By The Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, Miss
JACKSON, Miss. —
We are a giving state. In fact, we are among the most giving in the United States.
You may recall a study last year by The Chronicle of Philanthropy rating “How America Gives.” The study determined that Mississippians were the third most giving in America, behind Utah and the District of Columbia.
The key to high giving was clear: religion.
Mississippi has many people of faith, and people of faith are most generous, according to statistics.
That’s why one ministry in our state’s capital city has been able to serve so many hungry, homeless and people generally in need of everything from food to clothing and counseling since 1981.
Stewpot Community Services was founded in Jackson by members of seven churches, including Calvary Baptist, Capitol Street Methodist, Central Presbyterian, Galloway United Methodist, St. Andrews Episcopal, St. Peter’s Catholic and St. James Episcopal.
Today, Stewpot — “People of faith meeting needs in our community” — is supported by more than 200 “Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Hindu congregations, as well as hundreds of individuals, institutions and businesses,” the organization says. ...
But meaningful ministries aren’t exempt from evil and wrongdoing, even in Mississippi.
Stewpot has learned that the hard way, losing as much as $100,000 in December donations to a mail fraud scheme. Many checks sent to the agency from Nov. 27 to Dec. 17 — a peak time of giving at the holidays and year-end — were apparently rerouted to an empty home in south Jackson.
Stewpot executive director Frank Spencer says Stewpot may have to close one of its 16 programs due to the lost money.
Another concern: potential fraud perpetrated against the donors. Spencer says those collecting the checks by fraud are not likely even interested in cashing the checks. Instead, they are interested in gaining bank routing and account numbers from checks to make other purchases by fraud.
Those who made a donation to Stewpot by mail in that time period should check their accounts to make sure no fraud has occurred. Authorities, including the U.S. Postal Service, are investigating, and we can only hope that damage to caring donors that only wanted to help will be minimal. ...