St. Teresa’s Academy removes Coppinger name from track, will return payday-lending donations

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Tim Coppinger — the Mission Hills resident accused by the Federal Trade Commission last September of running an illegal online-payday-lending scheme that bilked consumers out of tens of millions of dollars — settled his lawsuit with the feds last month.

As The Pitch has reported, Coppinger was just one player in an ecosystem of predatory lending that thrived locally in Kansas City for many years. Several of those players have, or had, ties to local Catholic churches, which view usury as a sin. As information about these individuals’ activities has come to light, there have been calls for those churches to return money donated to them by Coppinger and other payday lenders. As one member of Prairie Village-based St. Ann Catholic Church puts it, “If you trace it back to its root, it came from poor people who were being taken advantage of, who were being charged crazy interest rates.”

There has been no public statement or movement on this issue by either the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas or the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph in Missouri, both of which govern churches where many of the individuals in this industry are parishioners. 

However, St. Teresa’s Academy, the all-girls Catholic high school in Brookside, has taken action.

In 2012, the private school —  which is self-funded and does not take money from the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, in whose jurisdiction it sits — awarded naming rights to its athletic track to the Coppinger family, in exchange for pledged donations from five Coppinger families, including Tim and Jane Coppinger’s family. Last weekend, however, the words “Coppinger Family Track” were removed from the side of the building overlooking the track. And discussions are under way about what to do with the money donated by Tim and Jane Coppinger, says Nan Bone, St. Teresa’s president. 

“This is tender for us in a lot of ways,” Bone says. “Tom and Virginia Coppinger have lived across from the school for years and years and have been very generous, truly wonderful supporters of St. Teresa’s. We felt we needed to meet with all the Coppinger families individually to discuss the situation before acting. Once we’d done that, we went ahead and removed the name from the track this past weekend.” 

Bone says Tim and Jane Coppinger made their pledge in 2011, before Tim Coppinger’s business activities became publicly known. “We don’t know what everybody who gives to us does for a living,” Bone says. “But as all this has come to light, we’ve realized that their gift doesn’t align with our mission. So now we are looking into how to use that money to help victims involved in this.”  

She adds that the amount Coppinger donated ended up being a modest sum (but declines to specify the figure). “Usually when people give money to us, it’s a pledge over three years, five years,” Bone says. “Theirs [Tim and Jane Coppinger’s] was a pledge that ended up being a relatively small amount for reasons that I think are clear now.”

Bone says St. Teresa’s has made calls to the FTC about giving money to the case’s victim-restitution fund, but is also looking at local organizations as potential beneficiaries. The school’s board will make that decision when it convenes in September, she says.

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