LITTLE ROCK, Ark.- They took to Little Rock’s streets in June of 2015, promising thousands of drivers their donated dollars would go toward something good.
KARK spoke with Arkansas New Life Restoration Ministry Pastor Cleveland Walker last year.
“We are a non-profit organization, a 501(c)(3), we’re not government funded,” Walker said.
Walker even showed KARK one of the Little Rock homes used to help people dealing with drug and alcohol abuse.
“It pays for us to eat, it pays for our clothes, it pays for my bedding, it pays for my washing,” a ministry member said in 2015.
While the ministry’s mission seemed straightforward, one woman says its nothing but.
“It wasn’t long before I realized there was no merchandise and that the fundraising was basically panhandling,” Michelle Clark said.
Clark and her husband who was in drug treatment, joined the group after meeting Walker and his wife in Ft. Smith. The pair told them they could raise money for the ministry in exchange for drug rehab.
“My husband went with the men’s group, I went with the women’s group and that was the big deal with them was that they wanted to keep us separated as much as possible,” Clark said.
Clark says their first stop was in South Carolina, where their cell phones were taken away and she was given a new member quota.
“Because my husband and I were new, our quota was $75 dollars. The people that had worked there longer, their quota per day was $140 and the way they explained it to us was that everything was paid for once you hit your quota,” Clark said.
This isn’t the first time KARK heard about the ministry’s quota system. While still miced up after an interview with us last July, one member says he dodged our question about how much money they’d collected.
Clark says she felt guilty collecting money from drivers, eventually running into a police officer.
“He said you know what, you’re really involved in right now is a cult,” Clark said.
“They try to intimidate you by saying that you’re going to be dumped somewhere if you don’t do what you’re supposed to do,” Clark said.
Clark says the officer got her and her husband the money to travel back to Little Rock where just months later the group was the center of a city council vote to ban solicitation for certain groups.
The group was later under investigation by the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office, who told us the ministry has now moved out of state.
Multiple calls and visits to the group’s existing office and phone line confirmed, the ministry appears to have moved on.
“They’re showing people a pipe dream and taking advantage of their vulnerability,” Clark said.
Clark has since moved out of the state as well but says somewhere the ministry must stop.
“They’re not doing justice to the people who really have an addiction, they’re just getting them into another criminal life,” Clark said.