Charities say popular group hosted benefits, but didn't turn over money

Charities say popular group held benefits for them, but didn't turn over money

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The popular group for young professionals around Charlotte, EatWorkPlay, is facing backlash.

In September 2018, it held an event to benefit Smart Start of Mecklenburg County. Smart Start said EWP raised $10,000 for the program, but didn't turn over the money.

In May 2019, EWP held a Cinco de Mayo event to benefit the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life. According to published reports, the nonprofit was supposed to get $1,500, But the organization told Action 9's Jason Stoogenke EWP didn't pass along that money either.

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A few days ago, EWP posted on Instagram that "due to a news report, we discovered that an oversight had been made in delivering contributions to ... Smart Start ... and the American Cancer Society."

It went on to say "those contributions had been made."

But Stoogenke checked with the nonprofits on Wednesday and neither had received a check.

So he emailed them again Thursday.

The American Cancer Society was still checking at 4 p.m. Thursday and Smart Start was still a no.

Smart Start told Stoogenke EWP's founder donated $250 of his own money Wednesday, but had yet to hand over the $10,000.

The group planned to hold a big gala Saturday night at Camp North End to benefit Seacrest Studios at Levine Children's Hospital, but postponed the event.

EWP said it had a problem with the caterer and alcohol permitting. So Action 9 checked with the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission.

Commission officials said the group is correct, it didn't have an alcohol permit, but wouldn't say why.

Stoogenke also learned Atrium Health, which runs Levine Children's Hospital, is now distancing itself from EWP.

It asked the group not to use the "Seacrest" and "Levine" names for the gala anymore.

Maggie Gray told Action 9 she was excited to attend. She said she spent $300 on a dress and $75 on a ticket and was surprised when EWP postponed the event.

The group is promising refunds, but Gray said it wasn't going to at first.

"It's not about the money," she said. "It's the principle of the fact that they canceled this with so short notice, their lack of communication and the fact they have now changed the date two or three times."

Stoogenke asked EWP's founder if he wants to go on camera, but he said no.

He did send Action 9 a statement he posted on Instagram, saying the event was going to "fall short" of his expectations and apologizing to people who bought tickets.