WASHINGTON -- In the wake of Rep. Paul Ryan's embarrassing soup kitchen photo-op last week, the organization that runs the facility tells The Huffington Post that donors have begun pulling their money out of the Youngstown, Ohio charity.
Ryan may have suffered a few late-night jokes, but the fallout for the soup kitchen appears to be far more bruising. Brian J. Antal, president of the Mahoning County St. Vincent De Paul Society, confirmed that donors have begun an exodus in protest over Ryan's embarrassment. The monetary losses have been big. "It appears to be a substantial amount," Antal said. "You can rest assured there has been a substantial backlash."
Antal says he can't give an actual dollar amount. "I can't say how much [in] donations we lost," he said. "Donations are a private matter with our organization."
Antal's charity represents the kind of organization that conservative Republicans might champion. But that was before the Ryan incident went viral a few days ago. According to The Washington Post, Antal said that the moment should never have happened. He told the newspaper that the photo-op was not authorized and that the campaign had “ramrodded their way” inside.
Ryan supporters have now targeted Antal and his soup kitchen, Antal said, including making hundreds of angry phone calls. Some members of Antal's volunteer staff have had to endure the barrage as well, he said. "The sad part is a lot of [the callers] want to hide behind anonymity," he said, adding that if someone leaves their name and number he has tried to return their call. In addition to phone calls, people have posted a few choice words on the charity's Facebook wall, including statements like "I hope you lose your tax [sic] emempt status," Anyone who is thinking about donations to you should think twice" and "Shame on you Brian Antal!"
On the phone with HuffPost, Antal seemed worn out by all the vitriol. "Honesty, I really don't need any more attention," he said. "I really just want this to go away."
Antal said doesn't understand why donors would take out their frustration over the incident on those who can't afford to pay for their own meals. "I'm a volunteer,' he said. "I receive zero compensation. Withholding donations is only going to hurt the over 100,000 we serve annually."
To make a donation to the Mahoning County St. Vincent De Paul Society, money can be sent to P.O. Box 224, Youngstown, Ohio 44501. Donations also may be made online. Online donors should specify that their donations are for the Youngstown, Ohio, soup kitchen.