‘Angel’ Who Gave $17 Million to Poor Detroit Area Residents Steps Back

When the fund was set up a decade ago by a humanitarian donor who chose to remain anonymous, he was clear “that it didn’t have a perpetual shelf life,” an archdiocesan official says.

A mystery donor who set up a $17 million "Angel Fund" has helped legions of some of Detroit's most vulnerable citizens over the past decade. (Patch file photo)
A mystery donor who set up a $17 million "Angel Fund" has helped legions of some of Detroit's most vulnerable citizens over the past decade. (Patch file photo)

All good things come to an end.

And the $17 million “Angel Fund” set up by a mystery donor a decade ago to help Detroit’s most vulnerable citizens with necessities such as rent, medicine and overdue utility bills was a very, very good thing.

During the decade of giving, the “Angel's” admirers say he has breathed the gospel and epitomized Catholic charity.

“This helps you really be with the poor. ... It’s the church responding to those who are really down and out,” the Rev. Victor Clore, the pastor at Christ the King Parish in Northwest Detroit, told the Detroit Free Press. “The last couple years have been so desperate for so many.”

“I think he’s living the gospel message,” added the Rev. Edward Zaorski, pastor at SS. Andrew in Benedict in southwest Detroit. “Even as we look at the Lenten season, one of our first scriptures is don’t let your right hand know what your left hand is doing. Don’t boast. I think the man personifies Christian stewardship and gospel values.”

The fund, established in 2005, will end April 30,

The Angel chose to remain anonymous, though his – the generous humanitarian is a man – family knew about his philanthropy, Msgr. Michael Bugarin, an archdiocesan official and the priest at St. Joan of Arc parish in St. Clair Shores, told the newspaper.

Bugarin called the level of philanthropy “extraordinary.”

The Angel Fund’s existence flew quietly under the radar until it was publicly revealed after a priest was accused of defrauding the fund of between $1,000 and $20,000, the Free Press reported in February.

The sunset on the fund has nothing to do with the alleged fraud, Bugarin said, telling the newspaper the donor was clear from the beginning “that it didn’t have a perpetual shelf life.”

The donor’s reportedly said in an email that the family’s philanthropic interests have shifted, though he still has great concerns for helping the poor of Detroit. The donor, who has a long history of Catholic philanthropy, plans to contribute in other unspecified ways, archdiocese officials told the newspaper.

'I Wish He Could See the Faces and the Hugs We Get'

The fund was designed to give quick cash to pastors at about 60 Catholic parishes in Detroit, Highland Park and Hamtramck. Parishes in Pontiac, Ecorse, Hazel Park, North Branch and Port Huron were recently added.

The end of the fund leaves people like Sister Jolene Van Handel, a pastoral minister at Detroit’s Nativity Catholic Church, scrambling for resources. The parish has distributed $42,000 in Angel Fund grants to needy people in the east-side neighborhood and the fund’s end “cuts back seriously on what we can do.”

“We are grateful for what he’s done,” Van Handel said. “I wish he could see the faces and the hugs we get. These are people who are very grateful that they have a house with heat and lights … because of the Angel Fund.”

The Rev. Robert Scullin, the pastor of Gesu Parish in northwest Detroit, said that when he makes grants – and he’s approved 37 requests since mid-summer 2013, ranging from $60 for someone who needed bus fare to attend a funeral in Ohio to $2,000 for a furnace for a family with young children – he sometimes offers a prayer with the recipient and asks them to consider doing the same.

He wants them to know that the money didn’t come from the church, but “from a very generous person, and they’ve been blessed, and they want to return the blessing.”

“However you pray,” Scullin said he tells them, “I want you to say a prayer for this person.”

Free Press reporters poked around a bit  to help identify the donor. Click here to read the full story and speculation about the mystery donor. >>>


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