Walmart suspends donations to homeless mission following WTHR investigation


Eyewitness News has learned of more fallout from an investigation into the Grant County Rescue Mission.

Walmart confirms to WTHR that it has stopped shipments of food to the charity following WTHR’s recent undercover investigation.

"We have made a decision to discontinue food donations to the mission at this time. We are proud to support many wonderful organizations in the communities we serve and will continue to do so," said a Walmart spokesperson.

The retailer’s large distribution center in Gas City has been a regular contributor to GCRM for years, but Walmart’s donations are now suspended after it learned of WTHR undercover video that raises questions about where the food is going.

13 investigates tracked a truckload of food from the Walmart Distribution Center to the homeless mission. Dozens of boxes were unloaded into the building. But WTHR cameras documented more than 40 boxes of that donated food being unloaded directly into a pickup truck driven by the rescue mission’s board president.

Tom Mansbarger then took the donated food to a church where he serves as head pastor. Some of it was taken inside the church. Other boxes of Walmart donations were carried to the cars of church employees and the pastor's family members. Mansbarger carried several of the boxes into his home and his garage.

He told 13 investigate he believes he did nothing wrong by taking food donated to the charity for his church and for own personal use. He also said companies that donate food to the rescue mission should not assume their donations will be used to feed the homeless.

"I don't know where you got the idea of feeding the homeless," Mansbarger told WTHR. "We'll feed anybody. It's not just the homeless."

Asked if the Grant County Rescue Mission has an agreement or understanding detailing how Walmart’s donations will be allocated, Mansbarger said he is not aware of any contractual agreement.

"I couldn't tell you that," he said.

Employees at the Walmart Distribution Center told Eyewitness News they thought the donated food would be used to feed the homeless – not to the board president and his congregation.

Walmart may not be alone in its decision to suspend support to the charity.

Eyewitness News has learned other donors are considering cutting off their donations and financial support to the rescue mission unless the organization makes some big changes.

Following WTHR’s investigation, more than 300 people have signed an online petition asking for GCRM leaders to step down.

The petition cites many of the other major problems 13 Investigates exposed at the homeless mission, including a massive infestation of mice and bed bugs, and truckloads of clothes and household items donated to help the homeless that the charity stockpiled, and later dumped and burned.

The charity’s board of directors met early Monday morning to discuss what steps will come next.

The rescue mission has received more than $7 million in public support over the past decade, but where that money goes is not clear.

The Better Business Bureau of Northern Indiana says it cannot evaluate the charity because it fails to releases basic financial information.

"Despite written Better Business Bureau requests in the past year, this organization either has not provided information or has declined to be evaluated in relation to the BBB’s charity standards," the Better Business Bureau explains on its website. "The BBB believes that this lack of cooperation may demonstrate a lack of commitment to transparency."