Beware of ‘outsider’ charity soliciting in FW

Generosity is a hallmark of the citizens of Federal Way, especially during the holiday season.

This city is rich with organizations supported by the charitable donations of those with big hearts.

This winter, those in need will again find help because of the kindness of their Federal Way neighbors. But as we share our hard-earned cash, let’s be wise about it.

Consider how you would not remotely be tempted to buy a major appliance from the back of a pickup truck with out-of-state plates parked on an empty lot. No, you would go to a reputable business, one that will be here next year, to purchase a product you know would have their good name standing behind it.

If you have shopped at either of our Wal-Mart stores, you will have encountered the white-uniformed beggars. After ignoring all their solicitations in the past, tonight I asked the man what the money goes for because I have not been able to find any information on the group identified on his sign called “My Father’s House.” No Yellow Pages ad informing of available help for any sort of need. Nothing.

Utilizing the plan of “Know the answer before you ask the question,” I very nicely told him I had not been able to find out what services the donations supported or where to obtain those services. Instead of telling me, he referred me to www.disciplesofjesuschrist.org. I told him I had already been there (they used to display this name on their TV tray donation table) and that, other than discovering they were nothing more than a “begging order,” I could find nothing about charitable services offered locally. I asked again if he could please tell me what the money was used for. Suddenly he was quite finished talking with me. He abruptly told me to “just go to the Web site.”

It was obvious that he was unable to provide me with answers. Neither could the Web site.

The Web site has lots of flowery words, but nothing concrete. All the “church” locations are in cities a minimum two-day drive from our fair city. Wikipedia and an Internet search reveal that both Wal-Mart and WinCo have been forced in the past to file lawsuits against this sect because of harassing the customers. While I have not been “harassed,” I do find it annoying to have to walk the gauntlet just to get in or out of a store. I come there to shop. If I want to be panhandled, I can just as easily hang out in front of the Jack in the Box at 312th Street.

Further searching reveals that as a “nonprofit,” they have failed to file appropriate records with tax authorities and municipal licensing authorities. In other words, there is no paper trail for the use of the donations they collect.

The site has opportunities for you to give to their cause, and tells you who you will be helping (runaways, drug addicts, etc.). Yet there is no mention of how to receive help if you are that said needy person. In that I see a willingness to have bucks coming in from you, but no indication of how the bucks could benefit you if you were the one down on your luck. And no mention of any help in any Puget Sound area where they are soliciting.

Fellow citizens, when your heart calls you to share with the less fortunate, let your head remind you that we have numerous organizations in this area that actually serve those in our community (not California, Texas, Arizona, Illinois, Georgia or Florida). These organizations are accountable, above reproach and highly respected.

To name just a few, these organizations have excellent reputations: The Salvation Army, Union Gospel Mission, Tacoma Rescue Mission, Family Renewal Shelter (Tacoma) and Federal Way’s own Multi-Service Center. Plus there are dozens of local churches that feed and clothe the needy, and school principals who would love to accept your donation to help families in need within Federal Way’s own schools.

Yes, you probably have heard some of the above organizations offering you an opportunity to donate, but unlike the white-uniformed solicitors, most of what you have heard is these reputable organizations advertising their willingness to help along with contact numbers and evidence of how donations are spent.

Bottom line: Know who you are giving to. Thank you to each of you who have cared to give your time and your money to the organizations that lend a helping hand. Your help does make a difference and Federal Way is a greater city because of you.

Harriet Cook is a Federal Way resident. Send comments to editor@fedwaymirror.com.

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