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Planet Aid cries foul

Andy Ouriel • Aug 20, 2014 at 2:12 PM


Employees representing Planet Aid, a nonprofit recycling used clothing and shoes to the underprivileged, refuted all negative claims made about the organization by others in a recent Register story.

Planet Aid and those large, yellow bins scattered across Erie County is a legitimate charity, said Jonathan Franks, the company's managing partner and spokesman.

The company — aiming to protect the environment, reduce waste and increase the efficient use of vital resources — came under fire in a recent Register article.

Sandusky ex officio mayor Dennis Murray Jr. lobbied for more regulation against questionable sidewalk donation bins. He outed Planet Aid for potentially misleading unsuspecting community members and questioned if the organization profits by selling secondhand clothes for money.

Franks, who reached out to the Register, soundly dismissed several claims made against Planet Aid in this previous story:

Claim No. 1: Anywhere from 75 to 100 Planet Aid boxes are scattered across Erie County.

Response: There are 37 active Planet Aid sites with 39 boxes in Sandusky and Erie County, Franks said.

Claim No. 2: Planet Aid misleads unsuspecting community members and scams them by profiting off their donations.

Response: "We're by no means a scam. In fact, we are a (officially recognized nonprofit) in good standing with the IRS," Franks said. "We have survived audits in the ordinary course of business with no change. There's no scam here. We're trying to be a good operator, and we think it's a shame some have allowed competitive concerns to overpower philanthropy."

Claim No. 3: Local Planet Aid bins constantly overflow and are a source of blight.

Response: There have been fewer than 10 overflow issues at Erie County-based bins thus far in 2014. And when there's one, it's immediately remedied,  Franks said.

Claim 4: You should only drop clothes in Goodwill bins and not Planet Aid bins.

Response: "Often our biggest opponent in this endeavor is Goodwill," Franks said. "They generally insist on outright bans (of other bins), which from a public policy standpoint is problematic. I think they've adopted the ban-bins mantra because they see it as a threat to their business model."

Claim 5: Planet Aid representatives don't receive permission to place their bins on private property.

Response: Franks said Planet Aid obtains permission to place each of the company's bins on private property.

"We agree that there is an issue of bad actors who, historically and currently, have in various places dropped boxes without permission," Franks said. "We have no specific information as to who is doing it in Erie County. It's unfortunately common when no regulation is in place, and we would assume that the regulatory climate in other states, Michigan especially, could very well lead to the problem migrating to Ohio."

Franks added Planet Aid believes:

• All donation bins should be registered with reasonable registration fees.

• All donation bins should be placed on property after receiving permission from a person reasonably in control of this land.

• All boxes should be truthfully labeled and include the organization's name, a working telephone number and whether the company's for-profit or a nonprofit.

• Local communities should strongly enforce these regulations.

"We are about choice," Franks said. "We think that competition between those who do charitable work raises the bar rather than lowers it. We think choices between a wide variety of groups and missions is good for consumers and good for philanthropy as a whole. We're thrilled if a consumer chooses to donate elsewhere because someone else's mission speaks to them."

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