- The Washington Times - Monday, November 8, 2004

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

A couple of years ago, I made a contribution to an organization that provides craft kits at holiday time to hospitalized veterans as occupational therapy, especially those confined for long term with limited activity. It was a 501(c)(3) organization; I checked and it seemed legitimate.

Subsequently, I started receiving appeals not only from that organization, but from two or three other organizations — also for craft kits for hospitalized vets. They now come at a rate of one every month or so.

I am beginning to wonder just how legitimate these groups are — and even if they are legit, how much good their craft kits may do — and whether (however good their intentions) there are perhaps better ways to contribute for activities for hospitalized vets.

Can you give me any information on this?



Having been an officer of a charity, I know about the routine swapping of mailing lists. But I am also irritated to receive virtually identical appeals from several similar organizations almost every week or two.

I also know something about direct-mail fund raising, and it seems to me that these groups must be spending a pretty high proportion of their income on too-frequent mailings.

Rosanne K.

Dear Rosanne:

I referred your inquiry to the Department of Veterans Affairs and received the following response:

The name of the organization is Help Hospitalized Veterans, USA. It was organized in 1970 to provide craft kits to hospitalized veterans. HHV is a designated 501(c)(3) organization. The craft kits are distributed to VA hospitals, state veterans homes and homebound veterans. Each kit has a postcard attached, and the veterans are supposed to send the card to the donor to thank them for their contribution.

Each donation buys a certain number of kits, so you will receive cards based on your donation. HHV rents the list from several charities seeking donors. If the donor is on several lists, they will receive multiple mailings. The donor can be removed from the list by sending a letter to each charity to “not sell or rent my name.”

The kits are well-used by our veterans. It helps pass the time during their hospitalization.

Carla J. Carmichael, Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist

Deputy Director, Recreation Therapy Service

VA Maryland Health Care System

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

We saw your name in The Washington Times Weekly suggesting we could contact you for names of soldiers who do not receive mail or packages, and I am interested in names of soldiers with their addresses so I can send goodies.

Anna B.

Holland, MI

Dear Anna:

Thank you for your note, and for your patriotism and support. Regarding letters and goodies for our troops, regulations generally prohibit the services from sponsoring letter-writing campaigns or providing deployed individual/unit addresses.

Several local American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts sponsor letter-writing campaigns to deployed relatives and friends of Legion/VFW members who have provided their addresses and agreed to distribute letters from local communities/organizations. Your best option for personal correspondence with a deployed service member rests in “knowing” someone who is deployed, and who would be willing to receive and then distribute letters.

The following link provides several options for general correspondence and means of sending care packages to deployed Marines: https://www.usmc-mccs.org/News/deploy/mailtotroops.asp.

Through this Web site, you can find opportunities to provide meaningful support that will make a difference in the lives of deployed troops.

Additional resources for supporting those deployed and their families can be explored via the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, United Service Organizations, Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation and Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation. All have extensive Web sites with useful information regarding support to deployed service members and their families.

Shaft Notes

Kudos to President Bush for signing an executive order providing opportunities for service-disabled veterans’ businesses to significantly increase their federal contracting and subcontracting.

By this executive order, the nation honors the extraordinary service rendered by veterans with disabilities incurred or aggravated in the line of duty during active service with the armed forces.

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, PO Box 65900, Washington, D.C., 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330; call 202/257-5446; or e-mail sgtshaft@bavf.org.

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