Murrysville thrift store board president confident order will be lifted
Murrysville Christian Concern thrift store officials thought they’d hit a low point in early 2018, when nearly the entire board of directors resigned in the wake of concerns among store volunteers and one board member that the nonprofit was not using enough of its revenue for charity purposes.
That changed earlier this month when store officials received a cease-and-desist letter Feb. 6 from the Pennsylvania Department of State.
“We were horrified,” board President Rocky Kindelberger said.
A couple easy-to-fix paperwork errors have Kindelberger confident, however, that the store will be able to reopen soon.
Following a 2017 letter to the state department alleging that the MCC board was not donating enough of its revenue to charitable purposes, state officials asked to see a value for items the thrift store had received.
“They went back three years and gave (the state) an estimated amount,” said Bill Wagner, a Delmont certified public accountant who has worked with thrift store officials on their finances in the past.
The store’s 2017 Form 990, posted to its website, states that the store brought in more than $211,000 in revenue, but gave out a little more than $6,600 in grants. Other expenses included about $44,000 in salary and benefits for the store’s single paid employee, $10,900 in payroll taxes, $35,591 listed under “Occupancy,” a little more than $17,000 in mortgage payments and other miscellaneous costs.
That form also lists 110 people who received 2017 donations from the shop in the form of clothing, furniture or housewares, which were not assigned a dollar value.
“They said that, because of the amount of non-cash items, that we should have registered with the Bureau of Corporations and Charitable Organizations,” Kindelberger said.
Wagner said when he first began working with thrift store officials, board members told him they were registered. During the course of the past year, state department officials determined that the store should have been registered since 2010, Wagner said, and its non-cash donations put it over the $25,000 threshold that triggers an annual $100 registration fee.
“There is an eight-year period during which they were not registered, and they’ll end up paying some sort of financial penalty,” Wagner said.
Kindelberger said store officials submitted registration paperwork Jan. 19, but it had not yet been acknowledged when the store’s state department file was reviewed this month.
“When they didn’t see our response, that’s when they sent the cease-and-desist order,” Kindelberger said. “It means until we’re registered and listed, we can’t help folks out. But we’ve talked with more people at the state department, and they’ve said that our stuff has been in, it’s being reviewed, and they’d notify us as soon as they finish that review.”
Wanda Murren, director of the communications and press office for the state department, said the bureau deals with registration issues on a regular basis.
“Most of the cease-and-desist orders sent out are related to registration,” Murren said. “And the department doesn’t immediately order a cease-and-desist. Our staff works pretty closely with charities to try and bring them into compliance, because in most cases these are groups that are trying to do some good for the community.”
The store’s 990 form for 2018 is not yet available, but Kindelberger said the current board is giving out “10 times what the previous board had done.”
“Without having the numbers right in front of me, I’d guess we were around $30,000 (in donations) last year, as opposed to the year before,” he said.
Kindelberger said he hopes to see the cease-and-desist order lifted soon.
“We’re making our best effort to do exactly what the thrift store and Murrysville Christian Concern set out to do,” he said.
Murren said the bureau could not comment on specifics related to its investigation of Murrysville Christian Concern.
Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter .