This is a  staff list for Freedom Village in Lakemont/Dundee, New York

(a/k/a Freedom Academy, The Gift of Life Home, Freedom Ranch, Camp Victory, Freedom Village of Canada (Separate Program in Ontario)) 

(we are working to acquire the complete records for ALL years)

 

THIS PROGRAM IS NOW CLOSED.

 

We advise current and/or former staff to report any abuses you may have witnessed while working at Freedom Village.  For information on your rights and how to take action, visit www.heal-online.org/blowthewhistle.htm.  If you were fired or forced to resign because you opposed any illegal and/or unethical practices at Freedom Village, you have the right to take action. 

 

If you were harmed (family or survivor) by Freedom Village, please contact info@heal-online.org if you remember the long-term employees and from which years.  This will help!   Also, if you recognize any of these staff as having worked at another program, please send in any information about their past or present employment at other facilities and/or cults.

 

Please don’t place your loved one in Freedom Village and rescue them if they are there now. 

 

(Special Note: New York is one of 26 states that do not require any oversight nor regulation for private schools including boarding schools and academies.  This permits frauds, scammers, and child predators to operate private schools without any regulation.)  Source: https://www2.ed.gov/admins/comm/choice/regprivschl/regprivschl.pdf.  While private schools in NY can choose to register with the State (and legitimate schools do so), Freedom Village and Freedom Academy are not registered and have no public accountability nor oversight.  Source: http://www.p12.nysed.gov/irs/schoolDirectory/   Freedom Village (Academy, etc.) is not a licensed mental health nor behavioral health services provider in NY.  Source:  http://bi.omh.ny.gov/bridges/index  Many religious schools and providers in NY are properly licensed.  People who care about accountability don't enroll children in unlicensed schools and programs.) 

 

Name

Unit/Position

Additional Information
Fletcher Brothers Pastor/Owner/Director Brothers is not a licensed mental health, social work, nor medical professional in NY.  Source: http://www.op.nysed.gov/opsearches.htm  Brothers is not a licensed educator in NY.  Source:  http://eservices.nysed.gov/teach/certhelp/CpPersonSearchExternal.do 
Richard Siegfried Staff Reported by former staff.  HEAL requires Siegfried's full name (including middle name) and/or license type and number in order to verify whether or not Siegfried holds any professional licenses in NY.
Cheryl Siegfried Staff Wife of Richard above and reported by former staff.  Siegfried is not a licensed mental health, social work, medical, nor educational professional in NY.  Sources:  http://www.op.nysed.gov/opsearches.htm and http://eservices.nysed.gov/teach/certhelp/CpPersonSearchExternal.do
Bernard Neu Staff Reported by former staff.  Neu is not a licensed mental health, social work, medical, nor educational professional in NY.  Sources:  http://www.op.nysed.gov/opsearches.htm and http://eservices.nysed.gov/teach/certhelp/CpPersonSearchExternal.do
Roberta Neu Staff Wife of Bernard above and reported by former staff.  Neu is not a licensed mental health, social work, medical, nor educational professional in NY.  Sources:  http://www.op.nysed.gov/opsearches.htm and http://eservices.nysed.gov/teach/certhelp/CpPersonSearchExternal.do
Lee Hardy Staff Reported by former staff.  Hardy is not a licensed mental health, social work, medical, nor educational professional in NY.  Sources:  http://www.op.nysed.gov/opsearches.htm and http://eservices.nysed.gov/teach/certhelp/CpPersonSearchExternal.do
Linda Hardy Staff Wife of Lee above and reported by former staff.  HEAL requires Hardy's full name (including middle name) and/or license type and number in order to verify whether or not Hardy holds any professional licenses in NY.
Jeremy Brothers Staff Son of Fletcher (owner) and reported by former staff.  Brothers is not a licensed mental health, social work, medical, nor educational professional in NY.  Sources:  http://www.op.nysed.gov/opsearches.htm and http://eservices.nysed.gov/teach/certhelp/CpPersonSearchExternal.do
Amy Brothers Staff Wife of Jeremy above and reported by former staff.  HEAL requires Brothers' full name (including middle name) and/or license type and number in order to verify whether or not Brothers holds any professional licenses in NY.
Matthew Camacho Staff Reported by former staff.  Camacho is not a licensed mental health, social work, medical, nor educational professional in NY.  Sources:  http://www.op.nysed.gov/opsearches.htm and http://eservices.nysed.gov/teach/certhelp/CpPersonSearchExternal.do
Danielle Camacho Staff Wife of Matthew above and reported by former staff.  Camacho is not a licensed mental health, social work, medical, nor educational professional in NY.  Sources:  http://www.op.nysed.gov/opsearches.htm and http://eservices.nysed.gov/teach/certhelp/CpPersonSearchExternal.do
Joel Cope Staff Joel is Sarah Cope's husband (below).  Cope is a former "resident" enrolled in the Freedom Village program who married in-house and stayed on as staff.  Cope is not a licensed mental health, social work, medical, nor educational professional in NY.  Sources:  http://www.op.nysed.gov/opsearches.htm and http://eservices.nysed.gov/teach/certhelp/CpPersonSearchExternal.do
Sarah Cope Staff Sarah is daughter of Richard and Cheryl Siegfried (above).  Cope reportedly no longer works for Freedom Village.  Cope is not a licensed mental health, social work, medical, nor educational professional in NY.  Sources:  http://www.op.nysed.gov/opsearches.htm and http://eservices.nysed.gov/teach/certhelp/CpPersonSearchExternal.do
Michael Rosenberger Staff Michael is married to Mary Rosenberger (below).  Rosenberger is also a former "resident"/program "graduate" who married in-house and stayed on as staff.  Rosenberger is not a licensed mental health, social work, medical, nor educational professional in NY.  Sources:  http://www.op.nysed.gov/opsearches.htm and http://eservices.nysed.gov/teach/certhelp/CpPersonSearchExternal.do
Mary Rosenberger Staff Mary is also the daughter of Richard and Chery Siegfried and sister to Sarah Cope (above).  Rosenberger is not a licensed mental health, social work, medical, nor educational professional in NY.  Sources:  http://www.op.nysed.gov/opsearches.htm and http://eservices.nysed.gov/teach/certhelp/CpPersonSearchExternal.do
James Camacho Accountant HEAL does not perform professional licensing checks on office, maintenance, nor food service staff unless they have direct contact with and authority over clients.
Robert Neu Staff Son of Bernard and Roberta Neu (above).  Neu is not a licensed mental health, social work, medical, nor educational professional in NY.  Sources:  http://www.op.nysed.gov/opsearches.htm and http://eservices.nysed.gov/teach/certhelp/CpPersonSearchExternal.do
Chris Neu Staff Son of Bernard and Roberta Neu (above).  Neu is not a licensed mental health, social work, medical, nor educational professional in NY.  Sources:  http://www.op.nysed.gov/opsearches.htm and http://eservices.nysed.gov/teach/certhelp/CpPersonSearchExternal.do
Darren Baker Fletcher's Bodyguard Baker is not a licensed mental health, social work, medical, nor educational professional in NY.  Sources:  http://www.op.nysed.gov/opsearches.htm and http://eservices.nysed.gov/teach/certhelp/CpPersonSearchExternal.do
Margaret Baker Staff Wife of Darren Baker (above).  HEAL requires Baker's full name (including middle name) and/or license type and number in order to verify whether Baker holds any professional licenses in NY.
Jonathan Hempel Program Director Hempel is not a licensed mental health, social work, medical, nor educational professional in NY.  Sources:  http://www.op.nysed.gov/opsearches.htm and http://eservices.nysed.gov/teach/certhelp/CpPersonSearchExternal.do
     
