If you have traveled through the intersection of US Hwy 321 Bypass and Newberry Rd (34 & 200) you may have encountered the monthly fund-raisers who stand at that corner handing out printed information and collecting cash in their orange buckets.
Few people who donate to the United Veterans Association really know who they are and many assume, since the word Veterans is part of their name, it must be an organization such as the DAV (Disabled American Veterans), VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars), or the American Legion.
Mike O’Connor, the Veteran’s Affairs Officer for Fairfield County, says that as far as he knows, the United Veterans Association is not affiliated with any of these or any other national Veterans organization.
O’Connor has made inquiries concerning the United Veterans Association.
He reports that the Secretary of State’s office says that any organization can claim veterans status if they help at least one veteran.
The United Veteran’s flyer acknowledges that they help veterans and non- veterans.
Fairfield County Chief Deputy Keith Lewis said about the United Veterans, “my concern is they can come here and set up and take donations without going through anyone,”
Lewis wants the county to consider requiring permits so that fundraising could be regulated and organizational status verified.
“Right now they could be putting every dime in their pocket,” Lewis added.
When asked a series of questions, Jack McKinney, of the United Veterans Association headquarters in Birmingham, Alabama responded by phone and letter.
The following quotes came from a letter with no signature but the the name ‘J Mckinnie’ which is not the same spelling as shown on any other documents.
The letter says: ‘United Veterans Association is a 501 (C3) tax exempt non-profit organization.
‘Since our inception in 1987, United Veterans has been dedicated to assisting those less fortunate. This assistance has touched individuals across America.
‘So many of the individuals that have come to us in their time of need have no place to go, or anyone to turn to. Many of our veterans have returned home after service to our country, victims of mental illness, alcoholism, and drug addiction. For many this is their last stop. We have no limits to how long these can stay in their time of need. We also provide the basic necessities, such as food, clothing, and shelter.
‘At full capacity, our facilities in Greenville, South Carolina can provide approximately 4,000 nights lodging and about 13,000 meals annually.’
‘United Veterans provides for individuals without any government funding, or corporate support.
If basic math is applied to the figures reported then the Greenville facility houses approximately a dozen people (4,000 nights lodging/365 days in a year = 11 people, 13,000 meals/ 365 days=35.6 /3 meals a day=12 people)
The letter continues:
‘All donations come from individuals such as yourself. All expenses are paid by street side fund raising or our small thrift store.
In 2005, our revenue was $217,641 and our program cost were $119,054 or about 55% for program services, 2006 revenues were $152,225, and $106,095 were the cost of program services, about 70%. In 2007 we will be about the same.’
The handouts given at the road side fund raising give two locations on the back, one in Birmingham, Alabama and one in Greenville, South Carolina.
Inside handouts given at the road side fund raising, two contact locations for the organization are listed, one in Birmingham, Alabama and one in Greenville, South Carolina.
Fuller Royal, a reporter for The News Reporter, a newspaper from Whiteville, North Carolina, wrote in 2005 that the United Veterans Association conducted roadside fund raising in their county of Columbus.
Quoted in Royal’s article was Columbus County Veteran Service Director Sheri Blackman who said “there’s no control on how this money is being used.”
The reporter also writes about the money they acquired through bingo in 2003.
McKinney said in a phone interview that United Veterans no long receive funds from bingo.
Blacksman expressed her concern that the money collected was not being used locally in their NC community and that the logo used by the organization looked too much like the Veteran’s Administration logo.
The Herald Independent contacted the State Attorney General’s office and received a copy of the United Veterans 2005 Income Tax return from the Internal Revenue Service.
It shows that the United Veterans Association Inc in Greenville, South Carolina that year reported $217,650 in revenue.
The filed taxes for that year also shows Jack McKinney of Birmingham, Al as president, Joe Quinn or Greenville, SC as vice President, and Randy Williams of Easley, SC as secretary.
Giving to any charity is a personal decision. The Herald Independent has investigated this so the citizens of Fairfield County could understand more and determine for themselves if this is where they wish to contribute.