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Export thrift store board resigns after volunteers question charity giving

Patrick Varine
| Friday, Dec. 29, 2017, 2:15 p.m.
Above, the Friends Thrift Shop on Friday, Dec. 30, 2017.
Patrick Varine | Tribune-Review
Above, the Friends Thrift Shop on Friday, Dec. 30, 2017.

As the Murrysville Christian Concern thrift store prepares for the 50th anniversary of its nonprofit incorporation this year, it will have an almost completely new board of directors, following the resignation of all but one member.

“I was the last man standing,” said Larry Rupnik of Murrysville.

Board members came under fire last month from volunteers who said they weren't living up to their stated mission of helping the needy through the store's revenue. They attempted to vote Rupnik off the board after he questioned the amount that was being given through the store's charity service.

According to IRS filings, in 2015 the group posted gross income of $116,344 and gave out $400. In 2014, it posted $106,886 and gave out $6,599. Rupnik estimated that in 2016, the store generated $157,000 and about $2,900 was disbursed.

“Their effort was to get him off the board, and it was questionable whether they did it the right way,” said new board member Robert Scott of Murrysville. “So when they all resigned, we took it to mean (Larry) was still part of the board.”

Rupnik said he appointed a few new members “and we voted on the rest.”

Former board president Celine Kandala of Murrysville said at the Dec. 5 board meeting that the group had roughly $140,000 in debt for building renovation loans.

Accountant William Wagner of Delmont said he'd been working with the board since 2015 to try to get its books in order.

Wagner said charity donations were down “because you had an internal issue over who would disburse the money.”

Scott said new board members publicly posted the amount of money brought in this month, as well as what has been disbursed.

“We were able to pay out thousands of dollars in December, and also pay off some of our debt,” Scott said.

One point of contention between volunteers and the previous board was that despite only giving out $400 in 2015, more than $700 was spent on a Christmas party.

Scott said this year's Christmas party was entirely financed by new board members, without using any group funds.

“We want to be as open as possible moving forward,” Scott said.

A letter will go out this month to about 40 different groups, including local churches, school counselors and others, to try to get the word out about the group's charity giving.

“Everything is focused now to get as much money as possible for the needy,” Scott said. “With this cold spell coming, it's absolutely important to have things in order.”

Rupnik agreed.

“I think we'll get her back on track,” he said. “It's a Christian store and people need to remember that.”

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2862, or via Twitter @MurrysvilleStar.

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