ADDRESSING EDITORIAL CONCERNS
The following are brief responses from TRM to a recent article published in the local 785 Magazine. Our responses are broken down into sections based on points in the article.
Why did TRM purchase a residential home when in 2019 property needed to be sold due to financial concerns?
The publisher of 785 Magazine stated that 18 months prior, TRM was looking to sell property due to financial concerns and questioned why TRM was now purchasing a residential home. (The address is withheld from this response for the safety of individuals receiving help there).
Unfortunately, the publisher failed to mention that TRM had liquidated two properties as well as an additional rental property used for retail. These transactions resulted in substantial cost savings to assist with TRM’s general operation. It was also not mentioned that TRM had been using the above property prior to purchase for a number of years to provide unique support to those in need. A simple phone call or email from the publisher requesting information would have revealed that the owner needed to sell the home, and TRM felt it would be a positive move to continue using the home for its unique purposes.
Purchase price of home
The publisher stated correctly this house was purchased from the daughter of TRM’s executive director for the price of $90,000. However, the article listed only the county’s valuation and ignored the market value of the home and the sale price of comparable homes in Topeka.
Had further investigation taken place, it would have been discovered that the owner had multiple offers to purchase the house at significantly higher amounts than the county appraised value and the $90,000 price paid by TRM.
What is the purpose of the house purchased, and have donors been advised?
In a Facebook post prior to the article, the publisher questioned the purpose of “the residential house”. TRM explained it was used for ministry purposes. The publisher also asked why TRM had not disclosed the purchase of the property to donors. TRM addressed this question, explaining there were designated dollars for the purchase of the home.
For a number of years this home has been used to provide a safe and secure place for victims of trauma, exploitation, and human trafficking to receive education and support, begin learning life skills, and begin to rest from the chaos and trauma they have experienced in life. The owner of the home had assisted TRM to provide a safe place for survivors of human trafficking to reside, know they are safe, and begin the healing process. The owner had also worked alongside TRM staff to keep the location confidential to protect the safety of the individuals receiving help there.
Unfortunately, the location of this safe house has now been made public due to the publisher posting the address and images of the house in the article and online. In so doing, the publisher has now compromised the safety of individuals who are attempting to heal from the life of trauma, violence, and human trafficking.
Donors who gave for this purpose are fully aware how the designated dollars have been used for the home and for the women who have suffered horrendous trauma. It is with great disappointment for all who have financially supported this effort, as well as those who have sacrificed tireless hours to provide a safe environment for individuals to receive help and healing, that this effort has now been compromised.
Accusation of “Stagnant” Governance
The publisher brought into question the governance practices of TRM in relationship to its board of directors and term limits. The editorial indicated the TRM board has no term limits. While board term limits are not required by the IRS, the publisher indicated it is a normal practice to have a limit on board terms of no more than two consecutive three-year terms.
Term limits can be viewed in two ways - renewable and nonrenewable. Some boards will require a board member to leave the board after their last full term expires. TRM has staggering three-year terms with an option for renewing. Due to the nature of this ministry and the complexities of working with the population TRM serves, we believe continuity and opportunities for board members to remain engaged as board members works best for the governance of TRM.
It is a common practice for organizations that have nonrenewable term limits to find another role for the board member within the organization, post their board service, to keep qualified individuals engaged with the organization. This could be a position on an advisory committee or an appointed to a special task force.
The publisher also brought into question the amount of time the current board president of TRM has held the position of “power.” There is no additional power for the board president. The position of president conducts meetings on a monthly basis and has no greater or lesser vote or influence in the decisions made than other board members.
Additionally, via email the publisher brought into question a potential conflict of interest: “Did the executive director recuse himself from the vote in the purchase of a property?” Answer: As the executive director of TRM, Mr. Feaker is not a board member, thus may not make a motion and has no voting rights.
Creating a Culture of Competition VS. Collaboration
The publisher accused TRM of not collaborating with other area nonprofits and instead duplicating services by creating new initiatives with “claims to combat outliers or root causes with the homeless crisis” and that TRM has created additional organizations or programs that do not involve a partnership with existing organizations.
We believe this accusation is without merit. TRM has not “duplicated” services but has created initiatives and on occasion helped in the development of other organizations to fill gaps in needed service areas.
