Spokane Valley church raising money to eliminate millions in medical debt, and there’s still time to donate

SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. — People in Spokane and across the Inland Northwest are under thousands of dollars of medical debt, and COVID-19 only added to that.

It’s the season of giving, and this year, Shirley Carroll felt specifically drawn to donating money to Valley Real Life Church for its Christmas-time offering. She wrote a check for $1,500 for the church’s fundraiser this year.

Valley Real Life Church is hoping to help families by paying off millions of dollars owed to hospitals.

Every year for the last five years, the church helped out the local community or other organizations overseas.

“In the middle of COVID, we realized medical issues are the big thing, and people are just wrestling with that,” said Steve Allen, with the church.

Carroll was at least one person who wrestled with that medical debt for her daughter, who contracted leukemia as a teenager and passed.

“It’s hard enough to grieve that you just lost your child, but to think you have to pay off this debt, it’ll last for years,” she said.

Carroll had been paying for her daughter’s medical bills as she battled the cancer for nearly two years. Her insurance paid about $800,000 of it. Her part to pay was $80,000 and she still had to pay half of that after her daughter passed.

“I probably would’ve had to sell my house to pay that off or just chip away at it,” she said.

One day about a month after her daughter died, she called the hospital to see how much she owed.

It turns out someone paid the rest of her daughter’s medical bills. She said the state paid some of the money, but there were people who left money for others’ medical debts.

The debt she owed was wiped.

“I finally got it that I didn’t owe this money, that someone else has covered it for me – that God had covered it for me,” she said. “I just fell on the floor in a little puddle.”

That’s the feeling Carroll wants to give others by donating to the church.

Valley Real Life partnered with organization RIP Medical Debt to help local families pay that debt.

Every $1 donated to the church fundraiser will pay off $100 in medical debt. As of Thursday morning, community members had managed to raise over $128,000 of the church’s $200,000 goal.

That $200,000 goal means $20 million of medical debt could be erased for families in the Inland Northwest.

The church doesn’t choose who gets the money, instead RIP Medical Debt will, as it works with medical centers and hospitals to figure that out.

The money will go to help people who make less than two times the federal poverty level and have no other way to pay off their bills.  

“I wish I could be in the room when they open the letter. I just can’t imagine for families that have just not only wrestled with the medical side, but now the financial side,” Allen said.

It’s a feeling Carroll’s lived through. Now, she hopes to help someone else feel a little more relieved this holiday season.

“It’s such an enormous thing to have someone come along and say, ‘I got this,'” she said.

There’s still time to donate. VRL Church is accepting donations through January. CLICK HERE to learn more.