Attorney General Lisa Madigan said Friday her office has opened an investigation into improper fundraising tied to relief efforts under way in Washington, Ill., and urged residents who want to donate to be cautious in their giving.
"Unfortunately, in the wake of such devastation, we almost always receive reports of questionable fundraising efforts that try to take advantage of people wanting to help," Madigan said.
Tornado relief efforts• The Chicago Wolves will collect supplies at their home game Saturday, Nov. 23, and donate ticket revenue from three remaining home games in November. Fans should bring cleaning supplies, flashlights, batteries and toiletries when they enter Allstate Arena for the 7 p.m. game against the Grand Rapids Griffins. Items will be delivered to the Salvation Army, as will a portion of ticket money for the Nov. 23, 27 and 29 games. Visit ticketmaster.com and type RELIEF into the offer code box when buying tickets.
• Stevenson High School's football team and Sports Boosters are collecting money to help victims of the Washington, IL tornado. To donate, contact a member of the football team or send an email to SHSSportsBooster@aol.com. Deadline for donations is Thanksgiving. The Sports Boosters will have donation jars at the concessions area at Saturday's playoff game against Loyola.
• Long Shot Sports Pub, 615 W. Route 120, Lakemoor, is hosting a tornado relief drive through Sunday, Nov. 24. Winter clothing and nonperishable food items are being sought. Info: (815) 482-1719.
• Chicago Blackhawks Charities will donate $200,000 to the Washington Tornado Relief Fund, and the Blackhawks will sponsor a community pre-Thanksgiving fellowship luncheon next Wednesday in Washington for families affected by the tornado and friends who are helping them, first-responders, and the volunteers providing assistance to the storm victims.
• The Village of Lombard is collecting items and encouraging donations. Drop off donations through Dec. 6 at one of three sites: Lombard Fire Station 1, 50 E. St. Charles Road; Fire Station 2, 2020 S. Highland Ave.; and the main office of International Village Apartments, 1300 S. Finley Road. Info: Bridget Doyle, (630) 620-5718 or email@example.com.
• Donors can mail checks to Morton Community Bank, 721 W. Jackson St., Morton, IL 61550 in the name of three established relief funds: 1) City of Washington Relief Fund, 2) Rotary of Washington Foundation Fund and 3) Washington High School Fund. To make a credit card donation to the Washington Rotary Foundation Fund, call the bank at (309) 284-1365.
• Ken and Heide Buckman of Elgin have set up an account at www.gofundme.com, to raise money for tornado survivors. The couple has raised more than $26,000 for tornado survivors. For details about the family's efforts and their trip to Washington, IL where they donated supplies and $25,000 in gift cards, visit their Facebook page.
• New Age Transportation in Lake Zurich is collecting donations over the next few weeks. Drop them off from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Friday at New Age Transportation, 1881 Rose Road, Lake Zurich. Info: Danielle Mirocha, (847) 545-9200, ext. 136. Needed: Gift cards (Walmart, Kmart, Target); nonperishable food; flashlights/batteries; plastic document files with lids; plastic totes/containers with lids; buckets for cleanup; work gloves with leather palms; reusable, waterproof kitchen gloves; tarps; heavy-duty garbage bags; bleach; 5-gallon buckets with lids; brooms; mops, sponges, scrub brushes; school supplies; duct tape; manual can openers; paper towels; toilet paper; disposable adult and baby diapers.
• The Hoffman Estates Park District's Wolf Pack Hockey Club is collecting used hockey equipment and supplies to help hockey clubs in the Peoria area. Bins have been placed in the Triphahn Center, 1685 W. Higgins Road, for hockey sticks, skates, helmets, shoulder pads, elbow pads, gloves, etc. Also taken are batteries, rubber and work gloves, bleach, garbage bags, baby bottles, baby spoons, sippy cups, instant mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese boxes, wash cloths, towels, buckets. Deadline to give is Wednesday, Nov. 27.
• The Virginia Beach-based humanitarian organization Operation Blessing International is coordinating daily volunteer efforts for tornado cleanup in Washington, IL Mondays-Saturdays. To volunteer, meet at the charity's Mobile Command Center at the Dream Center, 714 Hamilton Blvd., Peoria, at 8 a.m. sharp. OBI team leaders provide work assignments, tools, protective gear, and a safety briefing before heading out. Typical assignments include debris removal, cleaning out homes and helping residents retrieve personal belongings, from 9:15 a.m.-4:30 p.m. To donate money, www.ob.org.
Madigan's Charitable Trust Bureau received a complaint regarding Heroes Memorial Foundation, an unregistered, out-of-state entity raising funds for victims of the weekend storms. Under Illinois law, fundraisers and charitable organizations are required to register each year with the attorney general's office.
Madigan's office offers these tips in choosing a charity:
• Ask how much of your donation will go to the charity and how much will pay fundraising costs. Solicitors must tell you if you ask.
• Pay close attention to the charity's name. Some fraudulent charities use names that sound or look like those of legitimate organizations.
• Ask detailed questions. Donate only when your questions have been answered and you are certain your money will be used according to your wishes. Ask whether the charity is registered with the Illinois Attorney General's office and what percentage of the money the charity takes in goes to fundraising, administration and charitable programming.
• Do not pay in cash. For security and tax record purposes, pay by check. Be sure to write the full official name of the charity on your check -- do not abbreviate.
• Request written information. A legitimate charity will provide you with information outlining its mission, how your donation will be distributed, and proof that your contribution is tax deductible.
• Do not donate if the solicitor uses high-pressure tactics, asks for cash payment or insists on sending someone to pick up your donation. These are all hallmarks of a scam.
• If you receive an email or text message asking for a donation, confirm that the request is from the charity by contacting the charity or visiting its website.
• Report suspicious solicitations to Madigan's Charitable Trust Bureau at (312) 814-2595.
Madigan says that whenever possible, keep notes detailing the date and time of the call, the organization's name, and the name of the solicitor. She also suggested trying to remember the "pitch" as well as other pertinent information.