     
     
(Freedom Village, like many other programs in this industry, keeps a "tight lid" on any specific information regarding their staff, qualifications, and practices.  Please contact us with the names of any staff of which you have firsthand knowledge or experience.  Thank you for your help.)

 
External Link: http://againstbiblicalcounseling.blogspot.com/2009/05/links-to-freedom-village.html
External Link: http://www.holysmoke.org/cos/held-against-will-like-mcpherson.htm
External Link: http://www.rickross.com/reference/fundamentalists/fund90.html
HEAL is in the process of reviewing application/enrollment information for this program.  Thank you for your patience.

 
Money woes for
Yates County
ministry drag on

 
 
Freedom Village, a ministry in Yates County
for troubled teens, is trudging toward the

end of a two-decade $21 million
bankruptcy proceeding.

But, in keeping with the history of the
operation and its fundamentalist leader,
the Pastor Fletcher Brothers, the legal
brouhaha is still generating controversy.

In the past few months, the Freedom
Village board of trustees tried to oust
Brothers — the individual central to the
growth of the ministry — and pushed to
prevent him from accessing Freedom
Village funds. Brothers fired back with the
support of the Freedom Village board of
deacons — a separate group from the
trustees — with claims that the attempts to
force him out are based in part "on false
accusations."

Staff members have left the operation in
droves, owed more than $1 million in
unpaid wages, court papers allege. Among
those who left their jobs, citing "certain
behavior (by Brothers) that is deemed
unacceptable," were the chief financial
officer and public relations director,
records show.

Brothers, who has been dogged by past
allegations of financial mismanagement and
 
 
misuse, has answered that tough economic
times forced staff cutbacks and that those
challenging his leadership are disgruntled
former employees with no substance to
their allegations.

Meanwhile, the federal trustee for the
bankruptcy case filed papers seeking
almost $170,000 in unpaid fees from
Freedom Village.

"Obviously there's a lot of things going on
out there at Freedom Village that have to
be attended to," U.S. Bankruptcy Judge
John Ninfo said in a recent hearing.

Rochester attorney David MacKnight, who
represents Freedom Village, said the funds
are available to pay creditors and, with an
extension into 2012, the trustee fees.

Disbursing the money to creditors has
grown more difficult as years have passed,
MacKnight said.

"After 21 years, people have died, moved,
you name it," he said.
 
 
 
 
 
Attorneys for Freedom Village are
scheduled to appear Thursday before
Ninfo — the last docketed case before
Ninfo, who retires at the end of this year.
There is a certain irony that this case,
which generated thousands of pages and
boxes of filings over its 21 years, would be
Ninfo's last. Bankruptcy files don't detail
the allegations against Brothers, and an
attorney for one of those who tried to
remove him — as well as some others
involved in the attempted ouster —
declined comment.


"After 31 years, especially in light of
present economic conditions and forecasts,
it became painfully obvious cuts were
needed," Brothers said in an email
response to questions. "In truth, a purging
of incompetence, laziness, bad attitudes
and those not here for the right reason (the
children) was needed and long overdue."

The cuts led to the claims of
mismanagement, Brothers said. "When
some found out it was coming a 'smoke
screen' was thrown up," Brothers wrote.

Ninfo ruled recently that the board of
trustees — which records show has rarely
met — existed before the bankruptcy
proceeding, so the question of whether
Brothers should be removed is not to be
decided in bankruptcy court. "Everybody
acknowledges that none of this has
anything to do with the (bankruptcy) plan,"
Ninfo said at the recent hearing.

An attorney for one of the trustees would
not answer whether action may be pursued
 
 
in state court. MacKnight said he had heard
no more about the push to remove
Brothers.

Freedom Village was the outgrowth of a
Rochester-based church — Gates
Community Chapel — that Brothers started
in the late 1970s.

Brothers built a following with strident
attacks on pornography, abortion and
homosexuality, and started Freedom
Village in Lakemont as a Christian-based
program.

Through a radio and television program,
Brothers pulled in literally millions of dollars
for the operation. He even initiated a loan
program, borrowing money from
supporters and claiming they could expect
returns as high as 14 percent.

But those who made loans found
themselves unable to get their money
returned, and in the early 1990s Freedom
Village declared bankruptcy.

 
 
 
 
The amount owed creditors reached nearly
$21 million, and the bankruptcy is
expected to be resolved with them
receiving 15 to 20 cents for each dollar
lost.

Syracuse resident Diane Knowlton, whose
late father was owed almost $150,000 by
Freedom Village, said Friday that she had
heard nothing for three years about the
status of the bankruptcy case.

"He tried to get the money back while he
was alive," she said of her father, Robert
Galster.

Her father did not discuss why he'd
supported Freedom Village, she said.

"I guess he thought he could help people,"
she said.

