Entertainment

Bieb's mom 'upset' with Salvation Army

Chip Martin, QMI Agency

The Salvation Army's Bethesda Centre. (Craig Glover/QMI Agency)

The Salvation Army's Bethesda Centre. (Craig Glover/QMI Agency)

LONDON, ONT. - 

As the Salvation Army prepares to shut its Bethesda Centre in London forever, the shelter's most famous unmarried teenage mother says it didn't have to be this way.

"It's sad. It's upsetting," Pattie Mallette, mother of teen hearthrob Justin Bieber, told QMI Agency Wednesday.

The Army is poised to close the shelter for pregnant young women and their babies Saturday, a fundraising drive having failed to come up with the money to save it.

"I don't understand why they wouldn't extend it (the fundraising deadline) if there were all these solutions and opportunities," Mallette said from her home in Los Angeles.

She and her son both had pledged financial help to keep the doors open at Bethesda.

As a 17-year-old from Stratford, Ont., Mallette stayed for nine months at Bethesda in 1994 when she gave birth to her son.

"I don't understand why there was blame placed on Justin and I when we were just reaching out to help," she said, referring to Salvation Army assertions.

Mallette said she was motivated to speak out by comments attributed to Army officials shortly after they announced the closing would go ahead because fundraising fell short of a $1.5-million goal.

"There was a lot of information there that was incorrect," she said. "I just wanted to set the record straight."

The Army, she said, refused to wait for proceeds from a book chronicling her life story, due for release in September, or funds pledged by Bieber from his recent musical salute to his mother, a song called "Turn to You."

Mallette said she had regular and ongoing conversations with the Army for months and repeatedly asked for an extension of four or five months for money to materialize from her book and Justin's song.

Meanwhile, Army Maj. Pat Phinney said the agency "does not blame anyone for the closure. The fundraising campaign was not successful, so we are moving on with the closure according to the plan that was communicated."

After the decision to close Feb. 1, the Army relented to public outcry and said Bethesda would stay open for three to five years if the $1.5 million could be raised by May 31. Otherwise, the shelter would close June 30.

"As promised, the Salvation Army is in the process of providing refunds to donors who have made that request," Phinney said.

Ironically, Mallette visited Bethesda with the co-author of her book in January while doing research into the place that meant so much in her life.

Days later, she learned the Salvation Army was closing it.

"I was really upset," she recalled, adding aside from research, she wanted to "touch base" with residents of the 18-bed facility on Evergreen Ave.

"I know it meant a lot to me when past residents would come in and talk," she said. "There were a lot of people there, including Pat Phinney, and nobody mentioned to me it would be closing."

Mallette said she'd planned to donate a portion of her book proceeds to Bethesda even before she learned of its closing.

"It was going to be a significant percentage," she said, but no particular dollar amount was projected.

She said she had friction with the Army when it set up a website for fundraising and wouldn't allow her to see the impact of the tweets she was making in support of Bethesda. So, her team set up another one, she said.

The Army said later it was able to establish that only $852 donated to its Bethesda website was attributable to her tweets.

"I have no idea where they came up with that $852 figure," she said. "There were conversations and e-mails, but they said Justin's people 'never talked to us.' I don't think you can get any closer to Justin's people than his mom."

The Save Bethesda group of former residents, employees and supporters says a couple of organizations have stepped forward with a significant donation to create a replacement for Bethesda.

Group spokesperson Sarah Brooks said a new facility "will happen, it's just a matter of time." She predicted details will come in September.

"It's not dependent on Pattie, but if she wants to support it that would be much appreciated," Brooks said.

Mallette admitted she's not in "the loop" on that venture.

"I'd need to look a lot more into it to see if it is something we are able to support," she said. "There is no commitment at this time."

Mallette said her heart goes to out the last group of Bethesda residents, who have to move out and look to other agencies for help.

"The only people who have been truly hurt by this situation are the girls there, so I am glad to see there are some things in the works to help the girls," she said.

chip.martin@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/ChipatLFPress

 

IN MALLETTE'S WORDS:

Written comments about the Bethesda situation:

-- "We begged for the Salvation Army to wait. There were plans and ideas but they refused to wait, so nothing more could be done."

-- "It's disturbing that the focus through all these (newspaper) articles has been to place blame on those who jumped in to help, instead of expressing any real notice for their charitable efforts."

-- "It blew us away that there was no obvious Salvation Army efforts to partner with, or no real campaign of any kind, to raise the money from their end, that we were told of."

-- "There will be proceeds to donate to charity, but it is not possible to donate sales that have not happened yet."

-- "The promises were all real."


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