Contact 6: One man’s broken promise to Milwaukee daycare centers

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Daycares in the Milwaukee area are out hundreds of dollars, thanks to a businessman who says he is just trying to help.

Contact 6's Katrina Cravy caught up with Jeff Kaas at the Milwaukee County Courthouse.

Kaas runs a program called Literacy for Children, where he asks daycares to raise money for him by selling snacks and then rewards their efforts with teaching and learning materials.

Kaas approached Marie Gee with the "Only God Can" daycare center.

"We made a contest of it.  Who can sell the most around here?  So everybody got involved - our teachers, our parents.  We said we'd give a prize to the people who sold the most, so we did that," Gee said.

The daycare made $2,300, which was turned into Kaas. When it was time to reap the reward, Kaas was gone.

"That was it.  We never saw him again.  I mean, he never called to say 'you did a great job,' 'hey we have great gifts for you' or anything.  After he got what he wanted, he left.  And he moved on to the next victim," Gee said.

The same thing happened at Malaika Early Learning Center.

New Executive Director Tamara Johnson says her daycare raised about $1,200 and also got nothing.

"Those family and friends that they sold snacks to kind of felt like they were being ripped off.  So in return, I got that same frustration from those families," Johnson said.

There was even more frustration for the tiny "Hugz 'n Kisses" daycare.

Lori Gramza runs the daycare center out of her basement and only has a few clients. The center still managed to raise $300, and unfortunately, she also received nothing and heard nothing from Kaas.

"It makes me feel bad and cheated because you're not getting what you're supposed to even though you followed their rules and had the money to them on time," Gramza said.

Three complaints is pretty bad, but when Contact 6 asked the Better Business Bureau about Kaas, Contact 6 discovered an F rating and 58 complaints against him and both of his failed businesses: Literacy for Children and Kids Literacy Inc. -- a big red flag for the BBB.

"When somebody changes their name, they constantly use a different name, they're actually running from their reputation.  Good businesses really try to build up their brand and reputation.  They don't change their name frequently," Ran Hoth with the BBB said.

Through email, Kaas told FOX6 News he needed a week or two to try to fill the orders, saying there is no story, and refusing to talk on camera.

Meanwhile, Kaas and his business are being evicted from a building on 81st and Lisbon.

"I haven't been able to fulfill those orders. But I haven't stopped reaching. And I truly am sorry for the people who have had to wait, but without an income, I lived in the building, I've slept on the floor, I worked day and night to reach them from the very beginning. They probably aren't aware of that," Kaas said.

Kaas says he has had a string of hardships, including a $20,000 theft from his business "by a co-worker." He says he is now broke and homeless, though he would not provide the co-worker's name.

"Honestly, I just live day by day and work on the weekends.  Honestly, I'm tired.  I've been crashing, emotionally.  It's been hard," Kaas said.

Once FOX6's Contact 6 got involved, three daycares eventually received boxes of books from Kaas out of the blue. However, most were for much older children -- not daycare age, and some were in Spanish.

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