State alleges Share Our Shoes charity misused funds
Posted February 14, 2012
Updated February 15, 2012
Raleigh, N.C. — The founder of a Raleigh charity has 10 days to prove to the North Carolina Secretary of State that she didn't improperly use funds for her personal use or risk losing her state charitable license.
The Secretary of State found about $65,000 worth of questionable expenses along with allegations that money raised and shoes donated didn't go toward the charity's stated purpose.
Share Our Shoes, formerly called Shoes-4-Souls Inc., registered as a nonprofit in September 2009 and obtained its current charitable solicitation license in March 2010.
When a massive earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010, Share Our Shoes founder Jennifer Pierce launched a Triangle-wide campaign asking people to empty their closets to send shoes to the island nation.
Hope Community Church donated shoes and $5,000 to be sent to Haiti, but the state contends that neither the shoes nor the money ever made it there.
Instead, according to documents released by the state Tuesday, Pierce sold the shoes to a buyer in New York.
The state's Charitable Solicitation Licensing Division sent two records requests to the organization for everything from bank statements and tax forms to receipts for shipments of shoes.
Those requests turned up more than $47,000 in questionable checks, some of which were made out to Pierce; more than $10,000 in ATM and bank withdrawals, including at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Tampa, Fla; $5,300 in retail spending; $2,500 in gas; more than $1,000 at bars and restaurants; and nearly $400 for cosmetic hair, nail and teeth services.
But the records provided were incomplete, the state alleges, and unless Pierce can provide more complete documentation of the nonprofit's operations, Share Our Shoes will lose its license.
Pierce said she did sometimes use the charity's credit card for personal expenses, but that she always reimbursed the organization.
"I have always done the right thing 100 percent with funds that have come in," she said. "I know my heart. I know the purpose of Share Our Shoes, the purpose of the donations. I just need to get the details to the Secretary of State."
She added that she hasn't done anything illegal; she simply didn't know how to operate a nonprofit.
If Pierce is allowed to keep her charitable license, it will be up for renewal in May.