Midland Interfaith Friends is raising money to help pay off local medical debt

With the cost of medical debt weighing on many families across the United States, a local group of faith leaders is seeking to help ease the burden for residents of central Michigan.

Midland Area Interfaith Friends is partnering with RIP Medical Debt, a group dedicated to repaying medical debt, to raise funds to help local families in need. While the group has already reached its fundraising goal, it will continue to collect donations until April 1.

The interfaith group formed in 2016 to bring people of different religious backgrounds together during the election divisive period, said Umbareen Jamil, a member of Interfaith and the Islamic Center of Midland. The group started as a way to get to know each other, but eventually found a higher purpose – working together to improve the community.

One of the band’s most recent projects was a comfort and warmth campaign. The group raised money to help people pay their energy bills, Jamil said. Their goal was $5,000, but they ended up raising $5,600.

Reverend Jim Harrison of St. John’s Episcopal Church said he first heard of RIP when he was preparing for the funeral of someone from another church and saw that church had recently worked with them when he visited the church’s website. He knew he wanted to work with them for Interfaith.

RIP is based in New York and buys debt at a discount, Harrison said. He then pays off that debt for people, with no strings attached. The organization specifically pays the debt of those who are most burdened by it: people earning half the federal poverty level and whose debt is more than 5% or more of their income.

The interfaith group’s goal was to raise $20,000 from the public, with St. John’s Episcopal Church agreeing to match the donation. According to a recent facebook post, the group has already raised $24,121.

Jamil said that for every dollar raised, $200 would eliminate $200 in medical debt, with 100% of the money raised going towards debt abolition. Money raised from this campaign will stay in Midland, Bay, Gladwin, Isabella and Saginaw counties, Harrison said.

Interfaith member Pam Fagan wanted to raise money for this group because of her 31-year-old daughter-in-law, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She was paying off student loans and her medical bills were high, even with health insurance.

“It’s such an awesome project. I can’t say enough good things about it,” Fagan said. receive a letter in the mail and just say, ‘Oh, by the way, that medical debt has been relieved. “”

Reverend Eric Severson of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Midland said some of his congregants have faced the problem of medical debt and it is a pervasive burden. It was a natural fit for the band to take charge of that, he said.

Within the Muslim faith, members learn the importance of the sanctity of human life, Jamil said, and that every life matters.

“The stress of medical debt is such that it’s killing people,” Jamil said. “They may not die from the disease they have, they may die from the emotional stress of having to deal with how they’re going to pay for this because it has such a domino effect on everything. If you’re in debt, you can’t have a house, you can’t have a car. So many things are affected.

If you are interested in donating to the campaign, visit RIP’s website.

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John A. Bogar