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Mental health group partners with SHARE

Ties with Angel Food Ministries cut

Ties with Angel Food Ministries cut

March 02, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- The Mental Health Association hosted a meeting Monday to announce the end of its affiliation with Angel Food Ministries, a Georgia-based food distribution program embattled in a lawsuit claiming founders enriched themselves by $2.7 million or more.

Instead, the Mental Health Association will partner with a program that supports Pennsylvania farmers. Packages from the SHARE (Self-Help and Resource Exchange) program will be distributed to the 150 to 200 people who received Angel Food packages monthly.

"It operates like a food co-op. They buy in bulk and offer it at a discount," said A. Kenneth Wuertenberg, executive director of the Mental Health Association.

Wuertenberg's organization operates in the Borough of Chambersburg, but he hopes to work with other organizations to make SHARE deliveries available in other parts of Franklin County.

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The Mental Health Association was an affiliate of Angel Food Ministries for one year. In that time, the Mental Health Association distributed $150,000 worth of food, according to a news release.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Feb. 28 that the FBI raided Angel Food's offices earlier in the month. A lawsuit filed by two Angel Food board members asks that Joe and Linda Wingo and their sons be barred from the nonprofit organization's premises, the newspaper reported.

Angel Food Ministries began in 1994. The Wingo family runs the $100 million organization, whose purpose is to help feed the poor, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Angel Food's Web site claims the organization feeds more than 500,000 families a month in 35 states.

Wuertenberg said Mental Health Association officials were "disturbed" by allegations the Wingos took kickbacks from food buyers and made personal purchases on the organization's credit cards.

"We were really disappointed by how that was being managed and what they were telling people," Wuertenberg said.

Wuertenberg said he knows SHARE leaders personally and looked at their tax returns, just as he had with Angel Food Ministries. Mental Health Association officials weren't satisfied with answers given when they questioned Angel Food tax returns, he said.

The SHARE program is open to anyone; its motto is "If you eat, you qualify!" Several types of packages are available for purchase and vary in price. The main package, which has meat and produce, costs $18, plus recipients must perform two hours of community service.

For information about SHARE deliveries in Franklin County, call the Mental Health Association at 717-264-4301.

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