Secretary of state looking into clothing charity

by: Kerry Kavanaugh Updated:

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ATLANTA —

There are new developments in a Channel 2 Action News investigation into a charity that collects clothing donations.
 
Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp said after seeing the Channel 2 Action News investigation by Kerry Kavanaugh, his office launched an investigation of its own.
               
Channel 2 got complaints some donations made to Nspire Outreach weren't reaching those in need.
 
Kemp wants to know how the group is set up in Georgia.  He said he's heard from investigators from Tennessee asking about where the money is going.
               
"Certainly it seems the way people were treated was very disturbing," said Kemp.
 
Kemp wants to know how Gwinnett County-based Nspire Outreach is conducting business in Georgia.
 
Nspire is registered as a religious organization, but they run a transitional housing and job program with a massive fundraising effort, their pink bag clothing drive.
 
"About 15,000 people a week say yes to a donation," said Nspire director Gregg Kennard.            
 
Kennard said the clothing drive raises $300,000 a year, which directly helps his clients, the homeless and victims of domestic violence.
 
"All the clothing comes to us a 501c3," he said.
 
Kavanaugh learned most donations end up for sale in for-profit thrift stores across metro Atlanta called Park Avenue Thrift.
 
Former program participants said help came at a price.
 
“You go there broken, but I think they try to make you leave there in pieces," said ex-client Charnese Tate.
 
She, like all participants, is automatically indebted to the program $4,800 that they agree to pay off working in the call center. Their paycheck goes directly to Nspire.
 
“You're coming through the door and you're gainfully, W-2 employed, paying taxes, taking care of my child support, employed,” Kennard said.
 
Kennard conceded each participant pays a $400 monthly fee. He said it helps cover their housing, food and transportation to the Nspire call center.
 
"In the past, people have hidden behind those type of exemptions when they really weren't a religious organization or a church, that's what we're weighing into now,” Kemp said.
 
Kemp said his investigators are working this case. But, he believes he will likely have to work with other state agencies including the Department of Labor and Revenue.