Monday, September 17, 2018

Whatever Happened to the French Benevolent Society? (Part 2)

For two and a half years, I have been trying to unravel the mystery of what happened to the French Benevolent Society. Read Part 1 here.

Most sources refer to the entity that founded the former French Hospital simply as the French Benevolent Society. In one of my older books, the French version of the FBS' name - Societé Française de Bienfaisance Mutuelle de Los Angeles - appears, interchangeably with its English counterpart.

Thanks to one of my readers (beret-tip to James Lawson, again), I found out that Societé Française de Bienfaisance Mutuelle de Los Angeles is, or was, technically a separate organization. And it was the legal owner of the French Hospital site.

I know very little about the business end of nonprofit organizations, so I'm a little out of my element here. Bear with me, I'm trying.

There is a little information out there on the Societé Française de Bienfaisance Mutuelle de Los Angeles, but again, it's left me with more questions than answers.

The Societé Française de Bienfaisance Mutuelle de Los Angeles' address is identical to the FBS' address. I sent a letter to that address two months ago, via certified mail. I have never received a response, and the tracking number doesn't work on USPS' website. Presumably, the address has been defunct for some time. I'm guessing neither entity elected to have mail forwarded to a new address, either. Which seems really strange, since property sales often have straggling bits of paperwork to finish. (I'm a notary. I handle property transfers frequently, so I know this from personal experience.)

I'm no expert, but the Societé's income-to-expenses ratio seems unusually high. See for yourself. If this were a balance sheet for a publicly traded company, I doubt I would be buying the stock.

There is/was some investment income...but from what? And where has it gone all these years? Is there a forensic accountant in the house?

What happened to the Societé/FBS' charitable spirit? Zero charities supported and zero dollars donated (at least in 2014)? Really? Someone please tell me there's more to the story.

The Societé/FBS sure has shrunk (except for its income...). At least as late as 2014, there was still a nine-member board (a tradition dating to 1860). But only two employees? And apparently NO members (since there were no membership fees collected, going back at least as far as 2002)? Somewhere in the great beyond, Louis Sentous Jr. is quietly crying into a glass of Georges Le Mesnager's best wine.

I may finally have a usable lead. I have an address and I am going to try sending another letter. Who knows, I may finally get a response.

Wish me luck...

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