Salvation Army not taking Lotto winner's $100,000 donation

Published: Thursday, January 2, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 2, 2003 at 12:51 a.m.
MARCO ISLAND - The Salvation Army will not accept a $100,000 donation from a Florida Lotto winner because some officials question whether to take money associated with a form of gambling, the group said.
David L. Rush, 71, who said he has made donations - albeit smaller ones - to the Salvation Army for 40 years, announced on Dec. 26 that he intended to give the organization the large gift. Rush accepted a check for $14,281,243.70 from Florida Lottery officials last month.
But Maj. Cleo Damon, head of the Salvation Army office in Naples, told Rush on Friday that he could not take his money and returned the check which another official had accepted at a luncheon the day before.
"There are times where Maj. Damon is counseling families who are about to become homeless because of gambling," spokeswoman Maribeth Shanahan said. "He really believes that if he had accepted the money, he would be talking out of both sides of his mouth."
Rush also donated $100,000 to Habitat for Humanity and $50,000 to the Rotary Club of Marco Island. Both groups accepted the gifts.
"Everybody has a right to be sanctimonious if they want to be," Rush said. "I respect the Salvation Army's decision. I do not agree with it, but that is their prerogative."
Some Salvation Army officials are concerned that the publicity surrounding the returned donation may give citizens the impression that the group no longer needs financial support.
"If too much attention is given to it, we're afraid that people are going to say they don't need my donation," said Janet Sturtz, development director of the Salvation Army in Fort Myers.
The Florida Lottery has raised more than $12 billion for the state educational enhancement trust fund, prompting Rush to see the lottery as something other than gambling entertainment.
"There's no bigger gamble than investing in the stock market," said Rush, a financial adviser. "For them to say this is gambling is an overstatement."

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