving because a website is cheap," says Andrew Good from the BBB. "There's real questions about all the methods of operating here."

Questions about where the money goes.

Back on the street Schoenewald says, "You haven't yet been able to point out one thing on our website that's not a fact. But, I'll be happy to come to your studio and to answer more question when you've done more research."

Late Thursday afternoon, the NBC10 Investigators received a letter from Up To Par's attorney saying we had refused to look at the financial records.

This is not true. We asked for records. We called to Up To Par's treasurer and accountant.

Even Thursday night, we asked to come look at Up To Par's books, and were refused.

Up To Par's attorney Max Kennerly did issue this statement:

"The Up To Par Foundation invited NBC 10 to review their records at the interview, was declined, and did not receive another request for the records until this evening. The foundation has complied with all applicable IRS regulations: since the foundation had no income in 2007, it did not report, and its 2008 reports are not due to the IRS until May 15, when they will become public. The foundation invites all of NBC 10's viewers to visit the website then, read the reports, and decide for themselves."


PDF: Letter from Dean Schoenewald, head of Up to Par, to NBC10 regarding our report.

PDF: Report from Up to Par's attorney regarding our report.

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