Friday, September 12
GUILFORD -- When Bernice Larock got a letter asking her to donate to Guilford Cares, she thought it would be just as easy to drive the check over than to put it in the mail.

The letter, which asked Larock to give to the Guilford Cares campaign, was sent out by The Salvation Army.

Larock thought that was a bit peculiar so she delivered the money directly to Richard Davis, who is a board member with the Guilford senior assistance group.

Davis was happy to take the money, but the organization never set up an arrangement with The Salvation Army and now the Vermont Attorney General's office is going to investigate whether The Salvation Army broke any of the state's consumer protection laws by using the local group's name in the fundraising campaign.

"I wanted to make sure the money went to the people in my town. I don't think our corner gets enough," Larock said. "I think what they did was wrong. I don't think they should use that name unless they have permission and if they did they should give them the money."

Elliot Burg, an assistant attorney general in Vermont, would not comment on The Salvation Army case but he said his office has received some correspondences and he was looking into it.

Jack Doyle, who works for Amergent, a national fundraising marketing firm, helped put together the Guildford Cares campaign.

Doyle said the whole thing is a misunderstanding and the Salvation Army used the "cares" campaign to reach donors all over northern New England without realizing there actually was a Guilford Cares group in Vermont.

"We were unaware there was an organization and we're sorry for that," Doyle said. "There was no intention to cause this kind of confusion. We were just trying to engage local people in Guilford to donate to The Salvation Army and obviously it was a poor choice of wording."

Doyle said if The Salvation Army gets any checks made out to "Guilford Cares," then the money will likely be forwarded to the Vermont group.

He said he heard about Larock's confusion and didn't know if any of the other 231 letters that went to Guilford residents caused the same problem.

Davis said he understands it was not intentional, still he is concerned that some local residents might have made a check out for his group and sent it to the Salvation Army.

"If they used our name to raise money it is an honest mistake, but it is still a fraudulent act," Davis said. "I don't know what their intent was."

At a Guilford Cares board meeting Wednesday, the group discussed the Salvation Army letter.

Davis, who is the group's treasurer, said the board was most concerned about having Guilford Cares linked with what has become a misrepresentation in collecting donations.

"Our name and our credibility are our most important assets in the community," Davis said. "We operate on a shoestring and function because of a lot of volunteer effort. Our real wealth is our name in the community and whether The Salvation Army did this intentionally or not, it has put our group in jeopardy."

Davis said the other senior groups in Windham County who use the "cares" name are going to see if the same letter was sent around in those towns.

And he said the group was going to sit tight and see what comes of the Attorney General's investigation, though Davis left open the possibility of bringing a legal action against The Salvation Army.

"We need to send the message that we don't want anyone messing around with our name whether it was intentional or not," Davis said. "We are taking The Salvation Army at their word, but if we have to sue then we will."