Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Carmel on the Case: Toys for Tots
Tonight, the Marine Corps Toys for Tots program wants you to know it is not connected to an organization that is selling calling cards to Santa. Seven's investigative Reporter Carmel Cafiero has the story.
WSVN -- Calling card audio: "Let's go look for him in the workshop where we make all the toys."
A South Florida company is marketing cards that let kids talk to Santa.
"Now follow me to the reindeer barn, and we'll wake up Rudolph and the others."
According to the company website, it is looking for people to work collecting donations for the cards.
Job applicant: "I was to be a representative, and I would go to stores."
This woman, who asked us not to use her name, applied for a job but decided not to follow through.
Job applicant: "They wanted us to go to local businesses and ask the manager or owner to set up a donation for each customer to give like $2."
She says the company, Santa's Calling Card, told her she would earn 10 percent of all the donations she collected and also told her the calling cards were being sold for charity.
Carmel Cafiero: "And who was to benefit?"
Job applicant: "It was to benefit the Toys for Tots Foundation."
She was told, depending on how many she sold, Santa's Calling Card would donate the cards to Toys for Tots for the kids.
But the Marine Corps, which has made the annual Toys for Tots drive a mission since 1948, says it has no connection to Santa's Calling Card.
Gunnery Sergeant Louis Slagle: "It upsets us, and we want to stop this as fast as we can."
Gunnery Sergeant Louis Slagle is in charge of the South Florida Toys for Tots effort. He says it gives toys and would have no use for calling cards.
Gunnery Sergeant Louis Slagle: "A little calling card is not doing what we're hoping to do by giving the child a toy."
The cards are being marketed outside of South Florida as well.
This ad from a Nashville job site uses the Toys for Tots logo and reads, "Santa's Calling Card is a Toys for Tots affiliate." The Marines are not pleased.
Gunnery Sergeant Louis Slagle: "And whatever it's going to take us to stop this, we will make the public aware that this organization is no way represented by or representing Toys for Tots Foundation."
Once Seven News started asking questions, the company updated its home page with a statement that indicates it has not claimed to be connected to Toys for Tots, that it only donates to them and is "a legitimate company who simply wants to help."
When no one from the company would talk with us, I went to the Plantation home of the company president.
Carmel Cafiero: "We are working on a story on his Santa Calling Card, and it's very important that we reach him."
The lady at the door said he wasn't home and that she would give him the message, but we never heard from him.
And we're not the only ones with questions about Santa's Calling Card. A national organization that monitors charities has reviewed the web site. The American Institute of Philanthropy says the public should "avoid donating to Santa's Calling Card."
Carmel Cafiero: "The Florida Department of Consumer Services says the company is not registered as a charity. It says state investigators will be asking about what appears to be the solicitation of donations."
The Marines, meanwhile, are working hard to do more with less this year.
Gunnery Sergent Louis Slagle: "We have gotten probably 10,000 to 15,000 more requests than we would have gotten before."
But because of the economy, donations are down, so please give to Toys for Tots, otherwise a lot of South Florida children will wake up with nothing to open on Christmas day.
IF YOU HAVE A STORY FOR CARMEL TO INVESTIGATE: