Nebraska church raises $520K to erase medical bills

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A Nebraska church has raised more than $520,000 to pay off the medical bills of residents in its neighborhood, ending the 14-month-campaign on Easter Sunday.

An estimated 10,000 people contributed to the First-Plymouth Congregational Church effort, The Lincoln Journal Star reports.

“In my mind, it was a straight-on spiritual thing, you know, Jesus says, ‘love your neighbor,’” the Rev. Jim Keck said. “What erupted was just generosity.”

The effort came about after the Rev. Juan Carlos Huertas took on outreach efforts at the Lincoln church, starting something called justNeighbors. The ministry centered around community connection, helping neighbors with laundry, filling their gas tanks and providing health care to those without insurance.

He and Keck then set their sights on medical bills. By acquiring debt profiles anonymously through collection agencies, Huertas had determined how to absolve Lincolnites’ medical debt without incurring a tax burden on those receiving the aid.

The money raised ultimately helped 500 households in the Near South neighborhood. Along with the fundraising, there also were panel discussions on the economics of health care.

Huertas and Keck have decided that their next venture will be confronting an ongoing mental health crisis.

“We want to be that person that shines a light on it,” Huertas said.

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