Everyone loves Toys for Tots.
How can you not support a U.S. Marine Corps Reserve’s program collecting toys to distribute to less fortunate children throughout the community during Christmas?
Nothing could be more honorable.
But the key to any such charity organization is trust.
The public needs to trust those working behind the scenes and their intentions.
People need to know that whether they are donating anything from $1 to $10,000 that the money is actually going to those truly in need.
This is where Toys for Tots in Augusta is having a major problem this year with the local Community Organization Volunteer Campaign Coordinator Grace Anderson.
Last month, Anderson reported a burglary at the organization’s warehouse located at the former Winn-Dixie store on Gordon Highway.
Approximately 58 bicycles that were intended for less fortunate children throughout the community were reportedly stolen along with the staff’s computers, desks and chairs.
When news of the break-in spread throughout the Augusta area, people were outraged, saddened and immediately wanted to help.
Local companies and residents opened their hearts and their wallets to donate funds and toys to make sure these children in need have a wonderful Christmas holiday.
But over the past few weeks, there have been some serious questions about Anderson and her past.
WJBF News Channel 6 reporter and weekend anchor Renetta DuBose confronted Anderson about two criminal cases she faced in Columbia County, one in 2009 and one in 2016 that is still under investigation.
Apparently, Anderson was arrested last August and indicted for identity fraud last November when she allegedly falsified a Columbia County jury summons, according to News Channel 6.
The trial is scheduled for January 2018.
But when DuBose asked Anderson about the charge, she was evasive and then she turned to the Lord.
“I know the Father that I serve,” Anderson told DuBose. “So I know that I’m higher than anything that anybody can ever say about me.”
But Anderson has a criminal past, according to WJBF.
“NewsChannel 6 obtained another arrest from January 2009 where Anderson was accused of being in possession of and selling forged articles and counterfeit merchandise,” DuBose reported. “The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office began investigating Anderson after an anonymous phone call that she was selling the illegal goods. The report states it happened in December 2008. An investigator visited Anderson’s Evans home and purchased Louis Vuitton earrings for $10. The report states an authentic pair of the same earrings would have been valued at $20,000. Anderson promised more to the purchaser after a UPS delivery on a later date. Later, a search warrant was issued for Anderson’s Evans home. Financial records and receipts from counterfeit merchandise sold by Anderson, according to the report, totaled $190,000 had it been sold in a store. Investigators also found several documents pertaining to purse parties and bank accounts where Anderson conducted business in the name of those purse parties.”
Yikes… how did someone with that kind of background become the local community organization volunteer campaign coordinator for Toys for Tots?
But the kicker came when DuBose confronted Anderson with the criminal charges that she discovered and the fact that Anderson had to pay a $472.50 fine and serve probation, Anderson had the nerve to actually deny the truth.
“It says you paid a fine and there was probation, is that you?” DuBose asked.
“Nope,” Anderson said.
DuBose then showed her the mugshot resulting from the charges, but Anderson still denied that was her.
“I don’t care what the mugshot says,” Anderson said. “Do they always come back and say that they have lied. The press, the media or the news never comes back and say they got the wrong information.”
“So you’re not guilty?” DuBose asked.
“No, I’m not guilty,” Anderson replied. “But I thank you for asking.”
But that was Anderson in the mugshot. She was guilty back in 2009 and now she is facing additional charges in January.
That’s beyond troubling, especially considering the recent break-in at Toys for Tots.
Several prominent local businesses have decided to donate their charity contributions elsewhere this Christmas season because of their concerns over Anderson and her past.
In fact, the Metro Spirit had joined forces with some local businesses to help raise funds for Toys for Tots this month and suddenly some of those community partners began raising red flags about Anderson and her ties with the organization.
Any reasonable individual would think twice about contributing to the cause when such questions about a coordinator are raised.
Will your money be properly spent?
Will it actually help those in need?
Or will those funds be used for those in greed?
Those are the serious questions facing Toys for Tots this Christmas season.
It’s a shame and it’s completely unnecessary.
To be clear, no one, including this newspaper, is saying Anderson is the culprit behind the recent burglary a the Toys for Tots storage facility.
But given her past record, and the troubling questions surrounding the recent crime, Anderson needs to be shown the door.
Not today, but yesterday.
End of story.