Local charity targeted by Florida scammers

Published 3:37 pm Wednesday, September 15, 2010

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

A Pelham charity is warning local residents about an out-of-state phone scam in which the callers attempt to solicit money on the charity’s behalf.

A Florida-based charity named Family and Children’s Services Inc. has been calling residents across Alabama for the past few weeks and asking for donations on behalf of SafeHouse in Pelham and other members of the Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Although the Florida charity seems legitimate, it has never donated money to SafeHouse or contacted the local organization, said Carol Gundlach, executive director of the Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

“We have not received any money from them at all,” Gundlach said. “They have never approached us to say ‘let us help you raise money.’

“Once we heard what they were doing, we were able to eventually find an e-mail address for the organization,” Gundlach added. “When we e-mailed them, we got all kinds of assurances that they were legitimate. But we have never been able to actually get someone to speak with us.”

Although Family and Children’s Services is headquartered in Florida, it is incorporated in Alabama.

“Their address is listed at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, but there’s no office or anyone there for them,” Gundlach said. “We have no idea if they are an actual entity or not.”

Because Family and Children’s Services has been soliciting donations on behalf of SafeHouse and the other 17 members of the statewide Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the scam organization could damage the local charity’s name, Gundlach said.

“All of our organizations are non-profit, so our projects depend on local support. And people have been so good about supporting us.” Gundlach said. “We don’t want people to think they are donating to a local program and then wondering where the money is going, or if it is being put to good use.”

SafeHouse and other members of the Coalition Against Domestic Violence have never used telemarketing to solicit donations, and likely never will, Gundlach said.

“We don’t want people to think we are setting up call centers and soliciting donations like that,” Gundlach said. “We depend entirely on donations, and setting up call centers would not be a wise use of our funds.”

Anyone who is contacted, or has ever been contacted, by phone on behalf of SafeHosue or any other member of the Coalition Against Domestic Violence should call the coalition at 334-832-4842 or SafeHouse at 669-1877.

Other members of the coalition are: the Birmingham YWCA, Victim Services of Cullman, Turning Point of Tuscaloosa, Second Chance of Anniston, Safeplace of Florence, SABRA Sanctuary of Selma, Penelope House of Mobile, Opportunity House of Opp, Lighthouse of Baldwin County in Robertsdale, Kelley’s Rainbow in Albertville, The House of Ruth in Dothan, Harriet’s House of Demopolis, Family Sunshine Center in Montgomery, the Domestic Violence Intervention Center in Opelika, Daybreak in Jasper, Crisis Services of North Alabama in Huntsville and the Crisis Center of Russell County in Phenix City.