State officials revoke license of Share Our Shoes charity

dkane@newsobserver.comMarch 6, 2012 

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Jennifer Pierce with Share Our Shoes checks the donated shoes stored at the group's office. Pierce said the recent allegations against her non-profit organization that it sells the donated shoes for profit are false. A legal disclaimer posted on the group's online and office states "items donated to Share Our Shoes.. may be sold to a third party." She said the proceeds are used to cover the costs of operations.

TAKAAKI IWABU — tiwabu@newsobserver.com

The N.C. Secretary of State's office has revoked the license of Share Our Shoes, a two-year-old Raleigh charity that collected used shoes and donated them to needy families here and abroad.

In an order released this afternoon, the Secretary of State said that the charity's founder, Jennifer Pierce, was unable to adequately explain tens of thousands of dollars in expenses that did not appear to support the charity's mission. Some of those expenses included dining and personal grooming costs incurred by Pierce, who acknowledged that she sometimes used the nonprofit's accounts to pay for personal expenses that she later reimbursed.

"Share Our Shoes shall immediately cease and desist soliciting contributions/donations, including both monetary donations and the donations of goods and services," the order reads.

It further says that the Secretary of State has the option to pursue additional penalties against the charity or refer the investigation to the N.C. Attorney General.

Pierce said last week she had made a good-faith effort to comply with the Secretary of State's request for financial records to explain the expenditures. But the order indicates that the information she provided was incomplete, and not sworn to and notarized as the state requires.

The order also raised more questions about the charity's operations. It said the charity had received shoes and medical supplies from a company that were supposed to go help disaster victims. But the charity's board minutes say the medical supplies were given to Pierce's brother, who sold them and kept the proceeds.

Pierce is a convicted felon and recovering drug addict who said founding the charity helped keep her straight. She said last week she had been fired by the charity's sole remaining official, Executive Director Elvia Gerdes.

Gerdes said today that the investigation into the charity isn't over. She said a second investigator is on the case.

Pierce "didn't run the business as she should have," said Gerdes. She joined the charity last summer and said Pierce gave her little to do.

"However now, because of all the questionable - very questionable - expenditures, they are starting another investigation."

Kane: 919-829-4861

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