Action 4 Investigation - Unpaid wages, unfed children, tax payer money unaccounted for
Thu, 18 Aug 2011 04:36:21 GMT —
At a warehouse in Brownsville, about one million meals sit in boxes.
They're property of the nonprofit Life Changing Youth Summit and were meant to feed hungry Cameron County kids.
Yet that hunger still exists.
Jasmine Mendiola was just one parent who benefitted from the free summer food program Life Changing Youth Summit offered.
At her government funded housing site, Jasmine's two children each received free breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday.
Jasmine expected the food to be served through August 22.
A month ago, the program was cancelled without explanation.
Jasmine showed Action 4 News her nearly empty fridge.
At the time, she struggled whether to pay full rent or use part of it for groceries.
Facing similar financial troubles are former Life Changing Youth Summit employees.
Life Changing Youth Summit hired about 70 employees locally.
They told Action 4 News they have not been paid in full.
Rosalinda Castillo said Life Changing Youth Summit owes her over $1,000.
"I had to go get one pay day loan, and now I don't have the money to pay it, said Castillo.
Daniela De La Cruz said Life Changing Youth Summit was her first job.
I was going to use that money to buy back to school stuff, but I don TMt know if I can buy everything, said De La Cruz.
So what went wrong with Life Changing Youth Summit?
Action 4 News went to nonprofit founder, Bruce Carter, for answers.
"This is a failure, said Carter. To have food sitting here is a failure."
Carter blamed mismanagement.
"I don't know if it was the language barrier when I trained, said Carter. I don't know if the training we did was sufficient."
Carter said he expected all the food to be used.
"We thought we could easily feed 5,000 kids daily based on the need, said Carter.
Carter criticizes local employees for not getting the word out about the free food.
He said local management also hired far too many employees.
"In other words, overstaffed, said Carter. You know you have at one site 20 employees and you have 40 kids."
"We got attached to those children, said former employee Celia Garza. We went and worked hard each day like volunteers. We're not volunteers. We're workers."
Employees called Carter's explanations excuses.
They hoped to speak with him in person.
Instead, Carter did not attend the children's event where he told Action 4 News he would be.
Just as employees want answers from Carter, so does the Texas Department of Agriculture.
Sources reveal the department advanced Carter $600,000 to cover costs at his estimated twenty sites across Texas for the month of June.
Documents state the Texas Department of Agriculture will not release any more funds until Carter can prove how he spent that tax payer money.
Carter claims employees will be paid in full by September 1.