Second Mile volunteers and donors wanted the organization for at-risk youth to continue, but they knew it had reached an end.
That became official Friday morning.
Organizers with the charity that Jerry Sandusky founded filed papers in Centre County court asking for approval to disband the nonprofit and turn its assets and mission over to Arrow Child and Family Ministries. That Houston-based organization works with children who have already been abused or neglected and removed from their homes. Arrow officials say the move will allow them to provide support to children at all risk stages.
If the plan gets court approval, the organization will take over direction of The Second Mile’s summer camps, child-adult mentorships and skill-building workshops — programs the agency’s leaders say remain strong.
“We have an outcome here that’s not the worst case,” said Dave Woodle, The Second Mile’s interim CEO and board vice chairman, in an interview the CDT reported first Friday morning. “It’s a positive step in a very negative overall situation.”
The Second Mile’s association with Sandusky — who prosecutors said used the organization as a pipeline to meet boys he later abused — was too much, causing it to fold because of dwindling donor support. The former Nittany Lion assistant coach, who maintains his innocence, is scheduled to stand trial in June.
“As a result of the Sandusky disclosures, donations to The Second Mile virtually ceased,” the nonprofit wrote in the petition. “The Second Mile’s volunteer base, on which it relies to deliver its programming, shrank considerably, and certain referral sources to The Second Mile’s programs expressed their reluctance to refer children to The Second Mile programs while Sandusky was under a cloud of suspicion.”
The court filing says that an informal survey of donors found “strong support” for continuing the programs contrasted with “a decided reluctance among donors to continue financial support to The Second Mile.”
The Second Mile also began to get inquiries from nonprofits interested in taking on the programs.
Charity officials “determined that the Sandusky indictment and the developments described above rendered the accomplishment of the charitable objectives of The Second Mile impracticable, if not impossible ... and concluded that The Second Mile could not continue its charitable purpose but should transfer its programs to another nonprofit provider and, ultimately, dissolve.”
Under the proposal, The Second Mile would transfer $2 million to Arrow to run programs for a year and a half.
Arrow, which has a presence in Altoona and a contract with Centre County’s Children and Youth Services for foster care services, will take over the programs once The Second Mile’s request receives approval from a judge. Whether that will come from a county judge, all of whom recused themselves from Sandusky’s criminal case because of their ties to The Second Mile, and how long the approval could take are not immediately known.
It’s also possible that the court approval could be held up if alleged victims in the Sandusky case oppose the transfer of The Second Mile’s assets.
Second Mile would continue as a legal entity and give complete cooperation with all investigations, Woodle said.
He said the state Attorney General’s Office reviewed the petition.
Attorney General’s Office spokesman Nils Frederiksen said that office received a copy of the filing and related materials and its review is ongoing.
“The jurisdiction related to charitable organizations is separate from any other cases that may be ongoing,” Frederiksen said. “The responsibility we have and the role we play ... is to ensure the charitable assets are safeguarded and used for their intended purposes.”
He said the Attorney General’s Office will be ready to voice its opinion when Orphan’s Court schedules a hearing. It’s ultimately up to the court to decide whether to approve the transfer.
Second Mile assets
In the court documents, Second Mile lists its assets including property, campaign funds and planned giving. They add up to $6.2 million, not including pledges or future giving.
Woodle said transferring money to Arrow gives that organization time to raise money for upcoming years. The Second Mile will also move its $487,045 endowment fund, which generates about $20,000 a year, to Arrow. Once that receives court approval, Woodle said, the Second Mile will sell its remaining assets.
After passing $2 million plus the endowment to Arrow, Second Mile will have about $4.5 million. Some of that will go to ongoing operational costs.
Second Mile is in the process of selling property on Bernel Road near University Park Airport, where it had planned to build a center to operate its programs. Plans for the $12 million facility were scrapped after the state filed charges against Sandusky. According to the court filing, Avalon Partners LLC is looking at buying the property for $2.1 million.
Plans also include selling The Second Mile’s office at 1402 S. Atherton St. Once the land is sold, the plan is for any remaining money to go to other charities with suggestions from donors about where exactly it should go. To do that, Second Mile will submit a second petition to the court for approval for a closedown of the organization.
For The Second Mile, the impending dissolution is a sad ending to the charity Sandusky started in 1977 and that grew over the years with his stature as a Penn State coach and defensive mastermind. The annual golf tournament he started raised more than $3 million over the years, and its card featured a who’s who of former Penn State greats and local celebrities.
But questions linger on about what The Second Mile’s former CEO, Jack Raykovitz, knew about the alleged abuse by Sandusky. Raykovitz was told about a report of alleged abuse by Sandusky from 2001, according to grand jury testimony.
Second Mile hired a former Philadelphia prosecutor to conduct an investigation of the charity’s policies and procedures and make recommendations. That investigation concluded with the decision to close the charity.
Woodle declined to discuss specific details about the investigation and what it focused on or found.
Regarding The Second Mile’s role in the events that gave rise to the allegations against Sandusky, Woodle wouldn’t discuss the topic, citing a gag order the judge imposed on the case.
“If there was a lot they had there, you’d think they would update the presentment with it,” he said.
One of about 15 organizations considered from a pool that included local and regional organizations, Arrow was chosen because its mission matched up well with The Second Mile’s, Woodle said.
Second Mile’s board finalized the decision last week.
Arrow’s CEO is Mark Tennant, a native of central Pennsylvania who was physically and sexually abused as a child and removed from his home. He said he turned his life around in foster care with a family in Bedford.
“I grew up not far from Penn State and the hurt created by these shocking circumstances affected me personally,” Tennant said. “I felt the need to turn my heart home and be a part of the healing process.”
Arrow provides foster care, services, such as child abuse prevention and adoption, and has an office in Hollidaysburg along with ones in Texas, Maryland, California, Honduras and Central America.
Arrow is one of many organizations Centre County CYS has contracted with to find foster families for children. The Arrow contract is worth $5,400 and the money is used on an as-needed basis, county Administrator Tim Boyde said.
Seven Second Mile employees will likely be hired by Arrow. They’re involved with programming, fundraising and administration. The employees will go through the screening process prospective employees normally go through, said Faye Eson, a spokeswoman for Arrow.
Tennant said Arrow is highly regulated, with background checks, sex abuse registry checks, and training required for staff and volunteers.
Board President Bob Poole, who was one of seven people to serve on the search committee, said he thinks Arrow’s work matches up with Second Mile’s mission, goals and objectives.
Poole said that many parents, schools and organizations were in support of The Second Mile and what it does, but that because of the circumstances it became difficult to get financial support.
He said the goal is to continue to help at-risk children have an opportunity.
“It’s very sad in the sense that The Second Mile’s purpose was to help youth out, and I think the board and the community did a phenomenal job,” Poole said. “Our hope is with this change of the program to Arrow, we believe it’s going to continue. At the end of the day, the most important thing is to help at risk kids who hopefully grow up to be productive in society.”
State Sen. Jake Corman, a Second Mile board member, was on the committee that selected Arrow from a pool of 15 organizations that inquired about taking over its program. Corman said Arrow “has a very important mission and one that will keep those programs alive.”