Charity Hopes Dropping "Jesus" from Name Will Increase Donations

A Florida area charity is dropping the name "Jesus" from its title in hopes of increasing donations.
A Florida area charity is dropping the name "Jesus" from its title in hopes of increasing donations.

For nearly a quarter century Jesus House of Hope has provided food, clothes, and money for needy families in Florida's Martin County, helping more than 6,000 families a year.

"It was founded by a group of people from different churches, but they all believed they were guided by Matthew's gospel to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked," said Patrick Slattery, the charity's executive director.

The charity's religious foundation is obvious when you look around its offices.

And of course, there's the name.

But Slattery says times have changed.

Demand for services shot up 30% last year and donations have dropped.

"The name we discovered, we recognized, finally acknowledged that it does get in the way," he said.

Slattery says even though the charity is not affiliated with a church, some groups think it is, and that prevents some from giving.

"There are many grants that are available to non-religiously affiliated organizations," he added.

The charity recently changed its logo, taking out the block-lettered "Jesus" and highlighting the word "hope."

"It didn't make enough of a difference," Slattery admitted.

And so, after much debate, the charity's board decided to take "Jesus" out of its name entirely.

"I think it's sad," said Father Tom Pittenger, rector of St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Stuart.

Churches like St. Mary's provide 15% of the charity's funding.

Father Pittinger says he doesn't approve of the decision to change its name.

"There must have been some reason 24 years ago they decided to call it 'Jesus House of Hope.' In my opinion 'Jesus' and 'hope' are synonymous," Pittenger said.

Slattery admits some people won't embrace the name change, but he insists it's the best way for the charity to extend its reach.

"We believe it will allow us to create new programs and new services that will be more effective in helping people rise above their economic situation," he said.

The decision is not popular with everyone at the charity.

Slattery says two volunteers walked out because of it.

Father Pittenger says although he disapproves of the name change his church most likely won't withdraw support for fear it would hurt the people who most need help.