The Roundup -

Ministerium Meeting Discusses Scam Artists


October 11, 2017 | View PDF

There is an often unpublicized but important social safety network regularly helping people in Richland County. Local churches often help people with expenses, ranging from emergency housing to food to gasoline for stranded travelers. Unfortunately, there are also scam artists who take advantage of churches and faith based charities. A ministerium meeting of local clergy recently met to discuss this problem and to find solutions for churches to better work together.

Calling and officiating the meeting was Nazarene pastor and Sidney Hospital chaplain, Richard Evans. Others attending the meeting included pastors David Meehan, Jordan Hall, Paul Turek, David Huskamp and Mike Hussey. Also included was Roberta Pierce from Zion Lutheran, Bob Burnison of the Salvation Army and a representative from the Foundation for Community Care.

The topic of conversation for this meeting of ministers was how to best meet the needs of the community without having advantage taken by those of ill intent. It was explained that it was not uncommon for individuals to go from church to church seeking help, often telling different stories or approaching from different, conflicting angles to best receive help.

Pastors spoke of how their churches typically helped the needy. Fellowship Baptist helps with food and groceries, without limitations or qualifications, but handles requests for fuel, bus tickets, or other expenses on a case-by-case basis by regulations set forth by the deacon body. The Faith Alliance Church, according to Pastor Turek, helps with grocery vouchers but on a case-by-case basis after meeting with benevolence leaders to discuss the person’s needs. Likewise, Pastor Meehan of Ebenezer Congregational stated that a committee of deaconesses often made case-by-case judgments regarding their benevolence ministry funds. Other pastors said that they refer people to the Salvation Army for help.

Bob Burnison, who runs the local branch of the Salvation Army and also serves the Richland County Sheriff’s Department, said that their primary fundraiser was bell-ringing for the red kettles at Christmas time, and encouraged churches to find volunteers to assist in that fundraising.

Burnison explained, “We will help with rent or deposit expense, but only to a certain dollar amount. We try to make sure that their needs are legitimate.”

It was not reported that any other religious organization helped with rent or deposit expenses, but was disclosed that the Matthew House – of which two of its board members, Burnison and Hussey, were present – still offers emergency housing to those in tough situations who may be facing homelessness.

During the meeting, the religious leaders discovered that one individual had recently received funds from multiple churches for a hotel stay, and had plans with another minister to meet the following day. The solution to this problem was presented by Richard Evans, who had set up a confidential social media group for local religious leaders to share who they have helped and if they thought someone might be trying to scam the community’s charitable organizations. Discussion was had regarding the implications for confidentially, and it was agreed among the leaders that confidentially would be kept at a premium and be prioritized in the new process.

“The real goal here is two-fold,” said Evans, “in that we want to meet the needs of community which are many, but also so that we’re stewarding our resources, which are few.”

He continued, “The great advantage of the meeting was learning how each organization is uniquely set to meet certain needs. This allows us to make recommendations to needy individuals so that we’re not overlapping in these concerns of care.”


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