December 29, 2012 8:40:18 PM
Sarah Fowler - firstname.lastname@example.org
The director of a Michigan-based charity says a Columbus charity is claiming an association with her group that has never existed.
Terry Bazin, director for Angel Mission in Calumet, Mich., says the people who are running the Columbus charity have lied about their experience and affiliation with the Michigan charity.
Angels on a Mission is a relatively new charity in Columbus that claims to house and clothe the homeless through its Main Street storefront. The enterprise, run by Violet and John Line, is listed not as a nonprofit but as a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) by the Mississippi Secretary of State's office.
Originally from Michigan, the Lines have been in Columbus for four years. They recently started their organization and went throughout the community soliciting donations to help the homeless. Their organization touts itself as a resale shop of donated goods. The couple claim all donations will be kept in Lowndes County.
A feature story on the charity in the weekly Columbus Packet, which included an interview with Violet Line, made several assertions that Bazin says are untrue.
In the Packet article, Violet Line claimed to "have helped start an organization called 'Angels on a Mission' in Calumet, Michigan."
Bazin said neither she nor anyone at the Michigan-based organization has heard of Violet Line.
"She's lying about all of it,'' Bazin said. "No one here had ever even heard of a Violet Line," she said.
Bazin said she conducted a thorough investigation of Line's affiliation within the organization and could find no record of Violet Line ever working there.
However, one of her employees remembers Violet Line as "Viola O'Connell."
"Apparently she shopped here a couple of times, but Violet and John Line had nothing to do with us. They were nothing," Bazin said.
The Packet article went on to explain Violet Line's role with the charity and the types of services the charity offers. The story read:
"In Michigan, Line was one of the people who ran the Angel Mission Free Store, an establishment that ran on donations and people could come purchase items from the store by giving whatever donation they wanted, or take it for free.
"The organization also housed the homeless for short periods of time and tried to connect them with employment, food, and drinking/drug rehabilitation programs if they needed it.
'We opened up the whole apartment building above us and would house them for two weeks,' said Line. 'During that time we tried to help them find other resources and, in exchange, they had to stop drinking and doing drugs.'"
"It's all a lie"
Bazin said all of Line's statements about Angel Mission are false.
"We did not do what she said we did," Bazin said. "It's all a lie. There was never enough money to rent out an apartment building. Never. We didn't do counseling and we weren't qualified to do assessments."
On Friday, Line was vague about her affiliation with Angel Mission.
"I did organize, but I didn't help organize," she said. "I was only there a few months."
Line could not recall the dates when she worked at Angel Mission.
Bazin said Angel Mission was started in a Michigan basement by a now-deceased woman named Becky Quovo. When Quovo lost her battle with cancer, her daughter, Ann Norman, took over as director.
Bazin now serves as director of the charity. Bazin said she has served as the director of Angel Mission for six months. She was promoted after serving as the co-director for a year and a half. She volunteered with the organization for several years before she began working there officially.
She is adamant that Violet and John Line are embellishing their experience with the organization and misrepresenting the charity's work.
"They are not who they said they are," she said.
Angels on a Mission, LLC was registered with the Mississippi Secretary of State's office on Oct. 29, 2012 by a company called Corporation Services Company. Angels on a Mission is listed as being based in Wilmington, Del., though it is based in Columbus.
The Secretary of State's office said the only name that appeared on the registry is Violet Short. There is no record of Violet Line associated with Angels on a Mission, LLC.
In a background check, Violet Line's social security number came back as belonging to an elderly Hispanic male.
A $27-per-hour job
Violet Line has visited several organizations and businesses in Columbus, soliciting help and donations for Angels on a Mission. In a letter, and in the Packet article, she claims to have helped at least four young men find jobs, with one making $27 an hour.
"In just over a month, Line has helped seven men come off the homeless list and find jobs. Four of them are staying in Lowndes County and sharing an apartment. The other three have moved away. One is now making $27 an hour. Many are sending money back to the mission," the article read.
On Friday, Violet Line declined to identify any of the men mentioned in the Packet story.
Violet and John Line claim to help those whom they feel others have rejected, people such as Mamie and Marcus, a married couple in their early 30s who say they are homeless.
John Line said because Mamie and Marcus have a criminal record, certain organizations will not help the couple.
"Are they not human beings, too?" he asked.
Mamie and Marcus, who asked that their last names not be used, said Friday they have been homeless for four years. The two are originally from the Golden Triangle and recently returned to the area. The couple said they left their four young children in North Carolina with a relative while they look for work.
The two said they went into the Angels on a Mission store Wednesday and told Violet and John Line they were homeless. The Lines fed the couple, then arranged for them to stay at The Gilmer Inn. The Lines said they planned to drive them to a homeless shelter in Tupelo Friday afternoon.
Before they were introduced to Angels on a Mission, Mamie and Marcus went to the Columbus Police Department seeking assistance.
Josie Fannon, director of Community Resource Connection, gave the couple a list of organizations in Columbus who help those in need.
Angels on a Mission is on that list, Fannon confirmed. Fannon said she met briefly with Violet Line and put the organization on her list.
"My common practice is to give everybody a list of everything that is mentioned as being possibly available in the community," she said.
However, Fannon is still unfamiliar with the exact type of help the organization offers.
"We're still in a fact-finding stage," Fannon said. "I wish I knew more about Angels on a Mission."
Community Resource Connection is a joint venture between the Columbus Police Department and Recovery House. They receive funding from the United Way of Lowndes County.
Jan Ballard, director of the local chapter of United Way, said she has heard of Angels on a Mission, but she does not refer people to the organization.
Ballard said United Way does not fund Angels on a Mission or have any affiliation with it.
"We're still waiting to get a call-back on what kind of services they offer," Ballard said. "We were trying to find out more about them before we did anything."
Bethany Latham, with Mississippi United to End Homelessness, said she has not heard of Angels on a Mission either.
Latham said her agency deals with the majority of organizations in the state who help the homeless.
Line claims Angels on a Mission is in the process of filing for nonprofit status. However, there was no record of an application with the Secretary of State's office as of Friday.
Although there are many questions surrounding the organization, Mamie and Marcus praised the efforts of the Lines.
"They're a godsend," Mamie said.
Bazin remains dubious.
"I'm all for helping people, but not that way," she said. "Not like this."
Sarah Fowler covers crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch. Follow her on Twitter @FowlerSarah