DUNEDIN – Reverend Bob Swick has challenged his congregation at St. Francis of Assisi Old Catholic Church to raise $ 15,000 to pay off the medical debt of residents of Pinellas County.
Mission accomplished and exceeded.
According to church officials, as Swick left a grocery store, a Baptist pastor caught his attention with two words: “medical debt.”
The pastor was raising money to buy out medical debts in central Florida with a non-profit organization run by two former debt collectors.
By identifying the debt least likely to be paid, they were able to buy back debts from collection agencies for pennies on the dollar.
For Father Bob, the question was simple: “If they can do it, why can’t we?
The fundraiser was the first for the young Catholic church, and the timing was horrible, Swick said.
“As soon as I got the cooperation and enthusiasm from the parishioners, boom, COVID happened,” said Swank, who joined the church in 2019.
Despite this period of time, the church exceeded the goal of $ 2,000, raising $ 17,000.
Members of the ward contacted RIP Medical Debt to prepare for the transfer and ensure that 100% of funds raised would go to paying off the medical debt.
In the end, the $ 17,000 in donations paid off $ 3.86 million in medical debt, which at the time represented the entire medical debt of 1,998 residents of Pinellas County and 22 residents of Pasco County.
“It’s amazing. It’s never been done before in Pinellas County,” Swick said.
Daniel Lempert, spokesperson for RIP Medical Debt, confirmed the figures quoted by Swick and said the average debt forgiven was $ 1,822.
The church hopes the news of the fundraiser inspires others to take action that directly improves the lives of people in their communities.
Swick’s mantra is, “Do a random act of kindness every day.”
Religious services in the Old Catholic Church of St. Francis of Assisi, located at 545 Wood Street, take place in the historic Church of Christ building. An inaugural mass was held in 2019.
To learn more about the church, visit https://saintfrancisdunedin.org.
RIP Medical Debt is a non-profit organization dedicated to eliminating the medical debt that weighs thousands of people every year.
The organization accepts donations from individuals and businesses to purchase medical debts directly from hospitals.
To learn more about how to provide medical debt relief, visit the RIP website at https://ripmedicaldebt.org.