Two days spent at what seems like a dead run have put the organizers of a local charitable organization back in the state's good graces.
Now, they have to win back the public's confidence.Operation Family Front, an organization of deployed soldiers' families, was one of many fund-raising operations - some legitimate, some maybe not - put on notice that they were operating illegally unless they registered with the state's Division of Consumer Affairs.
Keith Day, who heads Operation Family Front, said he found out his group was in trouble shortly after the media reported the Department of Commerce would prosecute non-registered fund-raisers.
"I first realized it when a participant in the fund raising heard it on the radio. About 10 minutes later, the Department of Consumer Protection called me," he said. "I was surprised."
Dozens of phone calls and a fast trip through a bureaucratic maze later, Operation Family Front was legal. At 4:30 p.m. Friday, the group got its official permit number: C-500.
"We have been going crazy over the past two days," said Day. "We are scrambling, literally."
Day said that Operation Family Front is a private, non-profit group operating with the military's cooperation. The Midvale-based organization has been planning for some time a concert featuring local and national talent that they hoped would bring in about $45,000 for families of the Utah National Guard members deployed in the gulf war.
The invitation-only, morale-building fund-raising event would be the first of its kind in the country, Day said. More than 1,500 volunteers, including junior high and high school students, were involved in the organizational and fund-raising effort. All kinds of people, including the governor of Tennessee, were watching the Utah organization to see how everything turned out."Then the media reports came out, and the whole thing came crashing down," Day said.
David Buehler, director of the state Chamber of Commerce, warned the public through the media on Thursday that people soliciting money for the Utah troops and their families could very well be taking advantage of Utahns' patriotism and generosity.
Buehler noted that not all of the solicitors were running scams. "But I would be very, very wary," he said.
That was tough on Operation Family Front, which, though operating illegally, was not doing so intentionally, Day said.
But now he has to explain that to his 1,500 volunteers and scores of spooked parents who fear their children have been hoodwinked.
"We have been bombed by phone calls, as you can imagine," Day said.
The group enlisted a local printer to run a rush job on thousands of permit cards, which each of the volunteers will carry with them and present when they solicit money. That should go a long way to prove the group's legitimacy, he said.
Day said Operation Family Front has always asked that checks be made out to the National Guard, which then disburses the money back to the group. He said any solicitor that does otherwise perhaps ought to be regarded with suspicion.