A local group whose goal was to bring down barriers between the United States and the former Soviet Union has turned its efforts toward dismantling a tower of debts it racked up in the process.
With debts forgiven by several creditors in the past few weeks, the non-profit Meeting For Peace Foundation has been able to eliminate nearly $40,000 in red ink to reduce its total debt to $56,079, according to a former foundation officer.
The figures were included in information supplied by Bob Swan, former co-chairman of the foundation, about debts from the October 1990 Meeting for Peace event held in Lawrence and other Kansas cities.
"I think people should see that tremendous effort and tremendous progress has been made," Swan said last week. "It was over $725,000 in cost and we're within 6 or 7 percent of having it paid. . . . We had some people who have made some major sacrifices."
SWAN, WHO helped organize the October 1990 Meeting For Peace event that brought about 290 Soviets to Lawrence, was asked to resign from the organization in November.
However, Swan offered to pull together financial information about the organization's outstanding debts for the Journal-World while the organization's treasurer, Robert Casad Jr., was on a business trip in Moscow.
The financial status report shows that of the 1990 event's total cost of $725,808, a debt of $48,084 remains. That included $34,075 owed to 33 creditors and $14,009 owed to 16 panelists.
The report also shows an additional debt of $7,995 from the Russia-Kansas All Star Classic, a basketball event held in November in Lawrence and Salina that featured former top players from Kansas University and the former Soviet Union.
AMONG THE $56,079 in the foundation's total remaining debts is $12,212 owed to four creditors who have sued the foundation: Westminster Inn, Lawrence, $3,834; State Office Systems, Topeka, $1,067; Irene Sanders, Washington, D.C., $810, and Mainline Printing, Topeka, $6,499.
So far Westminster Inn, Sanders and State Office Systems have won judgment and are in line to garnish the foundation's bank account. Those creditors have told the J-W that although there is no money in the foundation's account, they still are attempting to recover their money.
Since the first of the year, the following people have forgiven the foundation money owed to them: Karon Brashares, the foundation's former executive director, $5,500; Swan, $5,325; Sue Schulte (consulting), $2,500; Don Lesh (consulting), $2,000; Ed Robinson (consulting), $2,000; Swan's corporation for Soviet-American Enterprise, $3,080; M & M Office Supply, $2,003, and Alvamar Inc., $1,464.
LOANS FORGIVEN the foundation since Jan. 1 include $5,850 from Paul Kindling and "others" totaling $10,000, according to the report.
Swan said the generosity of one creditor, Alvamar developer Bob Billings, has spurred other creditors to forgive their debts to the foundation.
A letter from Billings to Casad dated Dec. 11, says that Alvamar Inc. is writing off the entire balance of $1,463.50 owed by the Meeting for Peace Foundation as a tax-deductible donation.
"Many Lawrence citizens have benefited from the admirable projects you and your friends have organized over the years," Billings said in the letter. "I commend you all and I hope this donation on our part might, in some small way, inspire other creditors of the foundation, as their financial abilities might permit, to take similar steps during this difficult period for you."
COPIES OF Billings' letter were sent to creditors on Jan. 10 with a memo from the foundation.
The memo explained that the foundation had hoped to clear $15,000 or more of the debt through the KU-Russian basketball games. However, the Soviet athletes were three days late getting to Kansas. The delay forced a rescheduling and added to the foundation's debt, the memo said.
"Several lawsuits and judgments took the few hundred dollars the foundation had in its bank account and caused a number of small checks to be returned," the memo says. "Since then, the bank closed the account and the foundation has no assets."
THE MEMO says Tom Waterhouse, a Meeting for Peace contributor from California, hopes to produce a videotape of the recent visit and games for Russian television along with American corporate sponsorships.
"This group has indicated it plans to apply a portion of the revenues from their endeavors to those creditors who either write off the foundation's obligations or continue their understanding of the foundation's situation," the memo says.
Swan explained that Waterhouse loaned the foundation $15,000 to fund the Soviet athletes' transportation in October when they were stranded at a Moscow airport because of problems with Soviet bureaucracy.
Waterhouse, who is not connected with the foundation, wanted to make sure the event happened because of his plan to produce a video of the games and events marking the 100th anniversary of basketball, Swan said.
WATERHOUSE is lining up U.S. advertisers for the video, which would be shown soon in the Commonwealth of Independent States to help generate U.S.-commonwealth business ties, Swan said.
Swan also supplied the following information in the report:
Of the $725,808 cost for the October 1990 meeting, $541,024 was raised in 1990. Of that amount, $221,024 was raised in the United States and $320,000 was contributed by the Soviet Peace Committee. The Soviet donations represented the cost of the jet, the flight crew and jet fuel, plus insurance for the round-trip flight from Moscow to Kansas City International Airport.
During 1991, the foundation paid $19,178 in obligations, which included $4,300 to panelists, $8,975 for consulting, $5,146 in "miscellaneous accounts paid" and $757 in "expenses reimbursed."
DURING 1991, $42,500 in debts were forgiven, including Brashares' $20,000 salary, Swan's $20,000 salary, and $2,500 from Kansas University's Division of Continuing Education.
During 1991, $35,300 in loans to the foundation were forgiven, including a $30,000 loan from Paul Fisher.