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Give up shelter, board member urges

The Salvation Army should turn over control of the domestic violence program to another group, he writes.

By RYAN DAVIS

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 7, 2001


At least one Salvation Army official says the agency should give up its domestic violence shelter to someone who could run it better.

Dr. Lamar Miller, a member of the agency's advisory board, wrote a letter last week urging officials to save the domestic violence program by turning it over to another group or agency. He sent the letter to the agency's director, Maj. Tom Vick; the other 16 board members; and agency higher-ups.

The 18-year-old shelter and program, which last fall expanded its counseling, legal help and other services for domestic violence victims, is much-needed but faces a grim future under Salvation Army control, said Miller, a board member for nearly 20 years.

"The present negative thinking and Byzantine regulations of the Salvation Army will destroy the (program)," wrote Miller of New Port Richey.

Apparently his suggestion is falling largely on deaf ears. No one has responded to his letter, he said, and Vick told the St. Petersburg Times this week that he is not even considering the suggestion.

"We are committed to the program and it will be ours," Vick said.

A spokesman for the Salvation Army's state headquarters echoed Vick. He said it will continue to operate the shelter and just renewed its one-year contract with the state government.

Miller wrote that he was responding to a Times story, which disclosed that Vick has turned away nearly $100,000 in government money intended to help domestic violence victims.

Vick has said he shunned the grants to avoid owing the state Salvation Army headquarters an 11.25 percent administrative fee. The grants forbid using the money to pay the agency-mandated fee to state headquarters, so Vick said he needs to raise private donations to cover the fee. He hasn't been able to raise enough.

In an unsuccessful attempt to avoid creating this so-called debt to the state headquarters, Vick also asked the state government's permission this spring to slash the domestic program to its core, eliminating outreach services and essentially leaving only the shelter.

After the government refused, Vick said the only solution was to raise more in private donations.

As a result of his actions, program director Stephanie Walley resigned, but her replacement hired last week has no professional fundraising or grant-writing experience.

The hiring decision doesn't sit well with Miller, who said the advisory board either doesn't care or isn't being informed.

"They're not taking a conscientious interest in what's being done," he said. "If they were they'd realize you can't hire a director who really has no experience in grant-writing or fundraising and do the job that needs to be done."

Vick said he doesn't expect the issue to be addressed at the next advisory board meeting in July.

"I think it will be died down by then," he said.

Not so, said board vice chairwoman Kimberly Lawrence of SunTrust Bank.

"Whenever a board member has something important to say and he's putting it in writing, I certainly think it should be considered," Lawrence said.

Roger Michels, the board chairman, said the board needs to talk about Vick turning away money, but he wants to keep the shelter.

There is no obvious solution, Lawrence said.

Even if the board decided it wanted to recommend turning over the shelter to someone else, Salvation Army officials might not permit it.

"I'm not sure if it's something the Salvation Army headquarters would let us do," Lawrence said, "even if it's the financially sound decision to make."

- Ryan Davis covers higher education and social services in Pasco. He can be reached at (800) 333-7505, ext. 3452.

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