Serving Barnwell County and it's neighbors since 1852

Financial troubles remain as Generations Unlimited's executive director exits


Generations Unlimited (GU), Barnwell County’s office on aging, is facing yet another structural change while battling over $120,000 of debt. Ethel Faust, who served as GU’s executive director, resigned effective May 24.
“You should be advised that the insurmountable challenges presently before the organization presents a dire need for more in-depth expertise, involvement and engagement to sustain it to a more functional and operable business,” said Faust in her May 20 resignation letter to GU board chairperson Cheryl Long. Faust’s resignation comes a day after the agency held their monthly board meeting where individuals spanning across numerous county and state agencies discussed the agency’s trajectory within the last year.
“This conversation should have happened six months ago,” said Bill Molnar, executive director of Lower Savannah Council of Governments (LSCOG). “This is not happening the way it needs to happen with the structure you have in place right now.”

GU has faced financial challenges since the COVID-19 pandemic which have led to limitations in services offered; public transit, home-meal delivery, senior support, and more.
As GU struggled to recoup from the pandemic, the county assumed control of the agency in February 2022 and fired then-executive director Lisa Firmender in effort to find a new direction for the agency; citing financial issues related to the operation of the public transportation system, Local Motion, as previously reported by The People-Sentinel.
During the time the county assumed control, the agency continued to struggle to operate. Faust was hired and a new board was appointed in June 2023 with hopes to reinvigorate the two senior centers, create an efficient and profitable public transit system, and become financially independent from the county regarding general operations.
In the past year of meetings held by the new board, they discussed how to achieve this goal. However, the finances of the agency continued to fall further into the red, public transit was cut leaving individuals without rides to work or medical appointments, and the county was asked to keep funding general operations.
By May 2024, the agency was in over $120,000 of debt, their contracted financial consultant took leave after not being paid, transit is still an ongoing issue, and the director was on the verge of resignation.
“The data was there as far as finance,” said the agency’s financial consultant, Neil Crider of McGregor & Company LLP, who explained the managerial side of GU and the board had all the information they needed as to how much debt they were in for over a year. “Back in July of 2023, I am saying cash flow is going to be an issue.”
“This was all on the table over two years ago when the agency was about to be shutting the doors, COVID changed a lot of things that had some effect on volume. The volume has never returned and so the county influxed a quarter million dollars into it,” said Crider. “This was an emergency situation at that point.”
However, problems grew and persisted until the present day.
A meeting was held on Thursday, May 23 to address some of these issues with the GU board, county council, S.C. Department of Transportation (SCDOT) personnel, Lower Savannah Council of Governments staff, and both financial and transit consultants.

