Contact: Kaushik Roy, Executive Director
Phone: 415-806-3196

Nonprofit Shanti Project Rejects SF Democratic Party Demand to Withdraw Lifetime Achievement Award to Philanthropist Dede Wilsey

Calls Demand “Divisive, Dangerous and Possibly Illegal”

San Francisco (Wednesday Aug. 28)—The San Francisco Democratic Party is demanding that a highly regarded nonprofit rescind a lifetime achievement award to philanthropist Dede Wilsey because she was listed last month as a co-host of a fundraiser in San Francisco for President Donald Trump.

The San Francisco Democratic Central Committee will vote tonight on a resolution that demands the Shanti Project withdraw the recognition from Wilsey or face a boycott of its October gala fundraiser which could cause economic harm to the nonprofit that provides safety net services to HIV/AIDS and cancer patients as well as services for pets of individuals living with disability or illness.

The Shanti Project rejects what it calls the “divisive, dangerous and possibly illegal” demand by the local Democratic Party and its chair, former San Francisco Supervisor David Campos, who now works as the Deputy County Executive of Santa Clara County.

“We will not rescind the award–not only because it would be wrong, but because rescinding the award could possibly be seen by the IRS as Shanti punishing someone for making contributions to a political party. If this happened, IRS regulations mandate that we could lose our tax-exempt status,” said Kaushik Roy, executive director of Shanti Project, one of the world’s first community-based organizations to support people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS during the epidemic’s early, most nightmarish days.

“Putting aside any legal issues, to rescind an award based upon who a person supports–or doesn’t support politically–goes against everything Shanti stands for,” Roy added. Roy said S.F. Democratic Party Chair David Campos this week refused to speak with the organization about his demand. Campos then unilaterally introduced a resolution that will be heard tonight by Democrats.

Roy said he vigorously disapproves of President Trump and noted the last time Shanti had a gala, his remarks underscored how the Shanti nonprofit represents the values that this President and the White House do not.

Roy also pointed out the hypocrisy of Campos and the resolution: Mrs. Wilsey has given generously to many Democrats, including Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Governor Gavin Newsom, Mayor London Breed, City Attorney Dennis Herrera, the late public defender Jeff Adachi, former Sen. Carol Migden, former Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, and she spearheaded the effort to rebuild the earthquake-damaged De Young Museum.

Shanti is honoring Mrs. Wilsey for her enormous impact on San Francisco’s nonprofit landscape, both through her fundraising prowess and personal philanthropy. The gala event on Oct. 3 will also honor a current Shanti client and a board member (posthumously) to demonstrate that those who support Shanti come from all walks of life.

Shanti is celebrating its 45th year of cultivating compassion and shining a light on the invisible suffering that accompanies illness and isolation. Last year, the Shanti Project learned that there was a hotel strike where it was to hold its gala event, so it immediately cancelled their signature fundraiser to be in solidarity with hotel workers, a move that cost the group at least $250,000.

Shanti was founded in 1974 by Dr. Charles Garfield, who was the UCSF Cancer Ward’s first mental health professional. Several years later, Shanti was one of the world’s very first community-based organizations to help support people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. During the crisis’ most nightmarish days, the organization fought against the discrimination, shunning, and hatred of those with HIV/AIDS. Later, it expanded services to include women diagnosed with breast cancer and, then, women facing any cancer diagnosis.

In 2015, it welcomed into the Shanti family community partner Pets Are Wonderful Support (PAWS), whose mission ensures that no person has to make the decision between caring for their pet or caring for themselves.

In addition, Shanti’s internationally recognized model of care is now offered to even more marginalized members of the San Francisco community through two new programs launched in 2016. Its LGBTQ Aging & Abilities Support Network addresses social isolation as well as emotional, behavioral, and health challenges faced by LGBTQ seniors and adults with disabilities. The organization’s Peer Advocate Care Team supports current residents of Potrero Terrace and Annex to help them adjust to their public housing being demolished and rebuilt into a mixed-income community.

“The greatest and most profound feature of the Shanti Model is that every single person, regardless of how adamantly we disagree with one another— or how different we believe we are from one another—is still connected to each other by virtue of the shared humanity we all experience. From this philosophy springs the foundation of how we serve clients. Namely, that every single human being deserves dignity and compassion,” Roy said.