Tacoma Mall fixture Johnny Greene says God influences his choices, including how he spends his money.
The brightly clad makeshift minister said he felt blessed when supporters raised almost $5,000 to help get him back on his feet.
So blessed, he said, that days later he sent $2,000 of his good fortune to support Christian television stations and other religious organizations, according to receipts he provided to The News Tribune.
He spent about $140 to clean 10 of the suits hes known for. The bright colors are conversation starters he uses to spread the good news of Jesus Christ.
Of what remains, about $40 goes each night to his hotel room along South Tacoma Way, and, he says, each month he pays $2 in child support to his 13-year-old son.
Community members started the fund-raising campaign last month when they learned the car Greene, 60, had been living in had broken down on Interstate 5. He had been missing from his post, spreading the gospel at the Tacoma Mall, since about Thanksgiving, and was living with a friend near Bothell.
University Place resident Marc McCoy and his family had spoken with Greene at the mall for years. Earlier this year, McCoy found Greene at the mall, abandoned by a friend with nowhere to go. So he put him in a hotel for the night and asked online for others to help.
The creator of Tacoma Memes, a website that makes fun of Lakewood/Tacoma life, responded by creating an online fund-raising campaign on the website gofundme.com. The websites creator, Samantha Rader, said on her Facebook page that Greene had received the money but did not respond to requests from The News Tribune for comment.
In the end, donations totalled $4,767. Of that, McCoy said, $4,339.28, went to the local icon with the rest going to gofundme.com and its affiliate. Greene received the money Feb. 25.
While talking about how he has spent the donations, Greene said: I want to do right. I dont want to blow the money.
NO JOB, CHILD SUPPORT
Greene estimates he owes between $16,000 and $20,000 in back child support for his son. He said he filed for hardship with the state, and now sends $2 monthly.
Ive been trying, he said. I pray for him.
Green said he hasnt seen his teenage son since the boy was a 3-year-old. He said the boys mother doesnt want him to have contact with the child.
The minimum amount of child support someone is supposed to pay in the state is $50 per month, said Adolfo Capestany, spokesman for the Division of Child Support for the state Department of Social and Health Services. Nevertheless, he said, officials dont turn down smaller amounts.
Capestany said he could not speak about Greenes case without written permission from involved parties.
Greene said his child-support situation cost him a dish-washing job with a local catering company when the state asked the firm to cover the back payments.
If they didnt pay them upfront, all the back child support, they were going to close them down, Greene contended.
Capestany said that isnt how the system works. An employers obligation is to withhold money for child support from the employees wages at an amount set by the court, Capestany said. The money then is sent to the state, which forwards it to the spouse.
An employer is not responsible for paying anybodys child support, Capestany said. An employer is not supposed to discriminate against someone who pays child support.
As for landing a new job, Greene said hes turned down offers since the fund-raising campaign because of his back child support.
If I got another job, theyd tell me the same thing, he said. I could have 100 jobs. The job has never been my source; God is my source.
Greene said he decided not to put his recent windfall in a bank so that the state couldnt drain his account.
My friend, hes a prophet, Greene said, and he told me a day in advance what was going on: Theyre going to take everything that you got.
A higher power had other plans for the donations, Greene said.
SENDING THE BLESSING OVERSEAS
The Lord had me first of all bless Israel, Greene said. If anyone knows how to deal with money better than anyone in the world, its God.
Greene said he sent the money to programs that benefit Israel, including a center for Holocaust victims called the House of Hope. His receipt shows $1,000 went to that program, which is supported by the Daystar Television network, according to Daystars website.
They usually send you an envelope, Greene said. I didnt wait for an envelope, I just went home and sent it the good ol U.S. Postal Service.
Another receipt shows Greene sent $1,000 to the Word of Faith Ministry. The mission of that organization, according to its website, is to spread the word of God internationally.
While talking about the donations, Greene said he believes sending money where God sees fit will help the global economy.
Jesus is the only person who can get America out of debt, he said. I wish I could get on the phone and talk to the president of the United States. I could let him know some things.
Marc McCoy hasnt gotten into details with Greene about how the unofficial pastor is spending the donated money.
We dont talk about anything heavy, he said. I just ask him if hes doing well and make sure hes been eating.
McCoy said he was pleased with how things have worked out for Greene.
When I had run into him and he had been abandoned by his friend, there was a feeling of desperation when I spoke with him, McCoy said. Now, speaking to him, it just feels like everything is OK, and its going to be OK. I know hes doing a lot better. Hes eating and he doesnt get cold.
During the campaign, McCoy asked for an accountant to donate services to help Greene. He said neither he nor the Tacoma Memes creator felt comfortable managing the funds people donated to Greene. No financial professionals offered their time.
When asked about Greenes international donations and back child support, McCoy said only: I wish someone, a certified public accountant, had stepped forward and had helped him.
And as for the people who donated to Greene, McCoy said: I hope theyre not disappointed in him. He truly loves the Lord.
Greene isnt sure what his plans will be. Thats up to God, he said.
Im just grateful and thankful to be able to have a roof over my head, he said.
Greene said he believes his donations to Israel were sowing a seed a metaphor for paying it forward that God will respond to.
In fact, he said, God already has, by having someone give him a car to use: Now somebody sowed a car back in my life. Im looking for God to do some big things.
For now, hell keep telling people who approach him at the Tacoma Mall of Jesuss love.
And hell keep living in his hotel room.
But he said he hopes someone will donate a house to him as a tax write-off.
That would be a blessing, Greene said. If they want to donate one, praise God.
Alexis Krell: 253-597-8268