LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. - The Missouri Attorney General's office confirmed it's investigating several complaints filed against a Lee's Summit charity.
In a storefront in a strip mall just off Tudor Road in Lee's Summit, Raven Thornheart collects donations for her charity "Hope for Home and Family."
Thornheart told the 41 Action News Investigators that she started the charity because she felt some people were falling through the cracks. She said her charity aims to help "anyone who walks through the door" who is in need.
The charity first started taking donations last Christmas. However, former donors told 41 Action News they are concerned whether those donations actually made it to those genuinely in need.
Donors told us they have reported those concerns to the Missouri Attorney General's office. They also raised concerns over Thornheart's criminal background.
The 41 Action News investigators asked Thornheart about her felony conviction.
"Yeah, I had a check bounce," she said.
Thornheart pleaded guilty in 2010 to writing bad checks for more than $500. She told 41 Action News donors shouldn't be concerned about that conviction.
"There were exceeding rare circumstances known as my ex-husband. (He) had drained the family bank account, and I wasn't aware that he was doing it," Thornheart explained.
Donors also expressed concern over a lack of accountability concerning the financials of the organization. We asked Thornheart about those financial records. She told 41 Action News she did not have any financial records available. She said most of the donations were of clothes and not monetary.
Thornheart dug through records she kept in a milk crate to produce proof the charity is registered with the state of Missouri as a nonprofit.
The organization's website claims it is an approved 501c3. However, upon questioning by the 41 Action News Investigators, Thornheart clarified that the charity just filed for 501c3 status in June and is currently still waiting for final approval from the IRS.
Currently, the organization does not appear on the IRS's list of approved tax-exempt organizations. Charities must appear on that list in order for donors to claim a deduction on their taxes, unless the organization is a church or government agency. Those organizations are not required to register with the IRS.
A spokeswoman for the Missouri Attorney General's office confirmed they have received several complaints from consumers about the charity. She said the Attorney General's office is currently in the process of investigating those complaints.
Thornheart said she doesn't understand why donors would complain.
"People are not used to people doing something without an ulterior motive," she said. "I guess that's the saddest thing of all, that no one does anything just because they can."
We asked Thornheart if she understood donors just wanted to make sure their donation went to those in need.
"I encourage that," she replied.
Before you decide to donate to a charitable organization, make sure you look into their background.
First, make sure the charity is a registered 501c3 with the IRS by searching their website: http://apps.irs.gov/app/eos/
Also, check with the state of Missouri and Kansas to see if the charity is registered where they are collecting donations.
In Missouri, you can also check with the Attorney General's office for a list of organizations that have voluntarily registered and turned over financial information. http://ago.mo.gov/checkacharity/
Next, use Guidestar or Charity Navigator to see how the organization is using your donation. Look at the salaries of the people in charge and make sure they're proportional to the size of the organization.
Beware of charities with names similar to known charities. Sometimes they are trying to cash in on the good, familiar name of a known organization.