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Founder told to shut down Pa. mission

Officials say Cover 'commingled' funds for personal use

Officials say Cover 'commingled' funds for personal use

November 28, 2007|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - An investigation into the September fire that destroyed the G.O.D.S. Mission Church Inc. warehouse has led to the organization being dissolved because its founder "commingled funds for her personal use," according to the Pennsylvania Department of State and Pennsylvania State Police.

The cause of the Sept. 19 fire that destroyed the 120-foot-by-50-foot warehouse at 4987 Guitner Road and its contents was still under investigation, state police Fire Marshal Jeffrey Sarver said Tuesday. It was the investigation into the fire that led to the discovery of irregularities in the operation of the nonprofit organization, he said.

The consent agreement and order against G.O.D.S. Mission, filed Monday, requires founder Thelma J. Cover to dissolve the organization and bans her and her husband, Arthur Cover, from accepting any contributions, according to the department's Bureau of Charitable Organizations. Any contributions received after Monday must be returned, it stated.

Founders fined

The Covers were ordered to pay an administrative fine of $250 "and are banned from assuming any position, whether voluntary or paid, in any charitable organizations, which involves the solicitation, collection or expenditure of contributions," it stated.

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"Area businesses and individuals who contributed to G.O.D.S. Mission Church Inc. are being warned not to donate to this organization," the release stated.

The news release did not indicate how much of the nonprofit organization's funds had allegedly been used by Thelma Cover, nor did a copy of the consent agreement and order that was posted on the department's Web site Tuesday afternoon.

A telephone message left with the Covers' attorney was not returned Tuesday.

The agreement stated Thelma Cover was the president and acted as treasurer of G.O.D.S. Mission, which was incorporated in 1995. Since the incorporation, Cover "commingled funds between her personal bank accounts and G.O.D.S. Mission's accounts," it stated.

The agreement stated she failed to keep "true and accurate fiscal records" on the commingled funds, as well as in-kind donations from area businesses. The order further stated Cover was involved in "unfair and deceptive acts and engaged in fraudulent conduct which created a likelihood of confusion or misunderstanding."

On the day of the fire, Thelma Cover estimated the loss of the building and its contents at $2 million and said it was insured. Sarver said Tuesday the building and contents were not insured and estimated the loss at about $250,000.

The Covers said in September that G.O.D.S. Mission, which stands for Giving Others Dedicated Service, served people whose incomes did not qualify them for other food pantry programs.

Four dogs and 14 puppies kept in an enclosure next to the building were killed in the fire, Thelma Cover said at the time of the fire.

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