January 4, 2012 / 10:45 PM / 8 years ago

Charities shunning programs of scandal-tainted Second Mile

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - The Second Mile charity, founded by former Penn State coach and accused child molester Jerry Sandusky, is running into trouble as it tries to transfer its programs to other charities not tainted by the Penn State child sex abuse scandal.

Two Pennsylvania charities said on Wednesday they have opted out of talks that could have led to them taking over programs of the beleaguered Second Mile charity, which has a stated aim of helping troubled children.

One of the groups, the Volunteers of America Pennsylvania, pointed to the “unique circumstances” as its reasoning for dropping out of the discussions.

The VOA has been “taking a look at the national publicity that would impact not just us in Pennsylvania, but Volunteers of America across the nation... just because of what’s in the news,” said President Alan Garner.

“We already serve youth, and we do it without the publicity,” he said.

The fate of Second Mile has come into question since early November when a grand jury report accused Sandusky, who founded the charity in 1977, of child sex abuse at Penn State.

Sandusky, a former assistant football coach at Penn State, allegedly met his victims through Second Mile. He has been charged with 52 counts of sex abuse, stemming from accusations by ten men who say he sexually abused them as juveniles over a 15-year period.

Sandusky, 67, has maintained his innocence. No date has yet been set for his trial, and he is under house arrest after posting $250,000 bail.

Second Mile has said it was considering closing and has told potential donors to give to other charities. It also agreed to freeze its assets while it settled a lawsuit by one of the men who has accused Sandusky of molestation.

A spokesman for Second Mile said on Wednesday that the organization is “continuing to evaluate its options.”

A second charity, the Centre County Youth Service Bureau, said it too opted out of talks with Second Mile, which says on its website that it serves at-risk children through residential camps, programs for foster families and counseling.

Andrea Boyles, head of the Youth Service Bureau, said the agency wanted to remain local and not run statewide programs.

She said her agency also was concerned that any Second Mile money to be distributed to agencies such as hers could be at risk if Second Mile faces significant civil lawsuit losses.

“That’s a legitimate concern for anybody in this situation,” Boyles said. According to its 2010 annual report, Second Mile had just under $9 million in assets.

A third charity, Arrow Child & Family Ministries, which is based in Texas but has a chapter in Pennsylvania, said it remained in discussions with Second Mile “regarding the transfer of certain programs to our organization.”

“We are committed to the well being of children and are deeply saddened by the tragic allegations of child sexual abuse,” Arrow said in a statement. “We strongly believe, however, that many children were well served by Second Mile and we want those programs to continue and flourish.”

As the Penn State scandal broke, the school’s legendary football coach was fired as was university president Graham Spanier, and perjury charges were filed against two other high-ranking Penn State officials.

Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Peter Bohan

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