Jennifer Pierce, the founder and president of the beleaguered charity Share Our Shoes, says she has left the organization just as state officials are weighing whether it should keep its operating license.
Submitted by dkane on 03/01/2012 - 16:46
Pierce sent an email to reporters late Wednesday saying that she had turned over various access codes and the keys to the Raleigh charity's office and car to a former attorney for the charity. She requested that the items go to the charity's director, Elvia Gerdes, who lives in Knightdale.
"I would like you to know that I have answered the (N.C.) Secretary of State to the best of my ability," Pierce said in the email. "I founded SOS, I care deeply about its mission, and I hope to see it continue."
The Secretary of State's office recently ordered Pierce to produce numerous financial and operational records to help explain tens of thousands of dollars in spending that did not appear to have any connection to the charity's mission of collecting and delivering used shoes to the needy here and abroad. Pierce said she has tried to comply with the order to the best of her abilities, but she acknowledged that some of the spending was for personal items and services that she later reimbursed.
Pierce said in a brief interview that she learned this week Gerdes had fired her. Gerdes said in an interview she fired Pierce in December after she showed up at Gerdes' home late and woke her up. But Gerdes said Pierce refused to be fired.
By then, news reports had come out raising questions about the charity's operations and the state was investigating. WNCN first reported about a North Raleigh church that was concerned its donated shoes and money had yet to be used to bring shoes to Haiti, then WTVD followed up with a report that the charity was selling some of the shoes and keeping the proceeds.
Pierce said shipping issues slowed the church's donations from reaching Haiti, and she later reported they had been shipped. She said the charity sells some shoes to pay for operating expenses, and that was stated in its business plan filed with the state. That is standard practice for charities that collect clothes and other goods for the poor.
Gerdes, 68, said she became director several months ago after the charity's board said Pierce could no longer serve in that position. Gerdes said Pierce gave her little to do and did not pay her.
Today, Gerdes said she is the sole person with the charity. The board, which saw numerous members come and go during the charity's two-year history, has all resigned in the wake of the financial mess.
"I'm so sorry for all of the people that believed and supported Share Our Shoes for so long," Gerdes said. "If we are allowed to operate by the state we will rebuild it into something people can be proud of."
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