CLEARWATER, Fla. -
In a unanimous vote Monday night, board members at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Clearwater decided to disperse all donations collected on behalf of Ireland Nugent. Donations stand at roughly $120,000.
This comes on the heels of criticism from the little girl's family.
It has been two months since a little girl lost both feet in a lawn mowing accident. Ireland's medical bills are mounting, and the family said they have not received a penny from church-collected donations.
The church calls it a huge misunderstanding.
Out of frustration and anger, Ireland's grandparents and neighbors called ABC Action News, pleading for help. They said they have not seen a penny of more than $120,000 raised on their behalf and sent to the church.
"The bottom line is we are very concerned on why the church has not gone ahead and funded the trust funds," said Ireland's grandfather, Mike DelCorpo.
Her grandmother, Doreen DelCorpo, said, "Medical expenses are expensive and Ireland needs that money to move forward and to meet her mile markers."
Donations from all over the world poured in after people heard about Ireland. The two-year-old lost both her feet after her father accidentally rode over them with a riding lawnmower.
The family's pastor, Dennis Reid, quickly became their media spokesperson, and helped establish a fund through the church. But now, the man the family relied on is one they accuse of trying to control the cash.
A neighbor of the Nugents, Cameron Smith led many fundraising efforts. "My message to Dennis would be put your ego aside and do what is best for the family," he said.
Pastor Reid is in Guatemala on mission trip. But he ordered that a Facebook support page for Ireland be taken down, after strong accusations appeared online against him personally and the handling of the donation money.
Interim Pastor Kathi Trautwein spoke on the church's behalf. "It got really nasty, Dennis actually got referred to as Satan," she said.
Trautwein went on to say there was "A huge misunderstanding. There has never been any intent that the funds not be distributed."
She explained that the church's 12-member board wanted to review trust papers, and one board member, a lawyer, suggested holding payment until everything could be verified. The board voted Sunday night to first cut the family a check for $13,000. Then, they planned on cutting another check for $100,000 that would go to Ireland's trust.
The church insists it's not bowing to media pressure.
Ireland's family doesn't know what to think, they just want to make sure her bills are paid.
"I think 100% should be turned over. I have quite a few friends, and there is quite a few people who donated that want to know that this money has gone to the family as it was intended," said Mike DelCorpo.
Ireland's parents, Jerry and Nicole, did not want to speak on camera. They said this is extremely difficult for them, especially Nicole.
She works at the church's preschool and said Ireland's health insurance is through her employment. Plus, she stressed she loves her church family.
On a related note, we had a chance to visit with Ireland Monday afternoon. The little girl is doing great. She had a cast from her arm removed and is in great spirits.
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