LINCOLN, Nebraska (AP) — A Nebraska church has raised more than $520,000 to pay for the medical bills of its neighborhood residents and ended its 14-month campaign on Easter Sunday.
An estimated 10,000 people contributed to the First-Plymouth Congregational Church effort, The Lincoln Journal Star reports.
“In my mind, it was a straight spiritual thing, you know, Jesus says, ‘love your neighbor,’” the Rev. Jim Keck said. “What broke out was just generosity.”
The effort came about after the Rev. Juan Carlos Huertas took over outreach efforts at the Lincoln church, starting something called justNeighbors. The ministry focused on connecting with the community, helping neighbors do laundry, filling their gas tanks and providing medical care to those without insurance.
He and Keck then turned to the medical bills. By anonymously acquiring debt profiles through collection agencies, Huertas had determined how to discharge Lincolnians’ medical debt without incurring a tax burden on those who receive assistance.
The money raised ultimately helped 500 homes in the Near South neighborhood. Along with the fundraiser, there were also panel discussions on the economics of healthcare.
Huertas and Keck have decided that their next adventure will be to face an ongoing mental health crisis.
“We want to be that person who lights it up,” Huertas said.
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