Style and grace

Betty Vanvulpen, Jan Vidal, Lorine Cady, Gary Malkin with Kaufman's Shoes, Warren Pellom and Mike Faust were on hand for the presentation of 100 pairs of shoes for domestic abuse victims to the House of Grace in 2018.

Southaven Board of Mayor and Aldermen turned down a donation request from a local domestic abuse nonprofit — not because the board doesn’t support its work — but because the request came in after the city’s budget was already set. 

The board voted 5-2 at its Feb. 2 meeting not to grant a $9,000 request to House of Grace. The city gave the organization the money last year but was under the impression that it was a one-time donation.

“They had requested some help to get them out of a financial bind,” Mayor Darren Musselwhite said. “We did that. Then, we got to the next budget year. We did not get any type of request from them like we require from all our organizations. And after we got into budgeting, we received a contact from them asking if the money had been approved. So the bottom line is, they are now requesting this money.”

House of Grace is a nonprofit ministry serving abused women. The organization provides shelter, support groups and other services in nine counties in northwest Mississippi.

Ward 3 Alderman George Payne, who voted for the donation, said House of Grace was supposed to send the city its financials to look over.

“House of Grace is an incredible entity to the city — and not just to our city,” Payne said. “I never saw anything. I was under the impression it was a one-time donation like everyone else.”

Payne asked whether it was a miscommunication between House of Grace and the city.

“It was probably a misunderstanding about whether this was going to be a yearly thing versus just a one time,” Payne said.

Southaven Chief Administrative Officer Chris Wilson told the board that House of Grace is under the impression that the city’s donation was to be a yearly recurring one.

“I transmitted to them that what we are talking about is that as far as what came up last year, it was a lifeline, a one-time $9,000 donation,” Wilson said. “Their organization says no, that was meant for annually.”

Wilson said House of Grace claims they sent the city their financials, but the city has no record of it.

“We reached back out,” WIlson said. “They claimed they emailed a request to the city clerk’s office in July. We can find no record of them doing that.”

House of Grace has since sent in a new application requesting the money, but the city has already set its budget.

Musselwhite said while he is sympathetic, House of Grace was supposed to provide the city with a full accounting of their financials, along with information about any other support they receive from the other cities and counties they serve and did not do so in time.

“It’s not practical for us to look every time at these nonprofit organizations and ask them if they want some money this year,” Musselwhite said.

Ward 1 Alderman Kristian Kelly said he agrees House of Grace performs a valuable service, but the organization did not follow the process.

“I don’t think there is a single person in this building who has anything negative to say about House of Grace and what they do,” Kelly said. “But at the same time, we have a process. We set a budget every year in order to keep to that. And the Mayor and board has been good about sticking to that budget. If we allow this now, it’s just going to open the floodgates to anyone.”

Ward 4 Alderman Joel Gallagher agreed.

“If it were my nonprofit and I got a $9,000 lifeline, I would make sure and double sure that my documents were in before the deadline,” Gallagher said.

Ward 6 Alderman Raymond Flores added that granting the request would set a bad precedent.

“I don’t want to open that box,” Flores said. 

Payne’s motion to grant the request pending receipt of the financials failed with only Ward 2 Alderman Charlie Hoots supporting the motion.

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