Business Owners Want Donation Bin Gone

A donation bin sits surrounded by trash on July 7.
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Lansing, Mich. (WILX) Chris and Phil Laurenty have worked for months to get their new, father-and-son auto shop up and running.

But as much as they paint, weed and tidy, there's been one eyesore they haven't been able to remove: a clothing donation bin out front.

"I get the whole donation thing, I think that's a great idea," said Chris Laurenty, co-owner of the auto shop. "The problem is, the people that are using it aren't using it for just donations. They're using it as their own personal dump site. We've had everything from mattresses to big screen TVs to couches."

The bin belongs to the Childhood Disease Research Foundation, a charity registered with the Michigan Attorney General, a charity rated by the Tampa Bay Times as one of the 50 worst charities in the country.

Of the $7.8 million the charity took in in 2013, 97 percent of it went to solicitors, according to the Times. And the charity's single-biggest research grant went to a for-profit company in which its CEO serves as vice president.

Their office in Sault Ste. Marie couldn't be reached for comment.

Who really gets the items from donation bins? Watch a News 10 Special Report.

Phil and Chris Laurenty say they have been calling the charity at least twice a week trying to get the bin off their property. They've also sent numerous emails.

"The company that owns the box either gives no response to come out and remove the box or no response to even call us back to make arrangements to get the box," said Chris Laurenty. "A bunch of calls, a bunch of aggravation."

They've called the police and the city too, but neither has helped.

"If someone's car was parked here, I know it would be moved quickly if we wanted it moved," he said. "So I don't see what the difference is between a big blue box and a car."

Scott Sanford, Lansing's lead housing inspector in the Code Enforcement Office says the City of Lansing has had just as much trouble getting in contact with the charity.

He said Lansing does not have an ordinance requiring organizations get a permit before leaving a bin, and as a result many just appear.

The bins may be dealt with as trash, he said.

"I see lots of information and a lot of people requesting donations for different diseases but I've never seen one with a clothing bin out, so you hope they're legitimate," said Joan Jackson Johnson, director of Lansing's Department of Human Services and Community Relations. "The question is raised when you can't get anyone to return your calls or respond."

If it were up to her, Jackson Johnson said, she would remove all the clothing bins in the area because of safety and maintenance issues.

In May, a man died when trying to reach into a bin for clothing.

Her advice for those looking to give: bring your donations to a person. And if you do use a bin, do a little research on who it belongs to.

"There are a number of groups around that do support the poor of our community," she said. "And that's where we should focus."