The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

September 1, 2012

Support troops, not scammers

SUNBURY — A growing number of charities have cropped up in recent years to help troops returning from war. Watch out for those trying to prey on your sentiment.

Kathleen and Charles F., of Lewisburg, receive a ton “you’ve won” and “please give” letters nearly every day. They aren’t sure how they got on “the lists,” but their address has obviously been widely shared.

Among the pile are some linked to aiding hospitalized soldiers. “Those are the ones that really bother me,” Charles said. One is a “Super Million” sweepstakes from Help Hospitalized Veterans (HHV). For a chance to win $1 million (or other prizes), all one has to do is fill out one or more of the four prize tickets. Included in the envelope are free address labels decorated with the American flag.

No donation is required and does not improve the chance of winning, each ticket claims, but each includes a box asking whether any donation is being made, or not, and is worded in such a way to make any generous person feel ... unpatriotic.

HHV is a legitimate organization. What it does is distribute $20 therapeutic arts and crafts kits to wounded veterans (http://hhv.org).

But is it really the kind of organization you want to give your money?

On Aug. 10, the Huffington Post (www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/10/help-hospitalized-veterans-controversy_n_1763095.html) reported that California’s Attorney General is suing HHV over alleged violations of state codes. The article states that four years ago, Roger Chapin, HHV’s founder and then-president, was “hauled before Congress regarding his management of millions of dollars in private donations. Chapin defended his actions, and HHV carried on, raising millions more to support its mission of providing arts and craft kits to homebound and hospitalized veterans.” The report says prosecutors claim Chapin and his successor, Michael Lynch, “grossly overpaid themselves with the consent of several board members and that the organization’s directors spent lavishly on perks, such as $80,000 in golf memberships for board members.”

HHV reported its annual revenue in 2011 was $41 million, including $30 million in cash donations. No doubt plenty of those donations have been coming in from people wanting to win $1 million.

If you read the small print on the solicitation, the sweepstakes began on Nov. 18, 2011, and doesn’t end until July 31, 2013. That’s a really long time for a sweepstakes to run. The chance of winning is probably less than none.

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