Donated relief items ending up for sale in area thrift stores

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MOORE, Okla. -- There are complaints involving items that were donated to tornado victims which ended up for sale in a thrift store.

NewsChannel 4 has been hearing those complaints from tornado victims themselves, a city official in Moore, and now a state representative. This has some folks pretty angry.

Because in the days and weeks, after the tornado NewsChannel 4 saw generous Oklahomans donate food, clothing, furniture; just about anything you can think of to help those who lost so much.

NewsChannel 4 is now hearing numerous complaints about where some of those donations were sent; specifically, concerns that some ended up being sold at a for profit thrift store.

"The wind, I guess, blew a hole in my roof and then it flooded into my living room," Storm victim, Jason Winick says.

Winick says part of his roof collapsed during the Moore tornado. He went to the "Donation Station" to get some assistance.

Winick says instead of receiving donated items directly he got three vouchers that would allow him to collect $150 worth of items at a thrift store in Del City.

Jason Winick says, "I'm very concerned that the fact that they are taking donations right behind Moore Medical Center, which is devastated by the tornado, and people believing that they are a tornado relief station."

State Representative Mark McBride is concerned as well. He says he personally dropped off clothing at the “Donation Station” but now worries his donation may not have been given to those in need.

Mark McBride, State Rep. Moore District 53, says, "They took the brand new; ten pair of jeans; that I gave them and they took them to Del City and sold them, that irritates me."

Over the course of a week's time we've tried repeatedly to sit down with the owner of Donation Station. He's declined our requests for an on-camera interview,

But NewsChannel 4 has had numerous phone conversations.

"Some of the donations items people dropped off here in Moore are being sold at Value Village in Del City?" State Rep. McBride says.

It turns out "Donation Station" has operated out of the location in Moore at least a year before the tornado hit. Similar to Goodwill or the Salvation Army, it collects items people no longer want, then sells those belongings at its thrift store.

But unlike like the charities mentioned, Value Village is a for profit business owned by Bazecorp Investments. That's confusing for some who donated.

State Rep. Moore District 53, Mark McBride says, "This particular situation, I think is very misleading because I myself have dropped stuff off there and they've offered me a contribution card."

Another thing they said was the prices at Value Village have significantly increased since the storm and some believe that's kind of taking advantage of people who are in need of help.

The owner tells us since the tornado, they have received higher ticket items than normal but he says in no way have they ever raised the prices to take advantage of victims. Bottom line, he says tornado victims can use their vouchers to collect items from his store, but admits some of the items that were donated after the tornado might end up being purchased by the general public.

Representative McBride says he plans to create an "accountability system" so people who donate to storm victims, are clear about where those donations end up.

"I'm not targeting anybody, just, how much money have you taken and where did it go?” McBride says.

We also know that a request has been made to the State Attorney General's office asking that an investigation be conducted.

Now we do want to make clear, the owner of the Donation Station told us that his company worked countless hours in the weeks after the tornado directing donations to a number of charities and churches.

NewsChannel 4 checked with every organization he told us that he had worked with, and while we didn't hear back from all of them, the majority confirmed that they had received truckloads of donated items from "The Donation Station."

The owner also told one of our producers that in the future, during disaster situations, he will make it clear to anyone donating items, that those items might end up in his thrift store.