GCRAIG@DemocratandChronicle.com

 
 
 
 

 

Source: http://www.democratandchronicle.com/article/20111220/NEWS01/112200332

 

Freedom Village Case Winding Down

by Gary Craig, Staff Writer (Democratandchronicle.com)

 

The two-decade $21 million bankruptcy case of a Yates County religious operation for troubled teens is over — almost.

 

Thursday, retiring U.S. Bankruptcy Judge John Ninfo, handling his last docketed case, ordered that Freedom Village complete the bankruptcy plan with final payments to unsecured creditors. The ministry also owes about $170,000 in unpaid fees to the U.S. Trustee, which helps manage bankruptcy plans.

"It's been a long road," Ninfo said.

 

"Lots of things weren't done right. But in the end, creditors will get the distribution that was set out for them with the (bankruptcy) plan."

Headed by the evangelical Pastor Fletcher Brothers, Freedom Village pulled in millions of dollars in contributions and loans from supporters in the 1980s while the ministry swelled in size and mission.

However, as thousands of pages of bankruptcy filings detail, Freedom Village also plowed through far more money than it raised. Brothers was accused of living an extravagant lifestyle — with bodyguards and use of a private plane — that greatly contrasted with the ascetic accommodations for his staff.

Supporters who signed up for the loan program, which claimed at least a 14 percent return was likely, found themselves unable to recoup their money, and Freedom Village declared bankruptcy in 1990.

Freedom Village attorney David MacKnight contended in bankruptcy court Thursday that past Freedom Village financial managers, and not Brothers, had been at fault.

Their negligence, he alleged, led to a failure in recent years to make progress with the bankruptcy payments.

 

"Pastor Brothers relied too heavily on the financial management in which he had great confidence," MacKnight said.

Money was typically reinvested in programs for the teens at Freedom Village, MacKnight said.

 

"It's generally used for the church's charitable and religious enterprises," he said.

Through the years, some creditors have died. Others, still supportive of Freedom Village, decided the money owed them through the bankruptcy plan could instead be returned to the ministry.

Attorney C. Bruce Lawrence, who represents the agent handling disbursal of the bankruptcy funds, said there is about $800,000 now to be used for payments.

On Thursday, Ninfo gave Freedom Village until June 29 to complete payments.

 

Otherwise, the case would be dismissed, which could open Freedom Village to judgments that were outstanding two decades ago.

Creditors will receive between 15 and 20 cents for each dollar they lost.

 

Lawyers and courtroom observers applauded Ninfo as he left the bench Thursday, completing his final courtroom case.

