The Investigators

May 21, 2013 4:45 PM

Charitable givers beware of where your gifts go

TUCSON - "Feeding children. What better thing could one do than to feed a child?"

Marietta Luce's life revolves around her husband, their five children and two grandchildren. And she enjoys giving money to childrens' charities-mainly "Feed The Children." The 84-year old Tucson resident doesn't keep cancelled checks, but says she's been donating $50 a month to "Feed The Children" for at least 12 years, meaning she's given the charity more than $7,000.

Now, Mrs. Luce's heart is breaking, because of concerns she has about Feed The Children. She claims the charity has become too aggressive, calling her three times over two days last month, then sending three letters in the same day to her Tucson home, asking for more money.

The News 4 Tucson Investigators called the Oklahoma City-based charity about the Luces' complaints. A spokeswoman replied in a statement, "We sincerely apologize for any inconveniences they may have experienced. In relation to phone calls, the only outbound calls we currently make are to thank past donors for their support and our policy is to only call once. According to our records, we were not able to reach the Luce family with the initial phone call, explaining why there were repeated efforts, occurring once weekly and not all in the same week. It is always our expectation that the representative making the call would leave a message, thanking the donor for their donation on the first attempt.

Larry Jones, a former preacher and the founder of Feed The Children, was fired from the charity in 2009. Jones and his board of directors have accused each other of financial mismanagement. Jones has denied any wrongdoing. The Oklahoma Attorney General's office told us they're currently investigating former employees for possible miss-use of charitable funds. Marietta Luce was crestfallen to learn this.

She said, "I guess when you've been brought up with the idea of fairness and honesty, things like that hurt."

Feed The Children gets an "F" grade from Charity Watch, the watchdog group claiming that only 31 percent of Feed The Children's cash budget actually goes to program services. Nick LaFleur of the Better Business Bureau of Southern Arizona comments on charity standards in general.

"Thirty-one percent is not enough revenue going towards the stated costs. We stipulate it has to be 65 percent."

The Better Business Bureau disagrees with Charity Watch about Feed The Children, and actually gives them good marks now, since the charity has made changes at the top. There are several websites you can check to see how charities are graded. Among them:


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