Helpline working to put better controls in place

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As was reported in the Union-Bulletin, a recent audit in our agency revealed misappropriation of client funds. Our bookkeeper found a discrepancy, notified me, and together we began an investigation on a Saturday afternoon. I immediately notified Board President Sharon Longmire, and the next day I filed a police report that has resulted in an ongoing criminal investigation.

A staff member was put on administrative leave and was subsequently terminated.

The Board of Directors and staff feel deeply betrayed and outraged that our most vulnerable clients were victimized. The funds misappropriated were non-donated funds, and are fully insured. To be clear, no funds donated through the United Way or other donor organizations or individuals were involved in the theft.

While we are outraged at the offense, we remain committed to our mission as a nonprofit agency in Walla Walla County to affirm the worth of every person, address the needs of the individuals, families and our community and advocate for positive life transformation.

Helpline was founded in 1973 at the Wilma Hepker School of Social Work & Sociology of Walla Walla University. Helpline is a community based nonprofit focused on providing emergency social services to the residents of Walla Walla County. Last year, Helpline provided over 22,000 cases of service to nearly 2600 households. These services include emergency rental assistance, utility assistance, food, clothing and temporary shelter including the operation of the STEP Women's Shelter.

Helpline has filled a vital role in serving the poor, the indigent and the homeless in cooperation with many churches and other social agencies. Helpline has done so with the creative collaboration of resources from both the public and private sectors. The agency has relied primarily on volunteers to provide this direct aid.

Ironically the discovery of these activities comes at a time when the Board of Directors has been working, with the support and guidance of the Sherwood Trust, on a strategic plan and the overall professionalization of the Helpline organization this past year. These activities include continued improvements in financial controls that will preclude the reoccurrence of this type of activity.

Through this difficult time we continue to provide high quality services to those most in need in our community. We appreciate the community for standing by our organization. If you have any questions, feel welcome to contact us.

Daniel Willms

Helpline executive director

Walla Walla

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