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State Official Investigates Non-Profit Nspire Outreach

Gwinnett County residents have questioned whether the non-profit agency’s clothing drives help the charity or its clients.

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp. Photo Credit: File|Patch
Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp. Photo Credit: File|Patch
Residents' questions about who benefits from a local clothing drive has prompted Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp to launch an investigation into the Gwinnett County-based, non-profit organization Nspire Outreach.

WSB-TV received complaints that not all of the donations from their pink bag clothing drive was reaching people in need. Kemp’s investigation began after seeing the one done by Kerry Kavanaugh of Channel 2.

“In the past, people have hidden behind those type of exemptions when they really weren’t a religious organization or a church,” Kemp said to Channel 2.

Kemp may work with the Department of Labor and Revenue along with other state agencies during the investigation.

Nspire Outreach is a registered nonprofit organization that has programs for homeless men and women, offering both employment and housing opportunities. The pink bag clothing drives are supposed to benefit their clients.

According to their web page about the program, “each program participant is hired as a telemarketer for a charitable clothing pick-up company. They receive job training, a competitive hourly wage, a clothing allowance, and the funds they help secure go back into the program.”

The non-profit also rents apartments for members of the program -- though not completely free of charge. The security deposit is paid for by Nspire, but the tenants pay fees to cover housing and utilities.

All participants of the program are automatically in debt the moment they begin. The program entrance fee is $4,800 that clients must pay off from money earned at the call center Nspire assigns them to. Each client is expected to pay $400 every month to Nspire.

“You’re coming through the door and you’re gainfully, W-2 employed, paying taxes, taking care of my child support, employed,” Nspire director Gregg Kennard told WSB.

“You go in there broken, but I think they try to make you leave there in pieces,” former Nspire client Charnese Tate told the TV station. “The check goes directly to [Nspire].”

Tate said she received a $25 weekly stipend.

Nspire explains that the program is also powered by selling some of the donated clothing the nonprofit receives.

The organization tells possible donors online that clothing donations are used to help outfit Nspire’s clients, people in need will also have access to the donations, and the clothing can also be given to local shelters. Whatever clothing is left is sold to thrift stores to help subsidize costs for the program.

WSB looked into the program when viewers asked what the pink bags were for and where the donations were going.

“There were literally bags everywhere, all over the neighborhood,” homeowner Ike Yancey told WSB. “You can’t miss them because they are pink.” He also said that the bags say “clothing for a cause” but there was no indication of what the cause actually was.

Elizabeth Elizabeth May 14, 2014 at 10:45 AM
It sounds to me like donated clothing that is resale-able is and what is left is given to residents. The problem is in the implication that when you donate something nice and envision it bringing warmth, comfort, and pride to someone in need, free of charge it might in fact be diverted into the secondary market as a revenue stream instead and this is misleading. Additionally, the "entrance fee" paid back at $400 per month seems rather steep and a bit like modern day indentured servitude. An in depth look at the financials, hopefully audited by an independent accountant, is probably a wise idea...
Mother Reaching Daughters Inc. May 14, 2014 at 01:18 PM
It's so-called organizations like this one that makes it hard for other organizations that truly have a heart for people.

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