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UMCOR, Return the Donations!

by Michael L. Gonzalez

April 29, 2002


Generous United Methodists across the United States and around the world made donations to UMCOR for the American victims of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, which now total nearly $20,000,000.  Yet to this date, not even one percent of these donations has been given to the American victims.

UMCOR continues to make excuses for hoarding the money, but the fact is, that every day that UMCOR retains the money "on account," the funds are used to generate investment income, which is then placed in UMC coffers as "undesignated funds."  These slush funds may be used by UMC leaders for any purposes they desire, with no accountability to the donors.

The donors have not taken kindly to this alleged fraud by UMCOR, and in response they have contacted various "watchdog" organizations asking for help to get their donations to the intended victims.  One such organization is the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, which launched an investigation of UMCOR in March, but has yet to announce a conclusion.

In response to the outcry by 9/11 donors, UMCOR continues to struggle to give an appearance of using the funds to aid the American victims.  For example, the United Methodist News Service attempted to show UMCOR in a good light in their posting of April 19:

UMCOR's case management program will operate out of a separate office in New York, rather than at the agency's headquarters at 475 Riverside Dr., and include a program director, finance director and four social workers as case managers. To help maintain its relationship with the United Methodist New York Annual Conference, two conference representatives will be part of the program's executive committee, along with two UMCOR representatives and one community member.

Case management also is part of the five-year disaster recovery plan of the United Methodist Greater New Jersey Annual Conference. With a $4.4 million grant from UMCOR, the conference will continue to provide pastoral care and counseling, develop "family coping seminars" and work in coordination with the New Jersey Interfaith Partnership.

It's glaringly obvious that UMCOR is not making strides to provide donations to the victims, but rather UMCOR is creating new bureaucracies!  Anyone who has ever worked for a large organization (business or not-for-profit) knows that it is human nature for management to create self-glorifying empires by expanded its sphere of influence.  It's the sin nature of humans; it's not unique to UMC leaders.  However, we must recognize the propensity to sin and counteract it.

The UMNS article continues:

Immigrants and refugees in the United States have faced new problems with increased restrictions after the terrorist attacks and some have turned to "Justice For Our Neighbors," an UMCOR immigration project, for assistance. A $600,000 grant will allow the project to expand its national network of immigration clinics over the next three years.

On an international level, UMCOR is continuing its efforts to assist vulnerable and displaced people in Afghanistan and Afghan refugees outside the country. The largest financial commitment, $1.5 million, will be used to start a field office in Kabul, Afghanistan. That office will oversee the agency's programs for returning Afghans to their villages, including housing and social development projects.

Here we go again.  UMC donors specifically provide funds for American victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and what do the UMC leaders plan to do with the funds?  They turn to their usual political goals.  So, you donate money to help people in New York and D.C. and UMCOR uses your money to favor U.S. immigration, and for those people on the other side of the globe.  Now, these may (or may not) be worthy projects, but regardless, this is a direct violation of the wishes of the 9/11 fund donors.

Some may say that UMCOR doesn't have any intention to hoard the donations, but rather it's just that the 9/11 victims have already been attended to by the other charities (those charities which don't delay action--unlike UMCOR).  OK, that would sound like a reasonable defense of UMCOR, until you notice that they are still soliciting funds from you!

When it's obvious that there's already more funds in the coffers than can be distributed to the intended victims, how in God's name can UMCOR continue to solicit funds?  I can see only one reason:  UMCOR is bent on hoarding money with complete disregard of the donors' intent.

UMCOR, do the right thing:  Stop soliciting funds and, return the donations!

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