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MADISON, Wis. - A nonprofit organization that promised free pet food to economically-challenged Americans has closed down.
Pet Food Stamps, Inc. was featured on hundreds of television stations, including national broadcasts on Fox News, CNN, CBS and ABC, when it was created in spring 2013. Toward the end of that year how its founder, Marc Okon, said he'd been overwhelmed with applications for help and could not raise enough money to follow through on what was promised.
At the time, Okon said he raised $65,000 to handle the 175,000 to 200,000 Americans who asked for help. Okon said there were 15,000 voicemails and nearly 100,000 emails from applicants that were not returned.
The New York Attorney General's Office reported numerous consumer complaints were filed against Pet Food Stamps, Inc. and that an investigation was underway.
Okon resigned from the organization in April 2014, turning control over to Gregg Sullivan, who posted on the nonprofit's Facebook page Dec. 31 that it was closing down.
"It is with profound sadness and regret that I have the (sic) inform you that the Board of Directors of Pet Food Stamps, along with my agreement has elected to discontinue the program," he wrote. "Despite my determined efforts to save the program for the people who started it and for the people who need it I was not able to stop the relentless negativity that stems from problems existing from long before I agreed to come on board to try to help out."
Lynne Homan, of Janesville, applied for help in spring 2013, shortly after hearing the story about Pet Food Stamps. Her husband was self-employed and battling cancer; she figured she could use the help feeding their three dogs.
She sent in a copy of her driver's license, and her government food stamp acceptance letter and waited for a response. When she did not hear back she became worried about her personal information.
"We never did hear from the pet food stamp people," she wrote in a recent email. "It was a good idea whose time hasn't come I guess."
Sullivan posted pictures of a professional shredding company that he wrote took care of applicants' materials. Donations, he said, were either returned to senders or used to provide pet food to applicants.
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