GCRAIG@DemocratandChronicle.com

Source: http://www.democratandchronicle.com/article/20111223/NEWS01/112230358

Former Victim of Freedom Village Commits Suicide in Jail--Aaron Shehu
June 3, 2012   Waters roil around Freedom Village USA youth ministry GARY CRAIG Staff writer On this there is agreement: One day a staff member at the Christian residential ministry Freedom Village USA took a .12-gauge shotgun and blasted a television into smithereens. The destruction was meant to be a warning sign to another staff member — a teenager — who had been watching television shows deemed inappropriate at Freedom Village. From here, the stories diverge. Then-staff member Darren Baker admits he destroyed the television. He did so, he said, at the insistence of Pastor Fletcher Brothers, the founder and president of Freedom Village. Brothers says otherwise, claiming he did not condone Baker’s action. Brothers said he was angry about Baker’s act and considered firing him, but let him stay on because he knew Baker and his wife needed the work. Baker no longer works at the ministry. While a single incident — and a singularly unusual one — the contrasting tales of the annihilation of the television speak to a larger challenge confronting Freedom Village: The ministry has been roiled over the past year by an exodus of staff — Baker and his wife among them — and mounting questions about Brothers’ leadership. Despite the turmoil, Freedom Village helps many of the young people it serves. Unruly and wayward teens find refuge there, and, unquestionably, its regimen and routines have turned around many lives. Brothers, a flamboyant evangelical, is no stranger to the Rochester area. His ranks of financial supporters have included men and women from across the region, and his sermons can still be heard on the Internet and on Rochester and Buffalo radio stations. The coming months could determine the future of Brothers and Freedom Village — the 150-acre ministry he built near Lakemont, Yates County, on the west bank of Seneca Lake. Among the challenges: In a lawsuit, the son of a former supporter is seeking more than $1.5 million in what he claims is an unresolved loan — litigation that, if successful, could cripple Freedom Village. And former staff members maintain they are owed nearly $1 million in back pay. The brouhaha between Brothers and disaffected staffers reached such intensity late last year that the board of trustees — a group that court records show has done little for years — unsuccessfully tried to oust Brothers. Freedom Village is still trying to extract itself from a $21 million bankruptcy protection plan filed in 1990. Most creditors should receive final payments in the coming weeks — only receiving about 20 cents on the dollar — but attorneys for Brothers have asked for an extension beyond the end of June to try to reconcile all debts under the bankruptcy plan. The largely internecine dispute gives a glimpse into the cloistered world of Freedom Village and, in particular, the style of Brothers, its leader. One former student, Scott Sugg, was at Freedom Village in the early 1980s and in an email called Brothers “a man who loved me and cared for me like I was his own son.” Despite such devotion from some former and current residents, Brothers has been hounded by questions about whether he wields his salesmanship charm and devout fundamentalism to help others or to feather his own nest. Those challenges have typically arisen externally, from angry creditors, donors who questioned how their money was being used, and a media that Brothers portrays as too godless to recognize the good work done at the ministry. Now, Brothers finds himself targeted by some former workers and students too. As with the shotgun tale, the reasons behind the staff exodus depend on who is doing the telling. Brothers portrays his former workers as unreliable laggards who were prime choices to be weaned from the work force as donations dried up during the slow economy. He says some occasionally put teens’ lives at risk; others simply were lazy. The workers paint it differently: Brothers, they claim, was no longer a trustworthy leader. Nor, they say — and this is the issue nearly two dozen interviewed by the Democrat and Chronicle return to — is he a model of the Christian tenets they choose to follow. At the core of their dissension is Brothers’ current bitter divorce proceedings against his fourth wife. Anywhere else, a CEO’s divorce — and the tit-for-tat ugly accusations it spawned between husband and wife — might be nothing more than coffee room gossip. But in a sheltered enclave where the word of Scripture is held literally sacred, a perceived moral failing can lead to more than the whispered chat about a boss’ dirty linen. “The majority of people that have left were heartbroken over his misconduct and his cavalier manner,” said Eric Costantino, who left his job as a Freedom Village deacon weeks ago and afterward wrote a letter and blog about Brothers that he titled “The Stench of Spritual Abuse.” Brothers acknowledges that financial issues have required Freedom Village to trim its programs. Now, there are about 50 teens on-site; its peak, in the late 1980s, was closer to 200. But, he said, regular state inspections show that the programs are not suffering. State Office of Children and Family Services officials who monitor the facility agree. They say they’re aware of the loss of more than two dozen staff members and “no adverse conditions to the youth or remaining staff have been identified as a result,” OCFS spokeswoman Pat Cantiello said in an email. Start in Gates Brothers’ rise through evangelical circles started simply enough, with a small congregation, Gates Community Chapel in Gates in 1975. He ignited the congregation with strident anti-abortion and anti-pornography stands, constantly challenging what he saw as the moral decay of the world around him. He gathered a group of like-minded congregants to attend a Rochester City Council meeting in 1979 and loudly denounce the city’s proposed contribution to the Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley. The numbers at the church swelled, and the congregation moved to a larger building in the city. It didn’t take long, however, for the eruption of the very same issues that dog Brothers to this day — questions about whether the money raised for his causes was mismanaged or misused. Donors’ money to the church became difficult to account for; some money borrowed to repair the church was used by Brothers for a radio ministry he started, and bills went unpaid. Eventually, the church split because of an increasing distrust some congregants had of Brothers. Driven by what he said was a growing number of troubled teens, some teetering on a suicidal precipice, Brothers created Freedom Village USA in southern Yates County. His radio ministry swelled, propelled into success by his folksy voice and his tales of teens in need of salvation — emotional, physical and spiritual. He raised millions of dollars, partly through a loan program offering donors a return as great as 14 percent. He refused government money — he did not want Freedom Village’s conservative Christian teachings to be even partly dictated by others — and supporters and families of students amply funded the services. In the mid-1980s, evangelical ministers were in their television heyday, but the bottom dropped out with the Jim Bakker and Praise The Lord (PTL) network scandal. After news broke of the married Bakker’s affair and his fraudulent fundraising techniques, televangelists like Brothers saw their contributions evaporate. “We were on 160 television stations that were all fed by the PTL network,” Brothers said. But the scandal upended PTL — and the shows it broadcast lost a key conduit to revenue. Even before the loss in contributions, the financial recordkeeping at Freedom Village was a morass, according to records and Democrat and Chronicle interviews with staff members who were part of a 1993 series about the ministry’s troubles. In 1990, Freedom Village filed for bankruptcy protection. Now, more than 20 years later, the bankruptcy case against Freedom Village is nearing an end — but not without questions about the financial stability of the operation. Brothers’ bankruptcy lawyer, David MacKnight, admitted in a November court filing that he had grown concerned about Freedom Village’s slow response in resolving its debts under the bankruptcy plan. Last summer, Brothers himself turned a finer eye on the finances and found “clear signs of failures to follow internal procedures, self-dealing, conversion of property … and affiliates to personal use, and some employees mutually tolerating the wrongdoing of each