In the coming weeks, some 6,500 people in five Central Florida counties will get a letter in the mail telling them the crippling medical debt they owe has been paid off, no strings attached.
It’s not a scam. It’s an act of faith worth $7.2 million to the struggling families.
“It’s one thing for us to say, ‘God loves you,’” said senior pastor Dan Glenn of Stetson Baptist Church in DeLand, whose congregation donated enough to buy off the medical debt for low-income residents in Volusia, Lake, Putnam, Marion and Flagler counties. “It’s another for us to show that.”
On June 30, the church took up a special offering designed to be given away entirely to the community. Because it budgets on a fiscal year starting July 1, and because 2018-2019 happened to have 53 Sundays instead of the more common 52, Stetson Baptist had already raised enough through Sunday collections to cover its annual operating expenses.
Instead, leaders set a goal of raising $48,000 to divide between two nonprofits: One More Child, a faith-based provider of foster homes for children, and RIP Medical Debt, which buys selected medical debt from health-care providers and debt collectors — typically at one penny on the dollar — and then uses donations to pay off the bills.
Glenn figured his congregation could raise enough to cover one foster home for a year and pay off the medical debt of every Volusia County resident living near the federal poverty level.
But when all the contributions had been tallied, the 350 or so churchgoers that Sunday had donated a collective $153,867.19 — enough to fund three foster homes for a year and to pay off the medical debt for all impoverished residents in Volusia as well as four surrounding counties.
“It was awesome,” Glenn said. “I can’t wait for some of those families to receive a letter that says: ‘Your debt has been forgiven.’”
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