Examples are NET Reach in the Hi-Crest neighborhood, in which TRM laid a foundation for neighborhood stabilization with the intention that the work being done there could be handed off to other organizations. SENT, the organization currently working in that neighborhood, has been able to build upon the platform developed by TRM for neighborhood stabilization and take it to the next level.
As another example, TRM helped facilitate the development of a youth initiative program known as Doxazo to help young people learn ministry skills in urban outreach. Today that program has become its own 501c3 ministry equipping and training middle and high school age students to serve their community. There have been numerous other examples of TRM initiating services, programs and at times new organizations to address gaps in service delivery. For brevity we won’t list them all here.
The publisher of 785 also took issue with the fact that at times TRM shares personnel, office space, equipment or other resources with organizations with a similar mission. We do this often and call this wise stewardship and collaboration. This reduces the “silo“ effect and fosters strong partnerships whose focus is working towards the same goals to maximize productivity.
Accusations of Bringing Financial Harm to Other Non-Profits
The publisher accused TRM of bringing financial harm to “every non-profit executive director” whom they spoke with. To date TRM has not learned that the financial call to action made in 2019 caused any programs or organizations to fold. Furthermore, it is common that non-profits will announce clarion calls to action for capital campaigns or other financial needs within their organizations.
Historically there have been other situations that required non-profits in the community to appeal to the community for support, or face closure of essential programs. Additionally, TRM was humbled by the fact that a number of non-profits stood together with TRM in 2019 to support its call for action to help keep its homeless shelters and essential services moving forward and continue to do so to this day.
Non-Compliance Related to Health Coverage
The publisher of the editorial attempted to interpret the independent auditor’s report of TRM Ministries which was posted on the TRM website for transparency. Unfortunately, the publisher misunderstood or misrepresented what the report said.
The publisher said that TRM was in violation of the government mandated Affordable Care Act and was “fined” by the IRS in in 2019 in the amount of $110,552. To quote from the independent auditor’s report, “During 2019, the Organization (TRM) was assessed an employer’s shared responsibility payment by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in accordance with the Affordable Care Act...”
The key words are “assessed” and “shared responsibility”.
This was not a fine or penalty as stated by the publisher, but an assessment of payment due. Granted, understanding the Affordable Care Act can be complicated, however TRM consulted professional health insurance advisors before making a calculated decision on how to best seek health coverage options for all TRM staff who desired to be covered.
In simple terms, TRM directed some TRM employees towards a private insurance health plan and others to the government-established “exchange” program based on formulas deemed best for the employee and best for the organization. The potential future assessments for TRM from the government exchange program noted in the auditor’s report could be viewed as “late, or delayed billing” by the federal government.
TRM Response Summary
We choose not to make judgment here as to the motive of the publisher’s reason for the editorial, as we feel this would be unproductive. However, we are disappointed that the publisher never requested an interview or any conversation prior to publishing their negative and misleading opinions.
TRM is routinely interviewed by the media and is always happy to provide answers to questions about operations, financial practice and ministry integrity. The responses included on this page are not exhaustive, but an attempt to provide as briefly as possible answers to concerns raised. TRM always welcomes providing answers and considers questions about TRM ministry and operations an opportunity to learn and grow together with a community that cares.
Unfortunately, we didn’t see a desire to learn and grow together in this editorial, but an attempt to discredit a vital service in our community. Thankfully the views and opinions expressed in the 785 editorial are not representative of many in our community.
It’s because of a loving, compassionate and serving community that TRM Ministries is able to stand in the gap for those who suffer from poverty, hunger and homelessness, and to bring hope to many. We work diligently to make TRM transparent, collaborative, and governed well for the essential services TRM provides.
We invite anyone who has questions or concerns to contact us or call the executive director at 785-354-1744 Ext. 315. Also check out the review of Topeka Rescue Mission at Charity Navigator, the nation’s largest charity evaluator. There you will discover TRM has earned a 100% rating for transparency, fiduciary responsibility and governance. Nationally, only 68 charities out of the 160,000 have acquired this rating.
We are grateful for a community that rolls up its sleeves and joins us in helping to bring love, help and hope to those who suffer.