other,” MacKnight wrote. These filings resonate with many of the same claims and counterclaims rife in the boxes of bankruptcy documents: Namely that Brothers did not recognize the fiscal quicksand of problems at Freedom Village until he and the ministry were neck-deep in the monetary mire. Brothers claims that the bankruptcy process is evidence of the strength and spirit of Freedom Village, not a sign that he lacks fiscal discipline. “We’ve kept the doors open, we’ve taken care of thousands of kids and we’ve emerged out of Chapter 11 (bankruptcy) when most people don’t emerge out,” Brothers said in a two-plus hour interview at the Democrat and Chronicle, a session at which he maintained that the newspaper has long had an animus toward him. And, Brothers said, many donors did not want their money back, hoping not to damage the work done at Freedom Village. Some upset Teenagers whose lives were on a downward spiral, Brian Russell and Sonia Heykoop met at Freedom Village. There, they admit, they found strength and sustenance in the Christian teachings. And they found each other. When they married in 2005, Brothers officiated their wedding. They became staffers at Freedom Village — a standard trajectory, as many of the students stay for employment. They wanted to give back the joys and successes they said they had found there. But in 2011 the Russells found themselves questioning Brothers. Brothers’ marital struggles became more public, and the pastor would denigrate and denounce his wife at staff meetings, the Russells said. As well, they began to realize that they — and many of their colleagues — had an uncomfortable connection with and reliance on Freedom Village. Like many, they weren’t paid regularly, but their housing and meals were covered. (Many former workers are now trying to recoup money they claim Brothers owes them.) “You get dependent on the place, and not yourself,” said Brian, now 32. “Emotionally, spiritually, monetarily — it all gels into one.” That dependence can become oppressive, the Russells said, making staff members wary of trying life outside of Freedom Village. “If you leave, where are you going to go?” said Sonia, now 31. Adding to those fears was a drumbeat of warnings from Brothers about the hazards of society beyond Freedom Village. The parents of two children, the Russells envisioned a world where child molesters lurked on every corner and public schools failed to prepare kids for life. “We had 14 years of listening to how horrible things were,” Brian said. Those who left the ministry’s workforce without Brothers’ blessing were often the subject of vitriolic attacks from the pastor, the Russells said. “He would tear that person down, so if we did hear something from (a former staffer) it wouldn’t be credible in our minds,” Sonia said. Now, they said, they feel like they’ve broken free. Upset with Brothers, they left in September. “I really believe God just paved the way for us to be able to make this step,” Sonia said. Ruth DeBaise, 20, entered Freedom Village when she was 15. She admits she was “reckless as a teenager could be.” A frequent drug user, she’d been arrested twice. “I came into the program completely hopeless … thinking that I was going to die a drug addict,” she said. She, too, found comfort in the teachings at Freedom Village. And she became close to Brothers, calling him “Dad.” As she found renewal, she chose to stay on at work at the ministry — again, like many of her friends there. Her parents encouraged her to leave, to go to college or work toward a career. But she’d become convinced that beyond Freedom Village lay failure, that God — as Brothers told her many times — had singled her out to work for his ministry. “He would never say ‘Don’t go to college,’ but his words would always be, ‘I think it’s pretty obvious that God is using you here and God wants you here … and if you walk out of God’s protection you know what happens when he takes his hand off of you,’ ” she said. “I was afraid to leave for so long.” She, too, was among the staff who left Freedom Village last year as Brothers’ marital problems escalated. She recently came to the aid of another young woman, Sara Milligan, who also decided to leave in February but had nowhere to go. Milligan, who moved in with DeBaise, said she ended up in a verbal fight with Brothers when she said she was leaving. “He told me if I left that I was going to get AIDS and die,” said Milligan, 20. These are not new allegations against Brothers — claims that he expects inflexible fealty from his staff and he’ll verbally attack those who step out of line. A 1982 Democrat and Chronicle article about Brothers’ money troubles at Gates Community included similar claims, and a quote from a former employee who said, “Brothers’ most powerful weapons were fear, intimidation and isolation.” Power struggle Brothers admits he has talked strongly to teens considering leaving — but said he had their futures in mind because he was fearful they would fall back into the same circles of drugs and other vices as before. He has not discouraged students and staff members from spreading the Gospel beyond Freedom Village, he said. Some have become international missionaries, while others have opened churches around the world, he said. And he contends that the attacks on him from former staff members are an insurrection, headed by a local minister who wants to wrest control of Freedom Village from him and take it over. When the irate staff banded together last year, they convinced the board of trustees that Brothers should no longer be running the ministry. At an October meeting the trustees ruled that Brothers should be put on a leave of absence, removed from Freedom Village, and forbidden from handling the ministry checking accounts while his fate was decided. Brothers fought back, pulling together a governing board of deacons and determining that the trustees had no power. In December a bankruptcy judge partly agreed, ruling that the Bankruptcy Court was not the location to decide who controlled Freedom Village. The trustees were largely a creation of the court, a fiscal oversight watchdog that according to court records did little over the years to monitor the operation. The son of one of the trustees, Quintin Frey, is pursuing repayment of a loan his father, Emerson Frey, made of $1.5 million, court papers filed in Yates County show. Brothers describes the father, Emerson Frey, as a longtime supporter who always had Freedom Village at heart. Quintin Frey filed the lawsuit on behalf of his father; Brothers said he doubts Emerson Frey supports his son’s actions. Lawyers for Freedom Village say in court papers that Quintin Frey didn’t use the bankruptcy proceeding for repayment of the loan, as he should have. Meanwhile, past workers are demanding nearly $1 million in back pay, court papers say. Most understood that they were working in a ministerial capacity but now say they should be paid, Brothers said. Costantino, who recently left Freedom Village, said Brothers himself promised occasional payments — but hardly ever followed through. “The next thing you know you’re being strung along,” he said. “That happened to us. That really screwed us up financially.” The questions about Brothers’ allegiance to faith — prompted in part by his disintegrating marriage — continue to be the heart of the complaints from former staff. But in the end, the very issues always nagging Freedom Village — can it keep the money to endure — may be the most troublesome for Brothers to navigate. However, as the bankruptcy proceeding shows, he has fought that fight many times before. “When others have fallen, he has sustained this ministry,” said one of Brothers’ lawyers, Stacey Vogel. Additional Facts About this report Gary Craig joined the Rochester Times-Union in 1990 and the Democrat and Chronicle after the merger of the newspapers. He has covered politics, government and City Hall but has largely focused on criminal justice issues since the late 1990s. He first reported on Freedom Village’s ongoing bankruptcy in 2003. With the bankruptcy apparently nearing an end, he returned to the story late last year, only to learn of the attempts to oust the man who built Freedom Village, Pastor Fletcher Brothers. As part of this story he interviewed nearly two dozen past staff members, and some current staff members also provided insight via email. This story also utilizes hundreds of pages of recent bankruptcy filings, court records and records obtained from the state via the Freedom of Information Law, as well as past coverage of Freedom Village, including an in-depth 1982 story in a Democrat and Chronicle magazine and a multiday 1993 Democrat and Chronicle series.  

