The Geelong Advertiser reports…
“Give Where You Live has asked the Uniting Church for return of $52,000 in Geelong community money spent on improvements to a now sold church building.
The charity says it issued the money in a capital grant to UnitingCare in February 2010 on understanding its tenure at the South Geelong property was secure for at least a decade.
The site, including UnitingCare’s headquarters and South Geelong Uniting Church sold late last year for an undisclosed price believed to be about $4.5m as part of a church sell-off to ease debt linked to closure of a college in Melbourne.
Give Where You Live chief executive Bill Mithen has forwarded a request to leaders of the Uniting Church Synod of Victoria and Tasmania for return of the money.
“I made clear our role in Geelong is to support and help the agencies in Geelong helping the most vulnerable people living in Geelong, therefore the beneficiary of grants we issue should ultimately be the people most vulnerable living in the region,” Mr Mithen said.
“In this instance however the beneficiary has been the Uniting Church which has been able to improve the property, upgrade the building and secure what I presume to be a better price.
“That money has gone to pay a debt which has nothing to do with Geelong and nothing to do with UnitingCare Geelong.”
A spokesman said Uniting Church synod leaders were aware of the request but had not received formal notification.
He said the donation was made five years ago and questioned Give Where You Live’s request for the full $52,000 despite UnitingCare having benefited for the best part of that time.
He said all agreed conditions made at the time of the grant had been observed.
Mr Mithen said if the money was returned it would immediately be available for other community grants.
Members of Geelong’s Uniting Church community had backed the charity’s request.
UnitingCare Geelong, with eight staff and more than 400 volunteers, has not yet confirmed a new site for its operations but has assured Geelong community its work will continue.”