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Published: Tuesday, 4/1/2014

Once-secret 'Angel Fund' for Detroiters ending


DETROIT — A once-secret fund that allowed an anonymous donor to give $17 million since 2005 toward helping poor people in the Detroit area is ending this month, officials said.

The “Angel Fund,” which is run by the Archdiocese of Detroit and backed by a single donor, is ending April 30, the Detroit Free Press reported (http://on.freep.com/1gK49So ). Msgr. Michael Bugarin said in an email the donor indicated that his family’s philanthropic plans shifted.

“It’s extraordinary, the level of generosity this family has gone through since the inception of the Angel Fund,” Bugarin said.

The fund paid for necessities such as rent, medicine and overdue utility bills for people in Detroit, Hamtramck and Highland Park. Details of the fund were made public earlier this year after a Roman Catholic priest and an acquaintance were charged with stealing money from the fund.

The donor’s decision had nothing to do with the criminal case, Bugarin said. The donor and his family members “still have great concerns for helping the poor of Detroit,” Bugarin said, and was clear from the start that the fund wouldn’t last indefinitely.

Parish pastors were notified in a March 18 letter that “Angel Fund” allotments they’ve received must be used by April 30 and that unspent funds are to be returned to the archdiocese. The donor plans to contribute in other ways, officials said.

The fund’s end “cuts back seriously on what we can do,” said Sister Jolene Van Handel, a pastoral minister at Detroit’s Nativity Catholic Church. Since early 2013, the parish has distributed $42,000 in “Angel Fund” grants to people in its east-side neighborhood.

“We are very grateful for what he’s done. I wish he could see the faces and the hugs we get. There are people who are very grateful that they have a house with heat and lights ... because of the Angel Fund,” Van Handel said.

According to prosecutors, false applications were approved for the “Angel Fund” and thousands of dollars were pocketed over a four-year period. The Rev. Timothy Kane, who has been a priest since 1982, and acquaintance Dorreca Brewer are awaiting trial in the case.

The archdiocese also has conducted an internal audit of the fund. It was designed so that quick cash is readily available in Detroit, Highland Park and Hamtramck. Recently, some churches in Pontiac, Ecorse, Hazel Park, North Branch and Port Huron were added.

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