Source: http://www.democratandchronicle.com/article/20120603/news01/306030026/Freedom-Village-Fletcher-Brothers?gcheck=1&nclick_check=1
The Freedom Village..... experience!!!!!

My name is not important but what is important is that I at 15 years old was sent to Freedom Village by my over zealot Christian father because as he put it, I was a "troubled teen". I am now 31 years of age and still remember everything I went through at Freedom Village, USA located in Lakemont, NY. It's like this, take everything you think you know about it and multiple that by 1000 and you still have no idea what it was like being there. I was talking to my girlfriend this eve and we got on the subject of my past and that is when I told her about my time at the "Village". When I arrived at this secluded place located deep in farm country, ( where you would find any good cult ) I was shell shocked. I did not realize that what I had done as a child warranted coming to this horrible place. From my very first day I was made aware of what was expected of me and what would happen to me if I did not do as I was told. Mind you the location of this place is in the middle of a field that is extremely large and has/had little "guard" shacks located at either of the entrances to the "Village" and to the back past the lagoon was the train tracks that lead to Watkins Glenn and beyond the tracks was a cliff that dropped into Seneca Lake. I was told to never try and run from the property or I would be sorry. So, me being the kid I was after a few days of the crap they put me through which I will explain in a moment I tried to run. I made it about 50 yards out from the main boys dorm when I was tackled by three of the "older" boys at the dorm. One of them who's name was Kyle who told the other two that he had me and would take me back to the dorm and they could leave. The other two guys left and Kyle took me around the back of the main administration building where he stomped and beat me with a retractable club he had in his jacket. I passed out and when I woke I was in my room back in the dorm. I was unable to get up to do anything, even use the restroom, or eat. No food was brought to me until I was able to go to the mess hall myself. My roommate tried to bring me some food but he was caught and that was that. My room had no door handle and was one room amongst two floors of other rooms within the building. There were two guys to each room. After I was able to get myself some food I was sent to the "No Level Room" which was a room dedicated to driving you literally insane. It was a white room, with white desks, and chairs. The walls were blank and once in the room the door was locked. We/ I had to sit there for eight hours a day for a week and every other time I was "bad" as they called it with Christian preaching being pumped in through speakers in the wall. They had other punishments as well which all lasted the length of the day, eight hours. We had to carry cut wood three pieces at a time from one end of the parking lot to the other over and over again. If we dropped a piece from exhaustion the staff would make us stay out an hour extra for each piece of wood dropped without food, water, or rest. My hands and arms would be so bruised and cut from the wood it was even hard to sleep when I finally did get the chance to do it. Then there was the times in the spring and summer months where they would make us go out into the fields and pick all the dandy lions because pastor Brothers hated looking at them. They had to be picked at their base and had to be at least four inches in length. If we were caught picking smaller flowers or not picking them at all they would make us sit in the no level room for hours on end. The showers in the building were almost like jail showers except there was no soap on a rope. We were forced to get into the shower fifteen guys at a time and we were only allowed 6 minutes per shower. There were girls there and we were not allowed to talk, look, listen, know that they existed. Which was messed up because they lived in dorms over the other side of the yard and ate with us in the same mess hall. If we were caught talking or looking at them we would get punished and a few of us myself included who seemed to get the brunt of the punishments were on different occasions forced into the lagoon to wash the sin from our bodies. The lagoon was where all the excess water from the "Village" drained to. It was also were backed up toilet water was drained from the dorms. On at least twenty occasions I was forced into the water of the lagoon because I was full of sin and sinned aginst God and the "Village". Six different times I was beaten within inches of my life and then punished and was not allowed to get even remotely close to a phone to call for help. I was once caught talking to a girl and was beaten for it. I talked to her again in the stable and was beaten and put in the "no level room" for three days. I still talked to her and made the mistake of telling the staff that they could not keep me and this girl apart. I was wrong and in fact they took the girl and locked her away for almost two weeks. When I saw her again she told me they had done terrible things to her while she was locked away. Her and I were caught one day in the stable as we were supposed to be doing our runs on taking care of the horses. They found us laying next to each other talking in the hay. Her name was Jess. I was grabbed by Kyle the staff member and slammed into the wall. He took Jess by her hair and litterally threw her and she busted her arm. She was crying out and I had no way to help her. Moments later two other guys came in and one of them punched me in the side of the neck and head so many times I did not know where I was. I was lying on my side on the floor in a pile of horse dung while Kyle and the other guy beat and raped Jess right in fron of me. After that we did not see Jess anymore and I was put in the no level room for almost a month. Jess wrote me a letter that was given to me by one of the other girls at the stable. In the letter Jess told me that she was tired of the bullshit that this place had put her through and did not know what to do. I tried to get to her but was unable to. two days later she killed herself by slashing her wrists and bleeding out in the shower of the girls dorm while all the girls were out on a day trip. After her suicide we went to a service which we had to do everyday anyways but this service was about her even though they NEVER mentioned her name. The pastor did a sermon on sin and what that can do to you and if you commit suicide you will burn forever in HELL. No one ever mentioned her again and that is when my trouble really started. All the stuff that had happened to me before was childs play. I was beaten and belittled every single day after that all in the name of God. I was forced to endure things that no one should EVER have to go through in the name of God or anything for that matter. It came to a point when I tried everything I could think of to get out of there and nothing seemed to ever work. Until the day I carved Hail Satan in my leg and almost bled to death in the process. I dragged myself to the paster private residence and bled all over his side walk and front door. Never once did he open the door to talk to me. he yelled through it and called me all sorts of vile names. He called his "people" to come deal with me. They beat my ass one took me into the kitchen of the mess hall. One of the guards smeared rock salt into my fresh razor woulds and told me the pain I felt was nothing compaired to the pain I was about to feel in HELL. After they beat me for a while I was taken to the nurse who was a nice lady I guess, she fixed me up and after a few days I was put on a bus and sent back to my father without even an explanation about anything that happened there. I have tried to call them and talk about everything they did to me but no one will talk to me and no one has ever returned my calls. Posted by BeautifullyBoundEntertainment  Source: http://religiouscults.blogspot.com/2008/12/freedom-village-experience.html
