Clothing donation boxes marked for so-called charities are robbing real charities and must be governed by the city, says the head of an Ottawa not-for-profit organization.
“Anybody seems to be able to go out and do it with no rules and regulations,” said Patricia Lemieux, executive director of Ottawa Neighbourhood Services.
“Charities are in jeopardy. The people in the city don’t know what they’re donating to. They’re not helping anybody in the city of Ottawa.”
A slew of boxes have popped up across Ottawa since last winter, causing a turf war between non-profits and for-profits.
The fake charities are “reducing and siphoning” donations that could go to actual people in need, and if the city doesn’t act soon, it could “seriously impact on our operation,” she said.
Neighbourhood Services has 60 boxes set up, some in fire halls, and Lemieux has to get the green light from the city.
She said the groups put boxes in parking lots overnight, often without permission.
That’s what happened at Jack Charron Arena on McKitrick Dr. in the west end.
Four yellow boxes marked “Jubilee Merchandise” have been removed after Kanata South Coun. Allan Hubley got involved two weeks ago.
The city gave the company three days to produce a contract, which they claimed to have but couldn’t cough up.
Hubley filed a formal inquiry at council and says he’s waiting for an official city report to “make sure they don’t have boxes anywhere else in the city.”
He agrees there must be a process for donation boxes on city property, saying councillors and facilities staff should be in the loop.
“What’s stopping someone from coming into an arena and putting a vending machine in? We’ve got to tighten this up,” said Hubley.
Only registered charities should be allowed to have boxes, he said, adding terms and conditions outlining how long boxes can remain on city property and how fast they must be emptied should also be clarified.
Lemieux said charities using boxes have to fork out extra money for liability insurance — something the random boxes sidestep.
She has an idea for dealing with the fakes.
“Charge a phenomenal fee and see how many people put out boxes then,” she said.
Neighbourhood Services celebrates its 80th anniversary next spring and continues to help people on fixed incomes, fire victims, and the underprivileged.
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