This is a piece regarding my town and my neighborhood.  It is a subject that I have wanted to write about for a while now.

The grocery store that I shop at has men in front of it collecting for a charity most days of the week.  They claim to represent “Building a Solid Foundation” who, they say, helps care for and house battered women and their children.  This, in my view, is an extremely worthy cause, one that I would usually leap up to contribute to.  Except…

I wonder who these guys really are?

There are never any women, no survivors, no success stories if you will or even current beneficiaries.  Of course, if I’m hiding from my abusive husband, it’s not likely that I would be in public soliciting donations.  Fair enough.

Recently Rita Williams, a local reporter for our Channel 2, KTVU, did an interesting piece (click here) on false charities in front of local Targets, Dollar Stores and grocery stores.  These people had all their permits as required by law, but their tax ID numbers were incorrect or just plain missing.  It turns out the scam works like this.  When you drop money into the battered metal box, the guy sitting in the chair gets forty per cent.  The person who organized the permits and “hired” the individuals in front of the stores gets the remaining sixty percent.  Hmmm, not a lot left for the battered women.  Now, Williams outed a group masquerading as a different charity.  Perhaps these people in Pleasanton were legit?

It turns out that the State of California has a handy, dandy searchable online database where citizens can look up non profits and not-for-profits to verify their legitimacy for themselves.  Ms. Williams thoughtfully included the link in her on-line publication of the story.  You can use it yourself by clicking here.

Oddly enough, the tax ID number that the gentlemen in front of my neighborhood store use seems to have been left off the database.  No doubt an oversight, I’m sure.  Here it is, perhaps you’ll be able to pull it up.

Information for "Building a Solid Foundation"

Information for “Building a Solid Foundation”

So, next I thought I should check up on them online, see where the disconnect is.  Doing a search, I found their website, which seems to be a work in progress, not all the pages are built yet.  No problem, I’m sure they are working on that.  The site appears to support the solicitors’ claims to be collecting for women and children. Whew, that’s a relief.  There was no way to give online, so I thought I would call, clearly, I owe these guys a check and an apology.  Sadly, the number was “out of service.”  Drat.

Now what?

I searched some more and found some other people had been asking about this group as well.  Going to the site “Great Nonprofits” (a sort of a Yelp for charities), I found these helpful reviews.  Seems I wasn’t the only person who smelled a rat.

Again, I say, hmmmm.

I’m not going to come right out and say these guys are base liars and cheats.  I will say that the Midway Shelter of Alameda County is a well-documented, reputable charity who have been assisting families in transition since 1989… and they answer their phones.  In my opinion, you would be better off saving those dollars in front of the grocery store and giving a donation to them.  Hey, you’ll even receive your tax write-off that way and KNOW where your money is going.  Their site (which is complete, by the way) is here.

Yes, this is a Musical Monday (well, it’s Tuesday, but who’s counting?) post and that means we need music.  This week I’ve chosen Jackie Brown by John Mellencamp, a haunting song that reminds us there are plenty of people out there deserving of our charity, love and support.  Please do give to those in need, despite the cons and swindlers testing one’s faith in humanity.

Lastly, I should have known there was a problem, if only from those gentlemen’s lack of manners.  Having been asked many times to leave by store management and refusing, they do have permits, after all, the store was forced to put up these signs.

They ought to be collecting for literacy as this man clearly can't read

They ought to be collecting for literacy as this man clearly can’t read.

Lyrics for Jackie Brown by John Mellencamp

Is this your life, Jackie Brown?
Poorly educated and forced to live on the poor side of town.
Is this your daughter, Jackie Brown?
This pretty little girl
In the worn out clothes
That have been hand-me down.
Is this your wife, Jackie Brown?
With sad blue eyes, walking on eggshells so you don’t see her frown.
Is this your family, Jackie Brown?

Dream of vacationing on a mountain stream
And giving the world more than it gave you.
What ugly truths freedom brings
And it hasn’t been very kind to you.
Is this your life, Jackie Brown?

Is this your meal, Jackie Brown?
Barely enough, I’ve seen people throw away more than this out.
Is this your home, Jackie Brown?
This three room shack
With no running water
And the bathroom out back.
Is this your grave, Jackie Brown?
This little piece of limestone that says another desperate man took himself out.
Is this your dream, Jackie Brown?

Going nowhere and nowhere fast
We shame ourselves to watch people like this live.
But who gives a damn about Jackie Brown?
Just another lazy man who couldn’t take what was his.
One helluva life Jackie Brown.
Forevermore, Jackie Brown
Amen and amen – Jackie Brown?

This post was written by Erika Gardner.  If you enjoyed it, please sign up to receive updates on this blog.  Or you can follow Erika on Twitter @Erika_Gardner or “Like” her Facebook page Erika Gardner- Writer and Storyteller.