Christian teen home relocating to SC mountains punishes students on ‘the woodpile’ By Thad Moore and Stephen Hobbs tmoore@postandcourier.com shobbs@postandcourier.com Apr 14, 2019 Updated 5 hrs ago 10 min to read  SUNSET — A financially hobbled Christian home for teenagers that punishes students by having them carry firewood for hours on end plans to move to South Carolina from New York, seeking a new campus in this remote corner of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Freedom Village USA has long held itself out as a religious alternative for troubled teens — a place to work through addiction, misbehavior and the consequences of childhood trauma. Before it made plans to move to the mountainous edge of South Carolina, its founder, pastor Fletcher Brothers, propelled its growth with a daily radio program beamed to the masses, calling his ministry "North America's premier Christian home for at-risk youth." And he has run it with a culture of intimidation, former students and staff said in interviews, airing misdeeds at chapel services, where he assigns punishments from the pulpit. Students were governed by the decisions of a pastor with near-total control and what one promotional video calls a “tough-love personality.” Surrounded by farmland in western New York, school staff monitored what little contact they had with the outside world, court records show. Some said in interviews that they were convinced that if they left Freedom Village, they’d be defying God’s will. Staff members, meanwhile, were paid inconsistently, often below minimum wage, according to state records. The school filed for bankruptcy last year after the state of New York ordered it to pay more than $1.5 million in back pay, interest and penalties. “Fletcher claims dictatorship and no one can seem to stop him from doing as he pleases,” two former staff members wrote to a federal judge in 2011. “He believes he is above the law, that rules don’t apply to him and that he can treat people in any manner he pleases without any recourse.” They pleaded with the judge to hold the pastor to account “so that he won’t think he can get away with deceiving and cheating more unsuspecting people.” Eight years later, Freedom Village's legal and financial challenges have intensified. It has faced claims of unpaid wages by nearly 30 past employees. A bankruptcy judge recently denied its case for financial protection, leaving it on the hook for its debts. It’s now selling its land in the Finger Lakes of western New York, its campus for nearly four decades. And it’s coming to the Upstate. 'Spiritual help'  Brothers’ radio show and marketing campaigns have helped draw thousands of students, often sent by parents at their wits’ end. They represent challenging cases, often teens struggling with drugs, abuse and mental illness. Brothers has said that nearly all of his students were abused as children — 95 percent, by his estimate. The school doesn't believe in the science of mental health or the professional standards that govern therapists and social workers. So deep-seated is Brothers' rejection of those fields that he has tried to cast the lessons of his college psychology classes out of his memory, he said in sworn testimony. Instead, he favors a "spiritual help" approach toward treatment, one that relies on the assessments of Brothers and his staff. He has said he considers professional diagnoses as simply “interesting to know.” He doesn’t seek out staff with degrees in social work or psychiatry because "they've been indoctrinated in most cases in a failing system,” he testified. Freedom Village holds that the school's Christian counseling practices equate to talk therapy, according to Jonathan Bailie, who represents the ministry as operations chief for the National Center for Life and Liberty. NCLL is Freedom Village’s legal counsel, and it owns the land the ministry is moving to in Pickens County. The school has been accused of putting faith in students’ better angels, even when their records would urge caution. For example, the time it admitted a teenager who had been accused of molesting his adopted sister. He came to Freedom Village with a court order not to spend time with anyone younger than 14 when he got there. Three years later, the school paired him with a 13-year-old as a “big brother," court records show. Brothers said under oath that he’d become a "good, young man that was a model student" who offered to help a young student who was struggling. The staff decided they should be roommates. The older student was arrested within months, charged with having sex with the boy. The boy told police that his "big brother," then 21, had started talking about sex, so he asked questions about it. “He said, ‘Here, I’ll show you,’ and he came over and got into bed with me,” the boy explained in a sworn statement to police, alleging that the sexual contact continued for weeks. The man later pleaded guilty to attempted criminal sexual conduct. When the boy’s parents sued, their lawyer asked Brothers in a deposition how he’d try to counsel a student accused of abusing children. “Biblically,” he answered. Bailie said the ministry would not discuss the allegations, but he said that it has a “no-tolerance policy” for abuse and a requirement that any abuse that is discovered is reported immediately. "Our goal is to make sure kids stay safe, because nobody, nobody is wanting to hear that a child feels unsafe," he said. "There was a policy in place at the time, but obviously we are trying to get better and better at making sure that those things are addressed." The boy’s family settled their case, which accused Freedom Village’s leaders of negligence. It isn’t clear that they have been paid: They filed a claim in Freedom Village's bankruptcy case last year. ‘They had faith’ Freedom Village financed its early years in New York by borrowing money from its followers, taking to TV and radio to pitch them loans with a healthy return and a religious mission. It managed to repay old loans with new ones, and for a few years, it had no problem finding new lenders, according to James Weller, a Rochester businessman. But contributions fell off and the church filed for bankruptcy in 1990. “Many trusting people saw their loans as a way to support the church while earning a very high rate of return on their investment,” Weller wrote in a sworn affidavit. “They were senior citizens who had ‘faith’ their investment of a significant portion of their life savings would be paid back. They had faith because they were promised a payback by the Pastor when they made the original loan. They had faith because they had invested in a good cause blessed by a Lord who would never disappoint them.” Weller talked to them often. He was hired by the court to distribute money from the church to its roughly 2,000 creditors. His job quickly became difficult. Freedom Village fell short of its $20,000-a-month repayment plan “almost immediately,” Weller said. The court was loath to take over a religious organization, and it figured slow repayment from a group with little cash was better than no repayment at all. So it let Freedom Village’s bankruptcy case drag on for 22 years. As that case wound down, New York officials started receiving complaints from former workers. They said that the ministry paid some of its staffers less than the minimum wage — sometimes $150 a week, or less — and it paid them inconsistently, according to a state appeals board. Along with a stipend, Brothers said his staff was compensated in other ways, including room and board, education for their children and free medical care. "We've got people who have been here — and we've retired them out — they were here 33 years. They never bought a loaf of bread one time while they were here. They never paid a heat bill one time," he said. New York’s Labor Department found that some workers made less than minimum wage, even after accounting for their housing and meals. In all, 29 staff members complained to the state, saying that they’d been underpaid and that the church hadn’t fulfilled promises of back pay worth more than $1 million. New York slapped the ministry with an order to pay $1.5 million, a sum that covered fewer than half of the workers who complained. Others signed agreements with the church instead. So the church told the bankruptcy court it would consider selling most of its land in New York’s Finger Lakes. It listed its campus for sale last month. Bailie said Freedom Village's decision to move was unrelated to the wage claims and its most recent bankruptcy filing. Before the land went on the market, the ministry told followers that it was leaving New York because of politics. It objects to a law the state enacted earlier this year guaranteeing abortion rights. Instead, it says it prefers South Carolina's politics. Brothers said on his radio program that coming here is "kind of like moving into God’s country." A remote village The new home of Freedom Village is in one of South Carolina’s most remote corners, in a place where wildlife preserves run against mountain cabins and pastureland. It sits in a valley east of Lake Jocassee, where people and jobs are sparse, even by the standards of Appalachia. The campus is a cluster of houses overlooking a pond that feeds a gurgling creek, hemmed in by mountains and state land. It's a vacant group home owned by the National Center for Life and Liberty, a Florida-based group that provides legal services to churches, including