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.
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 Catholic Charities of Fulton and Montgomery Counties, St. John's Episcopal Church and the Council of Churches in Johnstown, and FulMont Community Action Agency. 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.