This is the time of year when many charities ask that you spread your holiday cheer to those less fortunate. Unfortunately, there are some con artists out there who seek to take advantage of people's charitable nature. Be wary of aggressive phone solicitors, and especially wary of anyone who wants to come by your house to pick up a cash donation.
New York State law requires organizations that solicit money directly from the public to register with the Attorney General's Office. The law secures your right to know how much money these organizations raise and what your contributions are being used for, including salaries and administrative expenses. This registration requirement applies to all organizations receiving more than $25,000 a year in contributions, with exemptions granted to religious, educational or fraternal groups. Charities receiving less than $25,000 a year must register if their fund-raising functions are carried on by professional fund-raisers or commercial co-venturers. You can always check to see if the charity is registered. The Attorney General's Charities Bureau is responsible for monitoring charitable registrations as mandated by law. If you suspect a charities fraud, call the Attorney General's office at (800) 771-7755 to report the situation.
This year, how about donating locally? The bell ringers you see in stores are for your local chapters of the Salvation Army. "Your donations to The Salvation Army during Christmastime and year round enable The Salvation Army to help more people in your local community," the organization's website, www.salvationarmyusa.org, reports.
There are many wonderful community groups already collecting for local organizations. For example, Canajoharie High School's Class of 2006 is collecting new winter hats, mittens, and scarves to distribute to families in the Canajoharie community. Items can be brought to the school and placed under the tree located in the high school office during school hours from December 5th through December 9th. Montgomery County Catholic Charities' Family Room is also hosting a "Warm and Fuzzy Drive." They are accepting donations of hats, gloves or mittens, scarves, socks, sweaters, blankets, pillows and sweat pants. Donations will be accepted December 8th and 9th from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and December 12th from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the offices located on 1 Kimball Street, Amsterdam. The Gloversville Middle School Builder's Club is sponsoring a Make-A-Wish angel sale from December 1st through December 23rd. Angels cost $1 for students and can be purchased in middle school room 103 or from any club member.
Post offices have either held, or will hold, food drives for local pantries. Contact your post office to find out if and when the drive is being held. My District Offices are also collecting food for local pantries through December on behalf of Montgomery County Catholic Charities and St. John's Episcopal Church and the Council of Churches in Johnstown. Drop-off boxes for donations will be located at my offices at: 2430 Riverfront Center, Amsterdam, NY; and City Hall, 33-41 E. Main St., Johnstown, NY. If you would rather donate to a food pantry that you are more familiar with, I encourage you to do so. The following is a typical shopping list for most food pantries: tuna fish, canned or dry soup, canned vegetables, canned or dried fruit, canned beef stew or beans, dried pasta and sauces, dry or evaporated milk, peanut butter, jelly, crackers, tea or coffee, cereal, personal hygiene products, Band-Aids, deodorant, tooth paste, diapers, and baby food.
The list of local charities and drives goes on and on. Check in your community to see where you can help or how you can donate.