St. Jude’s Ranch Takes Funding Crisis to Court

     LAS VEGAS (CN) – Plummeting contributions will force St. Jude’s Ranch for Children to cut back services for 652 at-risk youths unless it can dip into an endowment, the charity claims in court.
     St. Jude’s Ranch for Children was founded in 1967 by the Rev. Jack Adam, an Episcopal priest. It began by admitting a single child, from Elko. Since then, it has helped thousands of youngsters “through residential and community-based foster care, counseling of pregnant and parenting teens, providing transitional and supportive housing environments, emergency placement of children in crises and related programs,” it says in the lawsuit.
     After more than a decade of continuous growth, the ranch’s operations budget came to $8.5 million for 2014, with 130 employees serving 652 children.
     But a “steep decline in revenues from individual bequests” hurt the ranch, with donor revenue dropping from $3.2 million in 2012 to $1.5 million last year, and just $200,000 so far in 2015.
     This has “jeopardized the financial stability” of the ranch, and unless it finds a fix it will have to eliminate many of its 14 programs in Nevada and Texas, the ranch says.
     It seeks declaratory judgment on how it can use $2.9 million in a charitable account.
     In 2002 the ranch received $2.7 million from the Aron Family Trust, established by Richard and Dorothy Aron, both of whom passed on. Under terms of the trust, the ranch created the Aron Family Endowment Fund, with the stipulation that it provide 90 percent of its net annual income to St. Jude’s Ranch for Children. The remaining 10 percent is to be added to the endowment’s principal.
     St. Jude’s has used the endowment for operations since 2002. Its fair market value today is $2,868,010, according to the complaint.
     Because of the funding crisis, the ranch wants to use the entire Aron Family Endowment Fund.
     It asks the court to declare that the Aron Fund is not an endowment as defined by Nevada law and not subject to restrictions that would prevent it from using the entire endowment to continue funding its programs.
     The ranch says that without the “full and unrestricted use” of the Aron Fund, it will have to cut its programs, in effect, throwing the children out of them.
     St. Jude’s Ranch for Children development director Pamela Carlston did not return a call seeking comment.
     The charity is represented by S. Craig Stone, who was not immediately available for comment.

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