Leroy Lariscey, an usher at Westside Baptist Church in Evans, shows donations collected. Few churches report problems with bad checks.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
At a Columbia County store that promises customers big savings, Wal-Mart, bad checks are not an uncommon sight.
"We've seen our fair share of returned checks," said Sharon Webber, a spokeswoman for Wal-Mart's corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Ark.
But when it comes to the places where people are saved in Columbia County, their financial status apparently hasn't been such a problem.
"I don't think it's happened here," said Charlie Stakely, the pastor of the Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Evans, referring to bad checks being written for the church's offering. "We don't have that problem. But I'll be honest with you, if that was a problem I wouldn'thh know about it."
Four years ago, Stakely said he used to be involved with handling the finances of the church, but now that the church has grown, he said, he has the deacons take care it.
He also has a hunch as to why the church hasn't suffered from bad checks.
"Maybe it's because most of our people we know and they consider this (church) theirs and there's ownership and all of that," he said.
Several other churches in the county also say they haven't seen the rubber-check syndrome a lot, either.
"We haven't had a bad check written for quite sometime," said Kent Hensley, the pastor of New Horizon Church, in Martinez, who said bad checks were written because of unexpected situations among members or miscalculations when balancing checkbooks.
Hensley said that in the six years the church has been in existence, 10 bad checks have been received.
"It's typically because of a crisis or something like that, and we handle it very confidentially," he said. "So, it's not been a big issue."
Still, Hensley's church is now considering a possible solution for some members and the threat of bad checks.
"I've talked with some people in the church about doing a direct draft on accounts," he said. "I've kind of verbally surveyed. and I had several people say that they would really like that (because) it would really help them so they wouldn't forget."
Robert Lehn, the senior pastor of Westside Baptist Church in Martinez, said he has seen his fair share of bounced checks with members in the past, but now it's not a worry.
"It's not a chronic problem," he said. "When we see a check that bounces, what we usually do is run it back through and most of the time it's covered. If the check comes back again, we'll contact that person just to let them know there has been a problem with his or her check. But we try not to make a mountain out of a molehill.''
Mistakes are common, Lehn said, so the problem is usually associated with "a miscalculation in the checkbook" or a person thinking their money will be in the bank to cover the written check.
In cases where bad checks have been written, Hensley and Lehn said, the church pays for the bank charge. However, at Church of Our Savior, in Martinez, the Rev. Lou Scales said the expense would "probably" be paid by the violator.
But in his two years of ministering, Scales said bounced checks have not been a problem at the church.
Charles Broome, the pastor of the Philadelphia United Methodist Church, in Harlem, agreed.
"We've never had a bad check," he said. "Now I'm not saying that's not possible or it hasn't happened in some places, but I've never experienced that here. "
Broome said he doesn't think bounced checks are a serious issue among churches for one reason.
"I would guess that since most people give to churches on their own free will vs. goods and services," he said, "they would tend not to (write a bad check because) it's more of a contribution."
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