Philly charity suffers because of Penn State scandal

November 15, 2011 2:31:00 PM PST
The child sex abuse charges against former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky are having an impact on a thrift store in West Philadelphia.

Sandusky is accused of using the charity he founded, The Second Mile, to find young victims.

That connection is leading to a backlash against the Second Mile Thrift Store in West Philadelphia.

It's a case of mistaken identity that led to a phone call owner that director Gerry Sterrett never expected.

"There's a picture of Second Mile on the news and you are accused of molesting little boys," Sterrett remembers the caller saying.

There is absolutely no connection or affiliation between the West Philly thrift store and the Sandusky-founded charity.

"Once they said 'Penn State,' I knew it had nothing to do with us," Sterrett said. "Just the coincidence of the name and the fact that my first name is Gerry. That didn't help."

The non-profit operates this thrift store and largely employs ex-offenders, who use their jobs as stepping stones. Signs now hang from the storefront making the distinction, but the postings haven't stopped a flood of irate phone calls or an abrupt 30-percent loss of business from people mistaking the two organizations.

"We are not an organization that can go for long periods of time with a 30 percent drop in business," said Ronald Lucas of the Second Mile Thrift Store.

The 'Second Mile' is a biblical reference and, when this non-profit was incorporated, they had to call themselves the Second Mile Center - because simply The Second Mile was already taken by Sandusky's charity.

They never imagined it would matter.

Now, even donations which stock the entire thrift shop are taking a hit.

"If you were in the habit of donating to a non-profit you believed in, suddenly the image changes dramatically? I would quit too if I thought there was any connection," said Sterrett.

The future of the Second Mile children's charity could be in jeopardy in the face of the Sandusky allegations, and folks here hope the same-name confusion doesn't leave this totally separate entity with a similar fate.

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