NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – A woman of faith is under fire for failing to repay her workers.
Pastor Serena Harris is associated with Holy Temple Evangelical Christian Church on E. 27th Street in Norfolk. During a February interview with 10 On Your Side, she promised to repay workers who cooked meals for her after-school feeding program.
Pastor Harris’ problems began when she tried and failed to get federal funding for the program. That happened after thousand of meals had already been cooked and delivered. Sherrey McGill was hired to do the work, but she says she still hasn’t seen a dime.
Back on February 26, Pastor Harris said in an interview with WAVY News 10’s Andy Fox, “I will repay her [Sherrey McGill] $8,000. I will pay her $8,000. Mr. Fox, you are witness.”
Pastor Harris promised to pay Sherrey McGill for cooking more than 6,300 meals for Pastor Harris’ after-school feeding program. McGill agreed to the compromise, saying, “I will accept $8,000. I won’t say I won’t proceed with my court case.”
Nearly a month after that promise, McGill says she hasn’t heard from Pastor Harris. Harris wouldn’t do another on camera interview, so we called Pastor Harris from McGill’s home. “I’ve been trying to contact you. I have left messages,” McGill said. Pastor Harris answered, “You called my cell phone?…I haven’t gotten any calls from you.”
McGill challenged Pastor Harris, “Will you give me $5,000 down, and $3,000 in two weeks?” Harris immediately said, “I don’t have$5,000.” McGill was expecting $8,000 in one lump sum. “I don’t want to make payment arrangements because it is so wishy-washy because we never talk and you don’t return my calls. That was my livelihood. I feel like I’ve been robbed. You beguiled me,” McGill said into the phone with tears running down her cheek.
“I think Norfolk should help repay me,” McGill said. McGill says she’s also getting a lawyer to sue Pastor Harris for fraud and breach of contract, and also blames the City of Norfolk because Norfolk signed a memorandum of understanding called an ‘MOU’ with Pastor Harris to provide snacks at two community centers owned by Norfolk.
However, the MOU reads, “Holy Temple Feeding Program responsibilities under the MOU include…’Ensure the program in its current operation receives USDA funds’.” Pastor Harris did not have, nor ever received USDA funds that were to be used to repay McGill. McGill says it is Norfolk’s responsibilities to make sure the MOU partners have the funds. “If it had not been for them signing that paper, and allowing her to use the center then I wouldn’t have gone in with dinners, using my money and restaurant to cook the meals. Norfolk allowed this to happen.” McGill lost her restaurant because she couldn’t pay the rent because she never got repaid by Harris.
Norfolk Spokesperson Lori Crouch said, “The MOU clearly states ensuring the program in its current operation receives USDA funds is the responsibility of Holy Temple, not the Department of Recreation, Parks and Open Space. Norfolk is not obligated, we didn’t promise or understand we needed to do anything other than what is laid out in the MOU.” McGill takes an exception to that, and says Norfolk must remain responsible for their partners who come in and use public facilities.
McGill says she won’t receive a repayment plan from Pastor Harris because she fears she won’t be repaid.
DaShawn Leary also cooked meals for Pastor Harris’s program and is owed $3,800. He is taking money on a repayment plan, but claims it is coming in slowly, and it’s never more than $50 at a time. “She is not repaying me on time, and when she does it’s $50 dollars a payment…it’s drip, drip, drip.”