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State Claims Helping Hand Mission Broke the Law

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RALEIGH — Now is the season for giving, but you want to make sure your hard-earned dollars are getting to the people who need them most.

One Triangle charity asking for your help is also being asked hard questions by state regulators.

The Helping Hand Mission has helped thousands of poor and hungry Triangle residents over the years. But at least for the next few days, it cannot ask for any contributions, because the state says the charity broke the law.

You would not think there would be a problem with asking for Thanksgiving donations for the hungry. But that's precisely what got Raleigh's Helping Hand Mission in trouble with state.

The solicitations were illegal, the state says, because Helping Hand mission doesn't have a solicitation license, and you need one to ask for anything, even food.

The state will not give the mission a license, because the charity cannot explain how it spent more than $46,000 on fundraising in 1996.

The Helping Hand Mission admits it needs to clear up some paperwork with the state. But the director insists she did nothing wrong except for not knowing foodraising and fundraising are the same thing.

"I thought it was money, soliciting money, charitable donations. I didn't think asking for a ham or turkey would fall under the solicitation guidelines," said Helping Hand Director Sylvia Wiggins.

This shows that even charities with the best of intentions might not meet state regulations and why, especially during the holidays, you need to check where your donations are going.

The state does not expect it will have to close the Helping Hand Mission over this. But it does want some questions answered before the charity can resume any kind of solicitation.

The person in charge of the solicitation license division does say that the Helping Hand Mission may have to pay a fine amounting to several thousand dollars.

Last year, Americans gave $143 billion in charitable contributions.

If you want to be sure you're giving money to an organization that's on the up and up, use these guidelines.
  • Ask for the organization's state license number.
  • Find out how much of your donation is actually going to the charity.
  • Do not be misled. Many groups use a name that's similar to a legitimate organization.
  • If you have any questions. You can call the stateAttorney General's office at919-733-4510.

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    Len Besthoff, Reporter
    Keith Baker, Photographer
    John Clark, Web Editor

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