Beware of those donation cans

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By John Barnhart

    We’ve all seen those cans at checkout counters at various businesses and most of us probably never stop to wonder about whether they are legitimate.

    Vickie Overstreet certainly hadn’t wondered about this until last fall. That changed when she walked into a local business and saw a container collecting money for her son’s burial expenses.
    She was stunned because her family wasn’t in need of this help, hadn’t put the cans out and hadn’t authorized them. Somebody was collecting money for their own use and taking advantage of her son’s death to do it, she said.
    Overstreet’s son, Jason had been paralyzed in a car wreck when he was 18. Overstreet is a CNA and had been accepted into the local LPN program. Instead of pursuing LPN training, she began nursing her son. At the time he was totally paralyzed.
    “The nurses said, ‘You’ll never be able to take care of him,’” she recalled. “I said, ‘Oh yes I will!”
    And she did. She said that she got him to the point where he had use of the upper half of his body. He got to the point where he was able to drive a car.
    Then, on Oct. 7, 2011, he died. He was 27.
    A few days later she discovered that somebody had placed large containers in three area businesses, two of them in the city, with typed labels that read, “Would you please help the family?” They purported to be collection points to help the family with Jason’s burial expenses. Overstreet found out about them when a relative, who works at one of the businesses, contacted her daughter. Overstreet went over to have a look.
    “I just about flipped out,” she said when she saw the container.
    She called the police.
    “I’m very pleased with city police,” she said. “He [Shannon Walker] did all he could do.”
    A person was arrested and charged with placing the containers in the stores, but was found not guilty after appearing in court this summer, she said.
    But somebody did it and none of the money put in the containers went to Jason Ovestreet’s family. Vickie Overstreet said that nobody knows what the person who placed the containers did with the money.
    Overstreet said that discovering that somebody was exploiting her son’s death for their own benefit added to the pain she was feeling after his death.
    There were other victims, including the people who own the businesses. Overstreet said that they were shocked when they found the containers were not legitimate.
    Other victims were the people who put money in the containers, thinking they were helping somebody in need. She said that, although the business owners didn’t know exactly how much was being put in the containers, they could see that there was a lot of money, including $20 bills, in them.
    Overstreet wants to warn people to beware of these collection cans. She said that she will never again put money in them.
    “Even if I know the person, I’ll take the money to the person,” she said. “I’ll never drop a dime in a can.”