“If we haven’t paid any bills, where is this money going? Because I do the billing, and we make good money… I’m just confused as to why we have no money,” asked a GU employee during the meeting. “The numbers, it’s like no one knows what they are.”
“I second that question,” said Barnwell County Council Chairman Jerry Creech.
Faust explained much of incoming money was going toward paying the ample debt inherited by the agency’s new director and new board. Debt is owed for vehicle maintenance, fuel, and many other operational expenses.
GU operates through a reimbursement structure, and due to the debt payments they do not have the money upfront to fund things such as transit to then be reimbursed for by state or federal entities.
At the time of the meeting, GU only had $7,932.82 left in the checkbook to maintain operations.
Diane Lackey is the transit program manager at the Office of Public Transit at SCDOT. Their role is to ensure compliance with federal and state law to ensure agencies are operating effectively and efficiently pertaining to transit programs.
According to Lackey, the Office of Public Transit administers Federal Transit Administration (FTA) funding and limited state funding to support rural public transit systems. The FTA appropriates funding to each state for rural public transit and the state then decides how to distribute based on a weighted formula.
Lackey explained GU does benefit from this funding; “On an average, I think they are receiving in the neighborhood of $500,000 a year federal funds, and then from state mass transit funds, I think that's in the neighborhood of $257,000.”
Once the state sends the agency funding, it is up to the agency to allocate it properly. According to Lackey, reimbursements are processed within 30 days.
She explained GU has not invoiced DOT for state rural transit reimbursements from April or May – around the same time Crider put a pause on his services for lack of payment. This can also be attributed to limited staffing at the agency.
GU has not received a financial report or any financial data since March 31. Crider had stopped being paid in December 2023, but continued working with the agency for another three months out of good graces as he processes payroll, handles reimbursements, closes out each month, and produces financial reports for all the services.
He is currently owed over $25,000 by GU.
Board member Vorise Peeples made a motion that was unanimously approved to ask the county to help GU address the outstanding debt. However, concerns still remained.
“My organization funnels about half a million dollars into Generations Unlimited a year, I’ve got a contract that is coming up and ending,” said Molar.
GU is contracted with LSCOG to “provide for clients here in Barnwell County for meals, transit, and a number of other services to seniors and those with disabilities,” said Molnar. “So for us, our concerns are very grave.”
Molnar asked the board for answers regarding his main concerns; financial stability, the agency’s staffing, and being able to fulfill the contractual obligations such as transit for the remainder of the month. The roughly $500,000 annual contract is up at the end of June.
“These folks in Barnwell County are our clients, we have to make sure they receive their meals, I need to make sure those folks on dialysis get to their appointments. It’s life or death,” said Molnar to the board.
Molnar’s main concerns are ensuring meals, transit, and public services getting to the clients he serves through LSCOG. According to Molnar, GU does not submit their reimbursement invoices to LSCOG, but an individual working in Orangeburg County’s office on aging who has not been paid.
Faust explained private consultant Carol Wright Kenderdine of Wright Consulting will be visiting Barnwell County to aid in addressing GU’s issues; however, “her coming in later doesn’t answer my question now,” said Molnar.
Molnar told GU their lack of staff and threats to transit equates to not properly serving clients, which is a breach of the contract between GU and LSCOG.
“This conversation should have happened six months ago,” said Molnar. “This is not happening the way it needs to happen with the structure you have in place right now.”
Other organizations like LSCOG shared their concerns as well. Hundreds of Local Motion riding vouchers were purchased by entities such as the Southeastern Housing Authority and Bamberg-Barnwell Adult Education to ensure their clients had a trip to work or school.
A representative from Southeastern Housing Authority asked Faust and the board if these vouchers will still be honored, as Local Motion dropped back to only accepting Medicaid patients earlier this year and cut mass-transit riders.
The board could not provide a definite answer if these individuals will get to appointments, work, or school.
According to Edwina Creech, current board member and former GU finance director, she found the problems stem from program and contract management. Management at GU is troubled by lack of staffing and piling debt, in addition to understanding how to use their own transit softwares.
GU switched to a new software to allocate rides, riders, and drivers in early 2024.
Molnar explained LSCOG offered opportunities for training on utilization of the new transit software program, as these sort of programs compile the needed data for GU to obtain reimbursement from local, state, or federal entities.
“If you don’t understand the parameters that the software is built into… you might be sending out 10 vehicles with just a handful of people on them. You have to understand how the software is designed to manipulate what you need,” said Creech.

At the meeting, county council members expressed their hope to continue the services offered by GU and understood the barriers being faced; However, they expressed their concern about the county continually footing the bill.
Ultimately, the county will be held responsible for GU’s debt. The county already has dealt out hundreds of thousands of dollars to GU in recent years.
Barnwell County Council met on Thursday, May 30 and voted to direct the county administrator to work with Long to “pay down debts and that the funds to pay down the debts are to come from the county’s Evergreen Account.”
The county has approved to fund the operation of Local Motion transit such as fuel cost until June 30. Local Motion is still operating for Medicaid patients, and according to Long, the intent is to continue services indefinitely.
According to Crider, the agency needs to yield an additional $15,000 to $20,000 monthly to stay afloat. This is something that will be addressed by Kenderdine impending her visit.
Kenderdine has over a decade of experience in public transit and senior services. Faust and others at the meeting hoped her expertise will help revive the agency. She plans to visit Barnwell County in early June.
In her resignation letter, Faust recommended the county council to contract with Kenderdine “for effective organizational assessment and strategic planning.”