A children's charity could be in serious trouble after local news discovered something suspicious about it. Noah's Ark Children's Care has allegedly been accepting donations for years, even though the Atlanta, Georgia, facility has been closed since 2010.
Noah's Ark had opened in the early 90s as a foster home for state-confiscated children. It was a backup plan for parents who were deemed unfit to care for their kids, due to beatings, drug use, or other situations where the home was considered an environment authorities found unsuitable for children.
One such home was previously reported by the Inquisitr on the opposite side of the United States. In Lake Stevens, Washington, three children were discovered in what appeared to be an abandoned home. The house was filthy, riddled with feces, and had no food or heat. According to KOMO News, there was drywall and insulation missing, the 7-year-old girl was caring for her 3-year-old brother, and an 11-month-old was found locked upstairs.
Homes like that are what children's charities like Noah's Ark had been created for. However, WSB-TV says the business has been closed for years, and the owners have taken donations of over half a million dollars since the charity was discovered to no longer legally exist.
— Jodie Fleischer (@jodiewsb) November 17, 2015
Former Noah's Ark marketing director Christie Cunningham says, "There's no Children's Care Home, like no foster kids... period."
The Henry County charity shares its money, address, and even website with a real animal sanctuary that cares for rescued exotic animals. The animal shelter remains legitimate, even though the 6,000-square-foot former foster home is on the property and Jama Hedgecoth still lives there.
Jo Crane, Christie Cunningham, and Jill Phillips-Lingen were all former employees of the children's charity who had been fired for seeing discrepancies in the company's finances. They'd begun noticing how the owners were allegedly using the money and started asking questions.
Last February, the business had changed its name with the State of Georgia, but allegedly still uses the original IRS exemption ID assigned to the charity when it existed. In 2011, the Georgia DHS sent a letter to Noah's Ark confirming that the charity had closed its doors due to financial hardships.
Charity watchdog Sandra Minuitti stated, "I think the state of Georgia should be investigating this organization. That's a huge ethical breach. It could be a legal issue as well."
Owner Jama Hedgecoth allegedly insists that she can account for every penny donated to the children's charity, and not one was misspent, according to AJC. Audits show that out of all of the money donated, much of it went into landscaping, groceries, and utilities. In addition to the over $65,000 she receives from the animal sanctuary, she allegedly paid herself $100,000 in the name of running the children's care business.
Atlanta's WSB-TV news had attempted to set up an interview with Hedgecoth but encountered problems. At first, her general manager, Raymond Jordan, had canceled due to weather conditions. Then, when the questions were revealed to be about financial irregularities, a voicemail revealed the children's charity owner allegedly had to take a sudden plane trip to Haiti.
— Jodie Fleischer (@jodiewsb) November 18, 2015
However, two days later, while Hedgecoth was supposed to be out of the country, WSB-TV had found her and Jordan at a gas station near Noah's Ark. Questions revealed that the children's charity owner had five adopted children from the charity and was raising them herself.
Hedgecoth defended her actions, saying, "There's children we have rescued from another country that are medically fragile."
The news channel had discovered in that brief encounter that Hedgecoth was raising adopted children in what used to be a foster home and using charity funds to do so.
Former children's charity employee Phillips-Linger added, "[Jama is] putting them out there as foster kids, and people are giving them money, I mean, once you adopt them, they're your kids. It's not up to everybody else to raise your kids."
It's unknown if the State of Georgia has begun investigating Noah's Ark over Jama Hedgecoth's actions, but if it's confirmed that she's doing something illegal, she may lose the children to a real foster care facility.
[Image via joyfull / Shutterstock.com]