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Salvation Army drop box at the far end, west side, of the Manhasset LIRR Station.

Two Salvation Army clothing collection boxes were stolen March 24, one from the Macy's parking lot, corner of Northern Blvd. and Community Drive in Manhasset, and the other from a Jewish Synagogue located on Hempstead Turnpike in Levittown. These robberies, reported on March 25 to the 6th and 8th Precincts of the Nassau County Police respectively, are, according to the police, still active cases. The contents of these clothing drop boxes are, surprisingly, lucrative.

The Salvation Army collects used clothing, sorts through it and then puts the good quality clothing in its family stores. The clothes, along with other types of donations, are given away to the needy and/or sold to the public through the family stores. "All proceeds from the sale of donated items are used to run a 100 bed Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center located in Hempstead which serves all of Long Island and does not receive any funding from any other source, " explained Damon Rader, administrator of the rehabilitation center.

A decade or more ago, according to Rader, the Salvation Army, along with a couple of other legitimate charities (Goodwill, St. Vincent dePaul) were the only entities involved with the collection and recycling of used clothing. Clothing they were unable to sell or give away to people in need were packaged into large compacted bales and sold to dealers who shipped the used clothing overseas, re-sorted it and resold it. These dealers, Rader continued, at some point realized that they didn't have to purchase this clothing in bulk (called rags in the business) from the Salvation Army or the other charities; they figured out that they could collect it themselves.

Today there are dozens of different companies involved in the collection of used clothing, some more legitimate than others, in Rader's opinion. Some enter into agreements with charities, he said, enabling them to collect clothing under the name of the charity, but the lion's share of the proceeds becomes profit for the owners of the collection company. Rader suggested that before contributing clothing to just any box, check who is sponsoring it. Organizations, he cautioned, just put boxes out there and don't even make it clear who is sponsoring the collecting. At the time of the robbery, he said, one of these boxes still remained in the Macy's parking lot, marked "God's Property." In Levittown there was a box collecting in the name of Breast Cancer, Rader remembered, which was next to the Salvation Army box, and remained there untouched.

About a year ago Manhasset resident Barbara Burke, board member of the Salvation Army, working with the Manhasset Park District, was able to place a Salvation Army drop box at the Manhasset train station. The box is insured and bonded by the charitable organization that also, as a service, guarantees to keep the area surrounding the box free of debris. That collection box, located at the west end of the commuter parking lot, near the tracks of the LIRR, was left untouched.

Burke commented, "People do not have any idea how involved the Salvation Army is, what a good organization they are, the numerous services they provide." She explained their main source of income is used clothing, "stuff we'd consider junk." Because selling the clothing is so lucrative, she explained, gangs are moving into the collection business, removing the legitimate bins, repainting and replacing them in order to siphon off income desperately needed by the charitable organizations."

"The Salvation Army's finances have been seriously diminished by this 'competition' which at best is misleading and at worst," Rader said, "criminal."

On Feb. 17, Councilman Angelo P. Ferrara and the North Hempstead Town Board unanimously passed an amendment to the town code establishing rules for drop off bins in the town. The law restricts these bins so that only organizations that qualify under IRS Code §501(c)(3) are able to place bins.

Councilman Ferrara, who proposed the law, stated that these restrictions were overdue. "More and more, for-profit corporations are placing their unmarked bins next to bins for charitable organizations to mislead the public," said Ferrara. "This practice needs to stop which is why I proposed this legislation."

The newly created chapter prohibits commercial enterprises from soliciting donations of clothing, toys or other items by the furnishing of unattended donation bins on commercial properties which result in proceeds that do not benefit charitable organizations. It also states that all qualified applicants must apply for a permit from the town clerk's office. Each bin must also be clearly labeled with the name of the group, their contact information, and where the donations are being distributed. The town will then place a visible permit on the bin.

All existing bins must come into compliance by June 1, 2009. Any questions about the application process may be directed to the town clerk's office at 869-7646.


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