FORT WAYNE, Ind. (www.incnow.tv) - A local group, pounding the pavement asking for money to help veterans, got some attention from police Wednesday. Catholic Veterans is a local group claiming to be helping vets. But many, including the Better Business Bureau, are questioning the group's legitimacy.
Olivia Locke is the group's assistant director. She claims the organizations intentions are good, and she's very upset that her organization is being viewed as illegitimate.
"We're here to help veterans and their families that are struggling," said Olivia Locke, assistant director, Catholic Veterans of Fort Wayne.
But Wednesday morning things heated up when police were called to the Meijer on Lima Road. According to Fort Wayne Police, someone called them saying a man with Catholic Veterans got aggressive while asking for donations. Locke claims a FWPD police officer verbally attacked her volunteers first.
"I do question the anonymous phone call that came in. I think it was just too closely timed to the officer yelling out of the window," said Locke.
The Catholic Diocese is also getting calls from people wanting more information on Catholic Veterans. Officials with the Diocese have spoken with Locke but the Diocese isn't ready to endorse the group.
"We simply don't know these folks yet, and you know this is a long process. One day of communication does not an endorsement make," said Sean McBride, Secretariat of Communications, Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.
Locke confirmed Catholic Veterans has the same board members as Sandbox Veterans. The group recently decided to change the organization's name.
The Better Business Bureau claims Sandbox Veterans identified itself as a 501(c)(3), but the BBB discovered they were not a legal 501(c)(3) non-profit. Locke claims they always have been a legal non-profit because they're registered with the Indiana Secretary of State.
"We encourage individuals to take just a few minutes and research. That way they can get a comfort level that the information they're getting is accurate and the money is being spent wisely," said Greg Smitley, President/CEO, BBB of Northern Indiana.
Smitley says he's not been able to get in touch with the group's leaders. Locke says Catholic Veterans plans not to be involved with the BBB because she says they supports pro-choice organizations.
"We have chosen not to do business with them. We've never evaded them. We've sent them several e-mails expressing our concern of their involvement with pro-choice organizations," said Locke.
With the group claiming a Catholic link McBride says the Diocese is very interested in having more talks with the groups leaders.
"We would like to know more about them. And if in fact they are doing good work for veterans we would certainly want to give them the opportunity to say yes, we know these folks, they're good people and you can feel confident. We're not there yet," said McBride.
Volunteers for Catholic Veterans have been spotted collecting donations outside the Walmart and Meijer stores on Lima Road, and the Walmart store on Coldwater Road in Fort Wayne. Locke says they plan to continue using this method to collect donations.
Locke says the group is trying to retain members right now and she hopes by later this year they can join the Catholic War Veterans of America. That is a national organization that, at this time, has no posts in Indiana.
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