By Joanne Arbogast
The Daily Item
A couple of months ago, Catherine D., of Milton, received a phone call from the Pennsylvania Police Assistance Foundation seeking a donation.
Unfamiliar with the organization, she said “no” and hung up.
A week or so later, she received another call from someone who “sounded like the same person as before,” she said.
Irritated, because she’s registered on the national Do Not Call list and had hung up on this caller before, she asked him for a phone number to verify the existence of the Pennsylvania Police Assistance Foundation, and he complied.
But when she said she was going to call and check it out, “He hung up on me,” Catherine said.
“I started telling people about this and some said they were getting the same calls.”
The retiree said she decided to see what she could find out about the Pennsylvania Police Assistance Foundation online and found the organization’s website, www.papoliceassistance.org, which lists just two foundation officers and board members — Erick Hoffman, president/secretary, and police chief Anthony M. Kuklinski, treasurer.
Though it appeared a number of law enforcement people are involved in the foundation, there were inconsistencies that concerned her. For instance, she said, in the testimonial by Kuklinski, “the word ‘chief’ is spelled “cheif.’ Don’t you think they ought to know how to spell ‘chief’?”
Using the phone number the telemarketer had provided, Catherine called the Pennsylvania Police Assistance Foundation and reached Hoffman.
“I asked how much of each donation goes to the cause,” she said. “He said 10 percent and he didn’t seem bothered by that. I told him I’m on a board and we do fund-raising. We don’t take 90 percent for administrative costs. He said nonprofits don’t have to follow that rule.”
Doing a little research to find out more about an unsolicited donation request “amused me ... but it’s also a little scary,” Catherine said.
She still wanted to know — and wondered if The Daily Item could find out — whether the Center Valley-based Pennsylvania Police Assistance Foundation is legitimate, and does it, as its name implies, really raise money to provide assistance to Pennsylvania police?
Donating to unfamiliar foundations and organizations at the request of unsolicited telemarketers can be risky. Before donating, you want to question:
1. Is the charity legitimate?
2. How much of your donation will go to the charity’s mission?
3. How much does the organization actually contribute to its charitable cause?
The goal of the Pennsylvania Police Assistance Foundation as posted online “is to support all law enforcement officers and agencies throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, regardless of whether they are full time, part time or volunteers regardless of their status.”
It says it does so in a number of ways, including “sponsoring training programs, equipment grants, donations to families of fallen officers and assisting officers and their families who are injured in the line of duty.”
In a call to Pennsylvania Police Assistance Foundation, Hoffman answered and said the group is a registered nonprofit 501 (c)(3) organization, a public charity. While the organization has been incorporated since 2003, he added, it has only been fundraising since October.
He also confirmed the foundation has contracted with a telemarketing firm called Outsource 3000, based in Montville, N.J., to raise funds through the solicitation of residents by phone throughout Pennsylvania.
According to the contract, he said, for every $1 donated, Pennsylvania Police Assistance Foundation receives 10 cents. He did not say where the other 90 cents goes.
He stressed that he takes no money from donations for his work with the Pennsylvania Police Assistance Foundation.
Hoffman said they made “two line-of-duty death donations and two equipment donations” for a total of $1,000. When checked earlier this spring, the website listed those four donations to police departments, though none to police departments in the Valley.
“We haven’t received any requests” from this area, Hoffman said.
Do Valley police departments need to request assistance?
“Yes,” he said, “and I encourage them to do so.”
This past week, there were still only four check presentation photos and thank-you letters posted on the website though not all are the same ones as were posted before.
Hoffman said the Pennsylvania Police Assistance Foundation does more than give check donations — it also conducts an across-the-state essay contest for school children awarding a winner in each region and choosing a grand prize winner for a total of $2,000 in cash prizes.
This year’s winners are listed on the website but there is no mention of how much the winners received.
The Pennsylvania Police Assistance Foundation also plans to offer grants “on a limited basis,” he said, to help with training police officers are required to get to maintain certification. However, they are still “in the process of putting a grant procedure online,” he said.
The organization also awards “needed equipment, free of charge, to mostly rural, underfunded county law enforcement agencies,” though there are only two instances of this happening in the past year, as posted on the website.
That said, how much has been raised by the telemarketers, both the total amount collected from Pennsylvania residents and the amount the Pennsylvania Police Assistance Foundation actually received?
“I don’t know,” Hoffman said. “We have to file a tax report in July.”
On the Pennsylvania Police Assistance Foundation website, Hoffman is described as “a military veteran with 20 years of military and civilian law enforcement and management experience, was a state certified police academy instructor and is retired from the Pennsylvania State Capitol Police,” which the Pennsylvania State Capitol Police in Harrisburg confirmed.
Earlier this spring, the bio on Kuklinski, the foundation treasurer, described in the testimonials as “the cheif (sic) of The Spring City Police Department” — said he “has more than 20 years of experience in state and local law enforcement. ... is a Marine Corps veteran and was deployed after the bombing of the Marine Corps barracks in Lebanon.”
That bio was recently changed.
Now it says he “has served state and local law enforcement since 1984 as a trainer, supervisor, and is currently the chief of a municipal police department ... has vast experience in drug law enforcement and criminal investigation and is a successful grant writer having secured over $150,000 dollars in assistance for the municipalities where he served as a law enforcement officer.”
There is no longer any mention of his involvement in the Marine Corps or with bombings in Lebanon.
One thank-you letter to the Pennsylvania Police Assistance Foundation posted on the website is from the Spring City Police Department, dated June 25, 2012. The photo shows the donation was a small number of items such as safety vests and first aid kits.
Among those signing the letter to the Pennsylvania Police Assistance Foundation is the Spring City police chief, who is also foundation treasurer — Kuklinski.
A second thank-you letter, dated four days later, was from the Cass Township Police Department, also signed by Kuklinski as that department’s police chief. The donation is a similar amount of items as was received by the Spring City Police Department.
That letter is no longer on the website.
Another thank-you letter and check presentation photo still posted from state police in Beaver. Shown is Hoffman along with Brenda Coble and Sgt. Arthur Giles. The letter, dated Dec. 18, 2012, thanks the Pennsylvania Police Assistance Foundation for its “monetary donation ... to Trooper Coble’s family during this tragic loss.”
Trooper Blake Coble was on patrol a few months earlier when his police cruiser was struck by a rig that ran a stop sign.
“They (PPAF) reached out to us after the trooper died,” Sgt. Giles said in a phone interview.
He didn’t remember how much the check was for but “it was appreciated,” he said.
One more thank-you photo and letter dated Jan. 16, 2013, is from the Plymouth Township Police Department in Plymouth Meeting. When reached by phone, Police Chief Joseph Lawrence said he was “drawing a blank” about the Pennsylvania Police Assistance Foundation donation until he went to the website and looked at the posting.
By the way, he said, “that’s my lieutenant on the left in the photo, with Kuklinski, though the caption has it backward.”
The donation was for $100 and went to the family of Officer Brad Fox, who was murdered in September 2012.
“There were a lot of donations coming in,” Lawrence recalled. He said the donation was not a substantial amount but was appreciated.
“It was nice they did it,” he said.
As for the thank-you letter appearing on the PPAF website, he said PPAF “probably asked us to write one.”