Close Menu
Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


Disparities plague Pines nonprofits

(March 12, 2015) Longtime Ocean Pines resident and prolific nonprofit wrangler Anna Foultz is speaking out after a recent board of directors meeting failed answer two questions: how do you define a nonprofit, and what should they pay to use community facilities?
On Saturday, Feb. 28, Vice President Marty Clarke called on the board to refund the $450 Foultz’s Star Charities paid to rent the Ocean Pines community center gym for a beef and beer fundraiser held in January.
Proceeds from the event were to benefit wounded combat soldiers in the state.
Foultz is a well-known fund-raiser, as Star Charities aids at least 15 other organizations and causes ranging from Alzheimer’s and the American Cancer Society to the Girl Scouts and Diakonia.  
“We’re all volunteers,” Foultz said. “We live in Ocean Pines. We support everything in Ocean Pines. We do fundraisers and we’re very active in supporting all these organizations. We’re very active in helping those people that need help.”
Foultz has a special interest in supporting veterans, often tearing up when discussing the subject.
Her late husband, who passed away in 2010, served in the United States Army during three different conflicts.
“Our soldiers are a different entity because they support us every single day of our life,” she said. “I’ll do anything for the soldiers.”
The particular rub with the beef and beer fundraiser is that Star Charities paid to rent the gym this year while it was not charged last year to hold the same function in the same location.
“Last year, we did it at the Ocean Pines community center because we’re a community organization and we all live here,” Foultz said. “We figured, ‘that was great.’ We didn’t have to go outside [Ocean Pines] to work and it was a lot easier for the whole committee to do this. Everybody was so happy and we had a lot of veterans in Ocean Pines that called me and said how happy they were we were doing this event.
“This year we ran into a lot of problems,” Foultz continued. “They told us we have to pay $450 to use the community center. Then we thought, ‘why?’ We didn’t have any idea. There were no rules in place at that time.”
Mary Evans, treasurer for Star Charities, said nonprofits have never paid in Ocean Pines until now.
“There were no fees charged to any of the association groups that I’ve been in, and I’ve been with Kiwanis, I’ve been with Star Charities and a couple of other groups,” she said. “No fees or restrictions on equipment were started until last summer a year ago. As far as I know, these fees have been in the community for a long time, but they were never charged. “
Evans met with General Manager Bob Thompson in November to discuss the fees.
“We met for about 45 minutes and it was a very good conversation. He was very accommodating and explained a lot of his problems [about] why these rules are what they are,” she said.
“At that time, he told me that there was no criteria for nonprofit groups. He said he they didn’t have that yet – that was a black hole and that he had formed a committee just to look into that particular question.”
Pressed for when the community might receive a report from the committee, Evans said Thompson “couldn’t tell me that.”
In total, Star Charities paid a $200 deposit, $50 in kitchen fees, $400 for rental of the community center gym and $200 for rental of the Assateague Room used for the VIP portion of the fundraiser. The deposit was refunded. Foultz is still waiting for the rest.
The most recent Ocean Pines Activity Guide lists the nonprofit fee for the community center gymnasium as $400. The community organization fee for the same facility is $0.
Star Charities provided the Bayside Gazette with a schedule of fees and charges dated July 24, 2014 that lists the nonprofit fee for the gym as “N/A.”
“What I wanted to know is what the criteria is and why it wasn’t used before and all the sudden it’s in place,” Evans said. “I’ve heard grapevine stories about why it’s in place, but I want to hear why this year we have to pay and last year we didn’t.”
Evans said problems with booking events in Ocean Pines go beyond the inconsistent fee structures. The permitting process, for instance, is lengthy, and the wait can be upwards of several months.
“You put in the permit in August and they tell you they’re not going to get back to you until November the 15th and it’s first-come-first-serve,” Evans said.
“If you’re holding an event in December or January, you can’t wait until November the 15th to find out what you’ve got. You’ve got to get entertainment, you’ve got to get programs, you’ve got to get tickets. You’ve got to get things rolling. That’s not friendly to anyone who’s doing business with the community.”
What’s more, Evans said employees operating under Thompson often make impulsive decisions in the vacuum of a specific set of guidelines.
“All these little rules and little changes in policies are coming out of nowhere,” Evans said. “They’re never been going on before.
“I support Bob’s management style of trying to support his employees, but the employees are becoming antagonistic and trying to get to the power of where they’re controlling who uses the facilities and what uses they see,” Evans continued. “The bottom line is this is our community association. We’re paying an assessment fee. They work for us – we don’t work for them.”
Following the meeting with Thompson, Evans said she sent an email that thanked him for his time and restated her qu­­estions. After three days with no response, Evans sent the same email to the board of directors.
“The only one that responded to me was Marty Clarke,” she said.
“We were so impressed with Marty, who brought this up at the board meeting,” Foultz said. “It made us feel some hope.”
The board tabled Clarke’s motion during the meeting, asking Thompson instead to report back with clear procedures and definitions within 60 days. Thompson said during the meeting that he and his committee were “taking our time crafting language that addresses the ‘I don’t knows.’”
Clarke, meanwhile, vowed to continue the fight to refund Foultz’s money.  
“We need another committee like a snake needs a pair of shoes,” Clarke he said. “But I made Star Charities a commitment and I’m going to do the best I can to get their money back to them.”