Some parts of this story are true. Other parts may or may not be true. You can decide for yourself if that really matters.
It happened last week in Blue Earth, just a couple days before Christmas Eve. But, the story actually starts in Myrtle Beach, S.C., a few months ago.
A South Carolina woman named Deborah was driving home from one of her three jobs when she was pulled over by a Myrtle Beach law enforcement officer for having a broken tail light.
When he checked her drivers license information, he discovered there were warrants for her arrest issued 10 years ago in Martin County, Minnesota.
So, he arrested her. And she was extradited to Minnesota. It took eight days to transfer her here, as the prisoner van traversed around the country.
The charges were for writing bad checks. Deborah says she didn’t do it, and had never even been in Minnesota in her life. She figured someone found a purse she had lost years earlier and used the check blanks in it.
However, under advice from her court-appointed attorney, she pled to a lesser charge, just to avoid a longer jail sentence.
She had been held in jail at the Faribault County Law Enforcement Center during her ‘stay’ in Minnesota. The local jail is equipped to house female inmates and does so for several local counties.
Deborah says her stay in the LEC jail was OK; the officers there treated her alright.
But, when her time there was over she was released – virtually sent out the front door.
She had very little money and only the clothes she had on when she had been arrested.
Her husband had died of a heart attack a couple of years ago; that was why she was working three part time jobs and still barely making ends meet. Her only relative, a brother, also had no money he could send to her.
With no other real recourse, she walked the short distance from the jail to the Super 8 Motel and booked a room for one night with the last of her money.
In the morning, she got a ride to downtown Blue Earth, still unsure of her next move. Somebody bought her a cup of coffee at Juba’s Fuel Express.
Then she started to walk east on Seventh Street. Maybe she was going to walk back to South Carolina.
She only went one block when she saw the First Baptist Church, went in and found Rev. Joel DeNeui and told him of her situation. He called a fellow pastor, Dave Drescher of Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church.
Both men are members of the Blue Earth Area Ministerial Association. Most of the pastors in Blue Earth – and some from Frost, Elmore and Winnebago – are part of this group.
They meet once a month and discuss, well, pastor stuff.
They also have another duty. They are in charge of a special Blue Earth ‘emergency’ fund. Not many people know about it.
The money in the fund mainly comes from an annual grant from the Blue Earth United Fund. Some of the churches also give a little to the fund each year.
The money is used to help anyone who needs it for an emergency. It is especially used in cases just like Deborah’s. Sometimes the pastors buy some gas for people who are stranded here. Or put them up in a motel if their vehicle is broken down or they have been in an accident. Or buy a meal for a family who needs it. You get the idea.
It is important to note that this is money from the community, Drescher says. It comes from community members who give to the United Fund each year. So it is actually the community of Blue Earth itself that is helping people who need it.
Drescher says he is well aware that the pastors have been scammed a few times. One man from Iowa came back several times and always said he ran out of gas on his way to a job interview in Blue Earth. He was given 10 gallons of gas twice, but not the third time.
Most of the time, though, it is someone who needs just a little help as they pass through town. Tips come from police, motel clerks and local citizens who run into someone in need.
DeNeui and Drescher used money from the emergency fund to buy some food for Deborah, and then used some more to buy her a bus ticket home to South Carolina. Drescher drove her to Fairmont where she boarded a bus at 5 p.m. on Wednesday.
She should have made it home just in time for Christmas.