Aid pours in for Montco man who feeds Phila.'s homeless

Cranford Coulter makes a trip each week to deliver homemade soup to homeless people. He is at risk of losing his home after falling far behind on his mortgage.
Cranford Coulter makes a trip each week to deliver homemade soup to homeless people. He is at risk of losing his home after falling far behind on his mortgage. (ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer)
Posted: January 08, 2014

SOUDERTON The Montgomery County man who has been feeding Philadelphia's homeless for a quarter-century but is facing eviction might get to keep his home after all, thanks to donors near and far.

An online fund-raising drive has generated more than $25,000 in donations and offers of matching gifts for Cranford Coulter, who founded and runs the King's Jubilee ministry out of his Souderton home. County officials have listed the home for sheriff's sale in February.

The drive aims to raise $15,000 so that Coulter can make $12,000 in overdue mortgage payments and keep his charity work going. After an article in Sunday's Inquirer told of his foreclosure woes and his weekly trips to Center City to feed the homeless, readers across the country e-mailed and called, saying they wanted to help.

"People I don't know at all gave over $1,000, and that just blew my mind," Coulter said Monday. "We're not used to good things happening of late."

Donations came from as far away as the Netherlands and Australia, he said. A local family offered $50 in change it had saved in its alms box for church donations. Some people said they had little to give but wanted to contribute something, if only their voice.

"I feel like this guy needs a break and I'm willing to help if I can," Frank Hartman said Monday. A singer who performs tributes to Frank Sinatra at charity events, he offered to perform free to raise money for Coulter.

Hartman said he once lost his own home to foreclosure and hopes that won't be Coulter's fate.

Coulter's ministry is celebrating its 25th year next month. Though ill in 2012, Coulter joined other homeless advocates in the lawsuit that undid Mayor Nutter's ban on feeding the homeless outside. Coulter drives to 18th and Vine Streets each Thursday evening to deliver his homemade soup to the hungry, who line up to await his arrival.

His financial troubles started in 2010 when he became ill due to an infection and eventually lost his online business selling Orthodox Christian icons. In 2012, his wife, Bethann, lost her job as a bank teller. Her unemployment benefits have not been enough to cover health insurance premiums plus the couple's monthly mortgage payment of $1,500 on a house they bought for less than $200,000.

His wife is taking classes in medical-office administration while she seeks part-time work. But after three missed payments, the bank started the foreclosure process, Coulter said. That's when friends suggested the online drive. It began the day after Christmas.

The Coulters' lender is PHH Mortgage Corp. Its spokesman, Dico Akseraylian, declined to discuss the Coulters' situation because of privacy concerns, but said a certified check for the amount owed would clear any homeowner of mortgage debts and stave off foreclosure.

Coulter said the couple owes the bank $12,000 plus penalties. He vowed to keep donors updated on how he spends the money. "I'm transparent with everything," he said.

King's Jubilee is registered as a nonprofit but has not filed annual reports, state records show. Coulter said he "will get on that," as well as registering for federal 501(c)(3) nonprofit status.

Many readers who contacted The Inquirer said they were on fixed incomes but wanted to help because they were touched by what Coulter does. They gave as little as $10 or as much as $100; a few donated more.

Judy Murray wrote in an e-mail, "It wouldn't be only to help Mr. Coulter get to keep his much need[ed] home, it is that he is feeding the poorest among us."

215-854-5520 @InqCVargas

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