Freedom Village. The legal nonprofit planned to reopen the group home last year but stopped when it realized renovations would cost more than expected. Bailie said his group didn't realize the facility was in such disrepair, so it looked for a partner to help run the home instead. In the meantime, South Carolina's Department of Social Services said, a group home owned by NCLL housed children from Virginia without a license from the state. DSS spokeswoman Marilyn Matheus said the agency refused to give it one because the property had "several fire deficiencies." It sent a cease-and-desist order in August. Freedom Village plans to lease the South Carolina property, though it hasn't set a timeline for its move to the campus off Victorious Valley Drive in Pickens County. It plans to go by a new name, Victory Village USA. But DSS said it hasn't given the ministry a license to operate in South Carolina. The agency said it first learned of the planned move when a Post and Courier reporter asked if it had been approved. Roy Costner III, the chairman of Pickens County Council, likewise said that county officials hadn't heard of the ministry's plans when the newspaper called Friday. "No one has applied for anything. No one’s done anything," he said. Bailie said the groups expect to file for a license within the next three months. Meanwhile, Freedom Village has started to raise money for the move, asking supporters to give $1,000 or more to become “founders” of the new campus. "If you can be a founder, we need you desperately," Fletcher Brothers said on his radio show, which closes each day with a request for listeners to give "at least once a month." "I guarantee you, every life that comes through that facility is going to be a jewel in your crown someday." The woodpile Freedom Village’s supporters asked lots of questions about the move when the school announced it on Facebook. But one in particular struck at a central feature of the school’s culture: “Where’s the wood pile gonna go?” The woodpile looms large at Freedom Village. It’s where students are punished for misdeeds like talking back, acting out or using the Lord's name in vain. It’s where they go to walk for hours a day, carrying firewood in silence. Students on the woodpile are sent out in the evening, for a four-hour shift that doesn't end until 10 o’clock, according to a written policy for corrective measures. Those with the worst punishments get up at 5 a.m. to carry firewood for an hour before other students wake up and go back to the wood pile in the afternoon for another two hours. The pastor's son, Jeremy Brothers, who now runs much of the program day-to-day, described the punishment as "a reflection time that they can use to think about their actions or non-actions." "It's our form of consequences," Fletcher Brothers added in an interview with The Post and Courier, continuing later: "It works, and there's got to be some consequences when a kid ... tells somebody to go drop dead and go to the warm place." The school insists that its program and the woodpile punishment are voluntary. Students and their parents sign a waiver describing the punishment. It says, in part: "These corrective measures are voluntary but students are expected to comply with these measures. Failure to do so may result in dismissal." And the possibility of being sent home weighed heavily on some students, who feared that if they left Freedom Village, they would leave God's will. 'Questioning God' When Freedom Village's program works, its alumni say it changes lives. Fletcher Brothers can be a father figure who pulls at-risk teens off dangerous paths. His approach is tough, his supporters say, but it mandates structure and discipline in lives that need it. "I'm not saying it was a perfect ministry," said Derek Weidman, who said he was addicted to drugs before he came to Freedom Village in the early 2000s. "But for me, in the season of my life I was in and what I was going through and where I found myself at the time, it was what I needed." Fletcher Brothers could show grace when he assigned punishments, sometimes giving students a second chance when they got into trouble and they were struggling, said Kaylee Goodrich, who said she was a recipient of the pastor’s grace. Some days, he was content to say "don't do it again," especially for students who were new or first-time offenders, Goodrich said; others, he'd lay down the law. And when he did, some students say his ire became a source of anguish, even after they left campus. Former attendees say Fletcher Brothers’ control could cross a line into spiritual abuse. That was made manifest during chapel services, where he aired out punishments. Their oversights and mistakes — leaving their beds unmade, say, or talking to someone of the opposite sex — were announced from the pulpit, they said. The experience of being judged in the name of God and punished on the woodpile has led some former attendees to connect over a shared “trauma bond,” said Emily Shull, who attended the school in the 1990s. Outsiders don't understand the experience of living at Freedom Village, she said. And they can't understand the experience of defying Fletcher Brothers' strongest hold over the campus: a message that his ministry is blessed, that the home sits under the umbrella of God's grace. “The message was: You don’t ever mess with God’s man. Like Fletcher was a man called of God,” said Margaret Baker, a longtime staffer who left in 2008 and later complained about Brothers to a federal judge. “Which meant if we were questioning him, we were questioning God.” After she left, Jodie Keeso believed for months that she’d be struck by lightning because she’d been forsaken. Another former student blogged that she had panic attacks on long drives, certain she was bound to be hurt in a wreck. Baker said it took years “to realize around every corner wasn’t danger.” Bailie defended the school's record, saying that “there’s no teaching or no religious background that would say anything like you’re talking about.” He said that it is tough for all children going into and leaving programs where they are separated from their parents or not home with family. Concerns about Fletcher Brothers' control are not new. They date back to the early 1980s, when the Democrat and Chronicle newspaper in Rochester, N.Y., quoted one of the pastor’s former employees at a chapel he ran. “Brothers’ most powerful weapons were fear, intimidation and isolation,” the staff member said in 1982. Freedom Village had just opened.  Source: https://www.postandcourier.com/news/christian-teen-home-relocating-to-sc-mountains-punishes-students-on/article_990f2aa8-5166-11e9-947d-2bc190c60cb4.html
With millions in debt, NY evangelical camp for troubled teens is moving to Pickens County Gary Craig | Rochester Democrat and Chronicle July 22nd, 2019 External Link: https://amp.greenvilleonline.com/amp/1793192001
Freedom Village closes By MIKE HIBBARD mhibbard@fltimes.com 13 hrs ago 0 Facebook Twitter SMS Email Freedom Village USA was at the former Lakemont Academy off Route 14 in Starkey. STARKEY — Officials are being tight-lipped, but it appears a longtime ministry and home in Yates County for troubled teens has been closed. According to media reports, Freedom Village USA closed earlier this month after a possible partnership with a Christian organization to open a South Carolina campus fell through. That came after a community meeting was organized by people who attended Freedom Village and opposed the new campus. Freedom Village, an intensive care home for troubled teens, was created in 1981 by Pastor Fletcher Brothers, a fundamentalist preacher and author from Rochester. The campus was on the grounds of the old Lakemont Academy off Route 14, a secular boys boarding school. Two voicemails left by the Times on Freedom Village’s toll-free number were not returned. An email was returned to the Times as undeliverable. Monica Mahaffey, assistant commissioner of communications for the state Office of Children and Family Services, said there currently are no youth at Freedom Village. “They have all returned to their homes,” she wrote in an email. Yates County Legislator Bill Holgate, whose district includes the town of Starkey and Freedom Village, said he believes the site is closed. He declined to comment on the closure. Candace Iszard, Starkey’s town clerk, said the town has not received official written notification of closure or impending closure for Freedom Village. According to media reports, Freedom Village has a long history of financial woes and allegations of mistreatment by former residents.  Source: https://www.fltimes.com/news/freedom-village-closes/article_f8928511-4d5e-587c-a0a7-6ac4da4b1d1b.html

 Last Updated: August 19th, 2019

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