Defunct United Way to refund donations

Stripped of the right to call itself a United Way earlier this month, the remaining shell of the Santa Rosa chapter has decided to refund all donations collected so far in 2019 via payroll deductions.

“The board has directed me to give back the donations,” Kyle Holley, the acting administrator of the Milton-based charity, told the Navarre Press on Monday.

Further, all payroll deductions will be ceased by employers that have supported United Way of Santa Rosa. Holley said he’s phoning human resources officials about that decision at such contributors as Publix, the Santa Rosa School District and the Santa Rosa Property Appraiser’s Office.

Davey Willhoit, a business consultant who was elected volunteer chairman of the Santa Rosa United Way in January, told a reporter that on March 12 the board “voted to continue to operate under a different name to do as much good in the community as possible for as long as possible (and keep an organization in operation to receive potential restitution that would then be given to agencies and/or the needy in the community).”

The Santa Rosa United Way has been under a cloud since last October when the Federal Bureau of Investigation seized certain of its financial records. The board also ordered a detailed audit, citing possible irregularities involving donations.

An FBI spokeswoman told this newspaper last week that the agency still isn’t ready to release any findings about its United Way probe.

Meanwhile, all but eight of the previous 28 board members—a virtual who’s who of Santa Rosa County community leadership—have resigned. Long-time paid Executive Director Guy Thompson and two other employees have been fired.

Holley said the remaining eight include Willhoit and School Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick.

For now, the charity’s Milton office is staffed and operating under the name First Call for Help of Santa Rosa. But Holley said the organization is functioning mainly as a referral service for needy families and individuals to steer them to other agencies that can offer assistance.

Still, it’s unclear how long the former United Way can continue even in that limited capacity because money is no longer coming in. Holley said, “It’s month to month.”


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