HOW TO HELP
For more information on Feed the Boro, including how to help in the effort to provide Thanksgiving meals to those in need in Bulloch County, visit www.facebook.com/feedboro.
Having lost all of its cash to an alleged theft by a trusted volunteer, Feed the Boro, which distributes free meals each Thanksgiving, has placed itself under the umbrella of Food Bank Inc., also known as the Statesboro food bank.
Officials of the two organizations say they hope to continue the work that Jimmy and Kay Anthony started as a church project more than 20 years ago and which distributed more than 3,000 dinners prepared in the Statesboro High School cafeteria last Thanksgiving alone.
Meanwhile, Statesboro police are looking for Jeremy Wardell Foreman, 30, with a warrant charging him with felony theft by conversion. Foreman, whose LinkedIn page describes him as an "agent of change" and as founding executive director at the Community Centered Foundation, volunteered with Feed the Boro and was placed in charge of its donated funds. He put these in an account, now closed, in a different charity's name, and more than $1,900 went missing, according to one of the project's founders.
"I think it has been a huge learning experience, which has then pushed us in the direction of the food bank, which has graciously accepted us under their wing," said Robin Aspinwall, unpaid director of Feed the Boro. "We can work together and I think it will benefit us both, and that's really a way to ensure that this will never happen again."
The Food Bank Inc. board recently accepted Feed the Boro as one of its programs, Joe Bill Brannon, the food bank's operations director, confirmed. Feed the Boro will have a separate bank account, maintained by Food Bank Inc., which will handle the bookkeeping and provide tax-deductible charity status.
"They are now officially part of the food bank," Brannon said Thursday. "We're a 501(c)(3), so their donations that come in for the Thanksgiving program are tax deductible. We've opened up an account, which I guarantee will be safe and secure."
This makes two smaller food charities that have become part of the food bank's organization this year. Rebecca's Café, which serves lunch each Tuesday, joined in January, when the food bank moved into a more spacious location in the old Julia P. Bryant School on Donnie Simmons Way. The Tuesday meal didn't actually make the move until May.
Rebecca's Café is also known as Feeding Statesboro, but was previously unrelated to Feed the Boro, which serves just the Thanksgiving dinner.
"Anything that's involved in feeding people we want to encourage, and I do know they do about 3,000 to 3,500 dinners on Thanksgiving and I'd hate to see that drop," Brannon said.
More than 100 volunteers helped with the project last year. Many used their own vehicles to deliver turkey and fixings to senior citizens, families in need, public safety personnel working the holiday and anyone else who signed up.
More than 20 years
"My husband had the vision to start this more than 20 years ago, and we started under the name of Gracewood Baptist Church, Feed the Community," Kay Anthony said.
After feeding 120 people the first year, the Anthonys decided to deliver, thinking that people who could not travel to the church had the greater need. Over the years, the cooking and preparation area moved repeatedly, to Boyd's Barbecue, the active Julia P. Bryant Elementary School, then Statesboro High.
"Everywhere we went, we outgrew," Kay Anthony said.
Jimmy Anthony did little to raise funds and left most of the donations he did receive in an account while spending money out of his pocket, his wife said. He told her the account could continue the project when they had to retire from it.
That happened, gradually, after Jimmy Anthony's 2008 diagnosis with Alzheimer's disease. Three years ago, his wife said, she called the Statesboro Herald to place a notice that the Thanksgiving dinner would be canceled. Instead, Aspinwall, a Herald employee, offered to continue it.
Last year, Kay Anthony turned the original church project fund, containing about $2,500, over to the younger volunteers to be placed in a new account.
Foreman had also worked with the program for several years, was known for his work with other nonprofit organizations in Statesboro, and has helped the Anthonys personally, Kay Anthony acknowledged.
"I want people to know that Jeremy was given every opportunity under the sun to come forward," she said. "All he had to do was come forward and say, I've switched the money to another account or even if he'd said, I had to use the money but I'll put it back. He had every opportunity to come clean without being pursued by the police."
Anthony added that Foreman even checked on her husband from time to time and tried to get them help through the Alzheimer's Association.
"But it's about the people in Bulloch County," Anthony said. "It's about the people who have given of their time, have given of their money, who have sacrificed time with their family on Thanksgiving so that others could have, and its about the people we serve, because there are people who really need it."
So, after Aspinwall contacted her about the missing funds, Anthony said, she called the police and asked what to do next. Anthony also checked with the bank and determined that the missing amount, after the project's bills had been paid, was more than $1,900.
At that point, nothing was left, both Anthony and Aspinwall said. According to Anthony, the program spent about $2,500 on last November's meal. Many of the items used are donated.
The recent donations had been deposited, allegedly by Foreman, in an account under the name "Savannah Community Foundation." Russ Simpson, the president of the Savannah Community Foundation, told a Herald reporter Tuesday that Foreman did not act under the foundation's authority in opening the account.
One motivation for working with Foreman was he promised to provide 501(c)(3) status, which Feed the Boro was lacking, Aspinwall said. In emails, Foreman also identified himself as an executive director for Georgia Serves and Hands On Southeast Georgia, and listed roles in other organizations.
Police found that money from the account had been spent at two Statesboro restaurants and to buy a plane ticket, according to Aspinwall. Two pickup truckloads of donated utensils, cups, to-go plates and nonperishable food were also reported missing.
Aspinwall said she felt somewhat responsible for not taking the necessary steps to make sure this couldn't happen, for not insisting that her name be on the account and not ensuring that donors were given receipts. This is the "learning experience" she said has driven Feed the Boro to merge with Food Bank Inc.
"Hopefully we'll be able to look at more projects besides just Thanksgiving, but for sure we're going to be continuing the legacy of Mr. Jimmy Anthony and all the others who have worked so hard at this project every year," said Aspinwall.
A golf tournament to benefit Feed the Boro is scheduled for Aug. 29 at Forest Heights Country Club, with registration at 11:30 a.m. and tee off at 1 p.m.
Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9454.