Kokua Line

June Watanabe

Unregistered charity
has no link with HFD

Question: Do you have any information on the Disabled Firefighters Foundation? I have been receiving solicitations for several years but refused after finding out that it is not registered as a nonprofit organization with the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs. Their address is: P.O. Box 240988, Honolulu 96824; phone number, (808) 596-8299. Whenever I have called, I get a recording.

Answer: We left two messages at that phone number, but did not receive a call back.

A recording does not identify the organization and only asks that a message be left.

Authorities in Hawaii said they are aware of the group and advise people to find out about any group first before making a donation.

Under current law, charitable organizations no longer have to be registered with the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, said Stephen Levins, of the state Office of Consumer Protection. "Just because they're not registered doesn't mean it's of and by itself a violation."

State law, however, does require that "professional solicitors" be registered, Levins said.

The Disabled Firefighters Association is not associated with the Honolulu Fire Department, the Hawaii Firefighters Association or any other fire department in the state, said Capt. Kenison Tejada, spokesman for the Honolulu Fire Department

"Nothing has ever come to our department and we don't know of any other fire department that has received" any support from the foundation, he said.

The Honolulu Police Department received several "referral calls" about the organization in the spring of 2003, said Detective Letha DeCaires, coordinator of the CrimeStoppers program.

From its investigation back then, it was learned that the foundation is based on the East Coast and is bonded through the mainland, she said.

DeCaires and a fire captain met with the local fund-raising group supervisor last year.

"We raised our concerns over the number and type of phone calls and were assured that they would proceed with ethical fund-raising calls," she said.

There are many nonprofit organizations that have "firefighters" or "police" in their names that are not in any way affiliated with Hawaii programs, she said.

"In the cases that I have investigated, the groups in question are represented by fund-raising telemarketing groups, who keep a large portion of the donation received for their efforts," DeCaires said. "Each business or individual will have to decide whether the goals of the program are in line with their own philosophy of giving."

A check of the Internet showed stories about different groups with variations of names with "disabled firefighters" in different states. Many had warnings to consumers from authorities about making donations.

The Better Business Bureau of Hawaii said it doesn't have any information about the Disabled Firefighters Foundation. It advises consumers to ask questions and not to give a donation until they're satisfied with the answers. Check with the BBB at 536-6956 or online at


See the Columnists section for some past articles.

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