The Better Business Bureau is warning residents to beware of pink donation bags that have been left on door knobs in several southeast Charlotte neighborhoods in recent weeks.
The bags belong to an Atlanta-based religious organization called Nspire Center that has an “F” rating from the Better Business Bureau in Atlanta, spokeswoman Janet Hart of the bureau’s Charlotte office said this morning.
Nspire Center also goes by “Hope House,” according to its listing on the Better Business Bureau’s website.
Nspire received the flunking grade in part because it failed to respond to five complaints filed against it with the Better Business Bureau, according to the bureau’s website.
“I’m going to own up to that,” Nspire Center principal and CEO Gregg Kennard told the Observer on Thursday. “I take full responsibility.”
Kennard said he hasn’t responded to complaints because he is the organization’s only full-time employee and is constantly traveling among his organization’s 24 residences in North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee.
Nspire operates homes and programs for people who are homeless and for victims of domestic violence, Kennard said. Nspire expanded into Charlotte 1 1/2 years ago and opened a home for victims of domestic violence in the city this year, he said. He declined to identify the location of the home for the security of victims, he said.
“We’re a small, faith-based organization trying to do some good,” Kennard said.
Hart said bureau officials haven’t been able to determine who benefits from donations placed in the pink bags. “The question is, who is it going to?” Hart said.
Online, the bureau found a 2006 federal tax return filed by the organization that showed it had raised $7 million, Hart said.
When a report appeared on WSOC-TV’s website about Nspire recently, Kennard commented under the article on the website that the $7 million “had never happened.”
The online copy of Nspire’s IRS 990 form is no longer available, Hart said. 990 forms in part detail how much a non-profit’s board members and staff are compensated. The forms are public record.
As a church, however, Nspire doesn’t have to file a 990 form, Hart noted.
Kennard said he has no idea where the BBB is getting the $7 million figure, because the most income the organization ever produced in a year was $500,000, he said.
Kennard said the Nspire relies entirely on private donations and proceeds from clothing drives.
“They haven’t contacted us to get clarity on anything,” Kennard said of the BBB.
Hart said she’s concerned that Nspire hasn’t detailed how much revenue it’s generating and how it spends the money.
The similarly named Hope House in Huntersville, meanwhile, has issued media alerts over the past year about the Atlanta group soliciting donations in the Charlotte area. Officials with Hope House in Huntersville, which is a transitional home for women who are temporarily homeless and their children, say they are in no way affiliated with the Atlanta organization and want that organization to stop soliciting under the Hope House name here.
A center in Columbia, Tenn., that assists domestic violence victims and is also named Hope House, has complained on the Better Business Bureau Atlanta website about Nspire using its name to garner donations in its area.
Kennard said Nspire has tried to clear up any confusion by retiring its use of the Hope House name in favor of “Hope for Domestic Violence.”
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