Boys Brigade chief cleared out troop's bank accounts to use cash for himself
Keith Ainsley took over at the 18th South Shields brigade, based at Talbot Road Methodist Church in the town, when the previous captain, who had been in charge of the group for decades, passed away.
Newcastle Crown Court heard the 48-year-old, who had volunteered at the group for many years, was given access to the brigade's two bank accounts and helped himself to around £7,650 between February 2012 and October 2014.
The court heard Ainsley was never officially elected as captain at the brigade, but took over the position when his predecessor, who was a close friend of his, died.
Prosecutor Kevin Wardlaw told the court: "When the captain passed away, he told the defendant about the bank accounts, to use as he wished.
"That didn't mean to use for his own expenditure but for the benefit of the Boys' Brigade troop."
The court heard Ainsley used the brigade's money, which included a community grant donation, to pay his own bills and expenses.
Mr Wardlaw added: "It was all of their finances, they were left with a few hundred pound as opposed to several thousand pounds."
Ainsley, of Mill Lane, Whitburn, who resigned when his dishonesty was exposed, pleaded guilty to fraud.
Judge Stephen Earl told the court: "I want the message out that if you defraud church Boys' Brigades or similar, you cannot expect to get anything other than custody."
The judge said while custody must inevitably follow, Ainsley's 12 month jail term could be suspended for two years due to his previous good character, personal circumstances and guilty plea.
Ainsley must carry out 200 hours unpaid work pay £445 costs and be supervised by the probation service for six months.
Jonathan Cousins, defending, said: "Hitherto bringing disgrace on himself, he was not just a man of no previous convictions but also exemplary character.
"He has shown genuine remorse."
Mr Cousins said Ainsley committed the frauds at a time when he was drinking too much as a result of unresolved bereavement issues.
The court heard Ainsley has worked hard all of his life and is keen to get back into employment.