Posted by: mollyrossiter | February 23, 2009

Should it matter?

Should it matter how much money is given to the founding family of a national food purchase program that helps 600,000 people purchase quality food for a good discount?

Should it matter that this faith-based nonprofit, in addition to paying nearly $2 million in salaries to the family’s four members, has made unsecured loans to the same family totaling $1.4 million over three years?

Should it matter that the founder of this nonprofit believes that “business is business. I don’t care if it’s God’s business, your business or whose business it is”?

Some people think so.

In a story in the Atlanta Journal Constitution today, reporter Christopher Quinn follows the money trail left by Angel Food Ministries’ headquarters in Atlanta. The office was the site of an FBI/IRS search warrant a few weeks ago, and although details about the warrant have not been released, a company spokesman said he feels the warrant was targeting individuals rather than the non-profit itself.

The story has had some local interest in Eastern Iowa — there are about two dozen churches serving as distribution sites for Angel Food Ministries in Linn and Johnson counties alone. Each site serves from 25 to 60 or more families each month.

On the surface, Angel Food Ministries is doing what it was created to do: it is helping hundreds of thousands of people buy good-quality food at roughly half price. A $30 box of pre-selected foods (including meats, vegetables, eggs and staples) would retail for $60-70. Families, regardless of age, income or size, can order and purchase as many boxes each month as they would like. All orders are prepaid so no one gets stuck with extra food; if someone doesn’t pick up their order, the food is donated to a local food pantry.

Scratch below the surface, however, and the story gets a little muddy:

* The founder, the Rev. Joe Wingo, as a member of the Gwinnett Hospital Authority, was convicted in 1989 of extorting $17,500 from a doctor. He served a year in prison.

* According to Quinn’s story, Wingo and his wife Linda founded the organization without salaries in 1994.  But when the nonprofit started making money, so did its founders. Wingo’s salary in 2005 was $69,598 when the agency sold $36 million in food and had an $8 million profit. The next year, when Angel Food sold $96 million in food and had a $20.9 million profit, Wingo’s salary jumped to $588,529. His wife and two sons each earned about $500,000 that same year.

In addition, the church he founded, Emmanuel Praise Church, also pays Wingo and his family several hundred thousand dollars a year.

* The loans from Angel Food to the Wingo family were to aid other Wingo family businesses.

So there’s the question: Do people who were meant to benefit from Angel Food Ministries — those who can take advantage of the lowered food costs — still benefit from the ministry?

Judging from the conversations I’ve had with local organizers, all of whom were hopeful that the FBI/IRS issues won’t affect the ministry itself, I would say yes, there are still benefits.

But I can’t help but wonder how much better these people would or could be served if the “nonprofit” Angel Food Ministries spent more time being, well, nonprofit.

Or should it even matter?

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Responses

  1. Yes, it does matter. Thousands of volunteers keep this ministry running. We give up a day of pay to volunteer. Should the Wingos makes millions between them while we give up wages to help this ministry. Obviously we love doing it for the people we help, but don’t play the “shell game” with us just because we have a love of God and want to help others.

  2. I do NOT see this business as a non-profit BUT a highly profitable one that should pay tax like the rest of us~

  3. I agree! I direct a host/drop site. We distributed 287 boxes last month. It is hard work!! One of my volunteers is an 80-something lovely lady. She just had cataract and back surgery. Yet she stayed on her feet for 3-4 hours to pass out food and greet people because she loves and serves the Lord. The Wingos are making money on the backs of people like this! They wouldn’t have their exhorbitant salaries if it wasn’t for the volunteers. They love and serve themselves. The Servant magazine is filled with their pictures constantly. The info coming out of HQ is blindly loyal, which is dangerous. I am waiting for them to admit some wrong-doing and I have heard it yet.

    On the plus side and here is the conflict… it does help people! It is needed! But now it seems tainted and I feel like I’ve been “had”. I hope that it becomes a for profit company so it can continue. But to call it Christian and non-profit turns my stomach. It really galls me and I’m praying that God will help me with it!

    I am praying for them and waiting on the Lord. I’m praying they will repent. I will carry on until I get a big stop sign from God!

  4. I wouldn’t rush to draw conclusions. I’m a volunteer for Angel Food, and the ministry has improved our church’s image in our neighborhood as we have been able to reach out to people with the love of Christ. We just had a great distribution last Saturday, which included praying for people who are really needy. The salaries at Angel Food at present seem to be fair, which was confirmed by an independent compensation study in 2008. In these tough economic times, I plan to support every resource available to help people.


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