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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -
A group of volunteers claimed to be money to help sexually abused children, but one organization that does that every day is questioning whether that's the case.
Child Protect forensic interviewer and counselor Christy Hutcheson began asking questions - after a volunteer asked her to donate money outside the Millbrook Wal-Mart back on April 5th.
"Basically all they could tell me is they do counseling for children that had been sexually abused and provide shelter to those children," Hutcheson said. "I asked them for a business card and he could not provide one. So he gave me a flyer. And when I asked where their office was located all they could tell me is their office was in Montgomery."
We began looking into the claims as well. On the flyer, the group claim it's affiliated with the Friends and Family Provision Center or FFPC, which we found is based in Riviera Beach, Florida.
We called the group for comment, but they declined to do a full phone interview. At first, a spokesman said they were fundraising in the area but declined to say where their office was located in Montgomery or identify families they were helping or any volunteer counselors.
But later, they called us to say they were being victimized. The spokesman said the FFPC had not done any work in Montgomery in more than a year. He said another group of people is using their information and claiming they are with the Family and Friends Provision Center. But we haven't heard from them since despite repeated calls.
On the flyer, the group claims it is a 501c3 non-profit organization and on the website guidestar.org we found the FFPC had filed non-profit tax returns in the past.
But during our search of both the Guidestar and IRS websites, we could not find proof the FFPC is currently registered with the IRS as a tax-exempt organization. We called the IRS to verify and a representative said the organization no longer had tax exempt status as of March 2013. That's before the group was seen raising money in the River Region.
In Florida, non-profits that accept donations are required to register. We could not find any proof of that either Hutcheson says be sure to ask questions of any group asking for donations.
"They need to know what this agency does, and if they can have more information from them, do they have a website, do they have an address on the form," Hutcheson said.
A spokesperson for Wal-Mart told WSFA 12 News groups are required to sign in if they want to raise money on their property. The store had no record that the FFPC had registered to raise money at the Millbrook store, but could not tell us whether the group was there without permission
Child Protect said reported the group to the Montgomery Police Department and the Alabama Attorney General's Office.
"MPD has been notified about fundraising activities of this organization in the River Region, but has received no complaints/information about activities in Montgomery," said Martha Earnhardt with the Montgomery Department of Public Safety. "MPD has consulted with other law enforcement regarding this matter, but is not conducting an investigation."
When groups are asking for money, Child Protect advises you ask for a website or business card so you can verify the group offers the services it promises. You can also search Guidestar at this address, and also the IRS to verify their tax exempt status.