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post #1 of 4 (permalink) Old 08-26-2010, 09:42 AM Thread Starter
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Advice needed badly!

Hello everyone,

I'm new here and signed up to see if I can find something out. First, a little background:

A woman named Doris Buffet (sister of billionaire Warren) created a foundation to donate HER millions to the average person for needs that they have no means to obtain on their own (search for "Sunshine Lady Foundation"). She has gotten people cars to get to work, scholarships or donations for tuition for those who want or need to go to college, just a variety of things. She vows to continue giving away her millions until there is literally nothing left (I don't really believe that, where would she live and find food?)

Anyway, many years ago I met a woman (around 1997 I think), and she had just been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. At first, we were both still able to work, but after a few years her disease progressed to the point where the companies in her line of work got word of it, and it was starting to affect her ability to continue anyway, so she got "blacklisted" and nobody would hire her anymore due to the nature of the MS. Soon she was eligible for disability income to the tune of about $1130/mo., and I continued working a decent job. I had to go out of town a lot, and upon returning one day, I discovered that she had had a "spell" with the MS. Upon trying to do a simple thing - go to the grocery store - she lost feeling in her legs and was unable to walk once home. Luckily, some honest young guys helped her into the house, but she had forgotten the code to the alarm and had set it off! She had also fallen down and broke her new glasses. By this time I had moved her in with me to make life easier on both of us, and we wanted to get married but were informed that she would lose her benefits as I would have to take over as provider and head of household, and we really could not afford that.

After a while longer, she got even worse with things like incontinence and arthritis in the back (VERY painful). We got an old wheelchair for the really bad times, and a walker, cane, just whatever she needed to assist her in getting around. Soon, I was designated full-time caregiver and left my job as it was cheaper than me working and giving my whole check to someone else who may not be there all the time anyway. At that point we could have gotten married and it would not affect the benefits, as I was now her caregiver and did not (COULD not) work anymore, but things were going along just fine and we couldn't really afford to get married with the cost of a license, someone to do the ceremony and sign the certificate and file it, pay for gas etc., not to mention the fact that she can barely walk and might have problems trying to coordinate all that.

Now the problem:

We had a water heater that got old and fell partially through the floor. It had a leak we didn't know about and rotted through, now only held up by a beam (thank GOD for at least that), but it doesn't work anymore and has destroyed the floor throughout the closet and master bath which is right beside it. We knew it would be a costly repair, and had faucets and other problems which needed repair as well. So, we contacted Sunshine Lady. They sent back a letter telling us to get copies of income, bank statements, titles and deeds, letters of verification from acquaintances, and so on. I got all that together and finally found a contractor who quoted over $6000 for the entire job. We copied that estimate as well since it was part of the paperwork they had asked for, sent it all in intact and waited. After what seemed an eternity, they finally called us asking all kinds of questions which we answered to the best of our ability and recollection, and all seemed like it was going along well. Then, after they talked to the contractor we got another call from them. This time, they wanted her to get a letter from the doctor explicitly saying that she needed around the clock care and a live-in caregiver. Not too difficult, in fact we're waiting on it to come in the mail as I write this. Now here's the real kicker:

They also want us to up and get married, sending along the certificate with the doctor's letter! They acted like they won't help us if we don't. Now, I don't have anything against getting married and all that, but we simply don't have the money to do it here at the end of the month. The license itself runs $50 in this state, then there's gasoline (and all we have is an old gas hog clunker), we have to get someone to perform the ceremony (I haven't even looked into that cost yet) and file the paperwork. Undoubtedly this will cost even more, and right now we barely have enough money to eat on the rest of the month (until the 3rd, when she gets "paid" again), much less a spare $50+ laying around to cover this. I was married once before to a con-artist who found out I didn't have anything to get, so we divorced real quick after a still-born child and everything. So, I find out that I need the paperwork from THAT divorce as well to go down and get the license (assuming we could afford it anyway) That was about 15 years ago, I've moved a couple of times and have no idea where all that could be, if I still have it. If I couldn't find it, I could likely get some kind of copy from the deeds office (for yet another fee, no doubt), but why should I have to worry about that now?

Bottom line, can they really go that far into our personal lives and FORCE us to get married before they'll help us? And if we can't get married right now (can't even BORROW the money, nobody in the family has it either), will we be able to take legal action (like a lawsuit), especially after all we've already done to appease them? Do we just have to accept it if they refuse to help on the grounds that we couldn't get married?

I don't get it. We have NO money, otherwise we wouldn't have bothered them in the first place to get help on fixing this water heater and plumbing. They have copies of the bank account when she had less than $1 or $4 at the end of the month, so they should know we can't afford to get married right now. Any advice?

G. Morris

Last edited by gmorris; 08-26-2010 at 09:46 AM.
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post #2 of 4 (permalink) Old 08-26-2010, 10:22 AM
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Join Date: May 2010
Location: Florida
Posts: 1,484
Re: Advice needed badly!

I'm not sure if they can require you to be/get married or not. I would think if it was a requirement, it would be rather prominently noted somewhere. But, as a charity, they may be able to make that requirement. If they do, I don't know that you would have any legal standing to sue them over it. I don't think discrimination laws apply in quite the same way. Plus, to sue would cost you money as well, unless you could get a lawyer to take it on contingency, and I don't know that one would for a case like this.

It is a tough position you are in. Have you looked into any local charities, churches, etc. that may be able to assist you without the requirement of marriage? I would check into that. You may not only have better luck in getting assistance to begin with, but you may get more assistance.

I sincerely wish you both the best of luck and hope that things improve for you soon.
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post #3 of 4 (permalink) Old 08-26-2010, 12:47 PM
Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: upstate NY
Posts: 828
Re: Advice needed badly!

what state are you in?

I know that in NY, there are TONS of opportunities for changing out and repairing homes for free.

My mom just got approved for two of them, she had 15 lighbulbs replaced, a refridgerator, a freezer, and another program is coming into to completely re-insulate her home, add in a bathroom and dryer vent, and fix repairs that are needed as well as hooking up a different water heater...for free, just to make her home more safe and energy efficient.

My best suggestion would be to look into opportunities like those also, they come in, do an assessment, and work from there to fix what is needed, You may be able to find a loophole through one of those types of charities if this one doesn't pan out.
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post #4 of 4 (permalink) Old 08-26-2010, 01:46 PM
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Re: Advice needed badly!

Sunshine Lady is a private, family foundation. They can pretty much set their own rules.

As a foundation, they have probably forwarded these rules to the IRS and state of incorporation, both of whom would have reviewed them. once in place, they have to follow those rules.

If you do not like the rules, you don't play their game. I run a small scholarship fund, have set rules as to who is eligible for a scholarship and have to live with those rules, even though there could be someone else in need for scholarship money who may not fit my pre-set criteria.
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