Friday, August 21, 2009

Scam in the name of Jesus

3:53 – Just got back from delivering more peas. On the way home I stopped at Walfart to pick up some creamer. I also picked up a handful of plastic bags we can use to put peas in. Tomorrow is the farmers market so I’ll be picking peas till it’s dark out. I harvested some cantaloupe and sold them to the folks buying peas.

The “Christian” fundraisers were out in force at walmart. First was a booth set up at the entrance for a group called Tower of Power ministries or something like that. There was a table full of cheap wooden crosses they were selling. I stopped to check this group out and asked a few questions that I already knew the answer to. “Are you guys from around here?” was the first one. Of course they aren’t. I was just talking about this kind of thing with one of the folks from our Sunday school group. It’s a typical formula. They find people who are in desperate straits, who are at the bottom of their ladder, and recruit them. With this group they are taken to the headquarters near Austin and put to work manufacturing the crosses. Then teams are sent out traveling to sell them. In some cases these may be, or at least started out to be, legitimate ministries. But ultimately they are programs that take advantage of the poor and downtrodden to line the pockets of others.

So after I purchased my items and went to the truck I saw a different group. These guys were roaming the parking lot with large plastic jars that had a piece of paper taped to the side that had been printed off a computer and had a crude logo and picture of Jesus on it. There were different kinds of candy in the jar that they were hustling to get donations for whatever they represented. I didn’t bother to ask. This format was more familiar to me as it’s the same as an organization in Toledo that I had a run in with while homeless.

It’s a story. I was thrown in jail by the Volunteers of America organization the courts placed me in to insure I was cared for after they extradited me from St. Louis. There were no charges placed on me at all. The VOA did this to get rid of me because of how I was acting, behavior directly connected with the brain injury. That was basically having no social skills nor the mental tools that prevent one from saying what they shouldn’t. At the time I was just blunt and honest, saying exactly what I thought without regard to the consequences. The Toledo VOA basically is a halfway house for people getting out of prison and it was rife with all kinds of evil. They were cooking crack cocaine in the microwaves in the dorms and having women meet them for sex in the parking lot. The staff was stealing pain medications from the locked medicine cabinets and if one of the people who was supposed to be getting it complained they were set up and sent back to prison. So I go to the director of the VOA and tell him he’s running a crack house and that I was going to write the paper and expose it all. Next thing I know I’m being handcuffed and taken to jail. So I’m in jail for several months with no charges at all. Everyday I would ask why I was there and every day the guard would call down to the desk and tell me they didn’t know.

Finally, on my birthday, I went on a hunger strike. When the meals were brought up I would hand my tray to everyone and make sure the guards saw me do it. On the forth day I was told that if I could find a place to go I would be released. So the place I found was one of these scam outfits. They were registered with welfare as a place of refuge for the homeless or really down and out. I was quickly driven by a sheriff’s deputy in a county van to their location and dropped off. Cool, I was out of jail. Instantly I was told that I needed to sell candy to stay there. When they learned I had food stamps they were taken from me on the pretense of it being my contribution to the “Ministry”, especially since they figured out I was in no shape to be taken out and sell candy at that time. Three days later I was told I had to leave. I asked for my food stamp book back as it was a months worth of food worth, $219.00. “It’s all gone” was their answer. I didn’t even have any shoes. They gave me a garbage bag for the two t-shirts and one extra pair of jeans I had, all I owned in the world at the time, and walked me out the door. But I was free! I could go where I wanted, when I wanted. That felt good. But I got lost just walking away. At that time the short term memory and effects of the brain injury were really evident. It was the beginning of another adventure, another one in a long series that ended with my finding Cherie again and ultimately to where we are now on this farm.

So I have a dim view of these types of organizations.

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