Clothing Donations Unveiling the Truth – Charity Profit or Waste

In a joint investigation with Reveal at the Center for Investigative Reporting, the News4 I-Team continues its look at the Maryland charity Planet Aid and its…

Behind the Bins: Former Planet Aid Employees Describe ‘Cult-like’ Experience

At first, signing up for Planet Aid’s “Manager In Training” program at its Elkridge, Maryland, headquarters seemed like the perfect job, Meredith Crocker said. She answered a Craigslist ad for the charity in 2013.

“The idea that they were both working for the environment and trying to help people at the same time seemed really cool,” Crocker said.

Having just received her master’s degree in international development economics, Crocker said she was initially attracted to Planet Aid’s message of saving the environment by recycling the clothes donated to its bright yellow bins.

Planet Aid makes as much as $42 million a year selling those clothes, according to its financial filings submitted to the Internal Revenue Service, indicating the money goes toward feeding and educating impoverished communities in Africa.

But in a joint international investigation with Reveal at the Center for Investigative Reporting, the News4 I-Team found Planet Aid is connected to a controversial Danish organization called Tvind, also known as the Teachers Group.

Danish court records obtained by the I-Team and Reveal say the group was founded about 1970 by Mogens Amdi Petersen, who required his members to live communally, give over control of their money, their time and decisions like “the right to start a family.”

DNA links suspect to two Virginia cold case murders

The FBI kept a file on Tvind, which both the I-Team and Reveal obtained, that details how Petersen created dozens of international companies and charities, including Planet Aid.

In the file, investigators state, “Little to no money goes to the charities” with “funds ultimately controlled by” the Teachers Group “who divert the money for personal use.”

Petersen is now on the run — wanted by Interpol — after the Danish government charged him with charities fraud and tax evasion.

Danish authorities seized more than 80 computers from Petersen and the Teachers Group and, according to the Danish court records, found a document where Petersen instructed his closest followers to ensure funds collected by their charities “are placed so that at any time they are available to us, that they are never available to others, that they are protected from theft, taxation and prying by unauthorized persons” and to “lay down a twisted access path with only ourselves as compass holders.”

In those court documents, Danish prosecutors allege Teachers Group members were instructed to sign documents pledging to “transfer all their available income to joint savings” while also promising to let the Teachers Group decided where they work and to “forgo their personal rights, such as the right to start a family to their own wish.”

The I-Team reached out to Planet Aid and its leaders for comment, emailing and mailing letters with a lengthy list of questions about these allegations. The I-Team also provided a detailed description of the allegations to the charity’s public relations team, who sent us a short statement before the story aired.

But following the broadcast of this story, Planet Aid provided a second, longer statement that said, in part, “Planet Aid wishes to address head-on the unfounded allegations in NBC’s recent stories. None of the allegations against Planet Aid are true. Petersen has nothing to do with Planet Aid now, nor has he at any time in the past. Planet Aid was not founded by Petersen and Planet Aid’s leadership has no financial or organizational links with him.”

Crocker said, “I can definitely see that there are cult-like aspects to” her experience while working for the charity.

Crocker explained how, several months into her job at Planet Aid, she was sent to One World Center in Dowagiac, Michigan, for training.

Crocker said she was housed with other employees and, as a requirement of her job, had to give back almost 20 percent of her $28,000 salary to pay for the training sessions.

Gardening experts reveal the pros and cons of using common household items to get rid of your weeds

The time of the year is approaching when gardeners across the country start digging up their soil and pulling out weeds in preparation for a summer spent outdoors. Getting rid of weeds can be a tedious job, as different variants survive and grow in different ways throughout the year, meaning they often return as soon as you remove them. However, gardening experts are on hand to give you some helpful solutions for keeping them at bay – involving methods you may not have previously considered. Horticultural experts have suggested three chemical-free, sustainable and cost effective ways to destroy weeds that invade flowerbeds, vegetable patches and borders. Talking to Homes & Gardens, they have revealed the products you will need – with all three found everyday in homes – to start getting rid of those weeds for good.

Getting rid of weeds can be a tedious job, however, some experts may have come up with some unlikely yet helpful solutions to keep them at bay in gardens

Getting rid of weeds can be a tedious job, however, some experts may have come up with some unlikely yet helpful solutions to keep them at bay in gardens

Boiling water

You may have heard of the method of boiling a kettle and pouring scalding water onto weeds to instantly kill them – but does it really work?

READ MORE: Struggling to deal with Japanese Knotweed in YOUR garden? Scientists put 8 management methods to the test

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According to gardening experts, boiling hot water will kill the part of the weed it comes into contact with, but it won’t get down to the root. If the root is not completely removed and dug out, then the weed is still likely to make a return. Jamie Mitri, an environmental engineer and founder of Moss Pure, told Homes & Gardens: ‘ The higher temperature water will temporarily damage the weeds, but this won’t be enough to 100% kill the weed’s roots and the weeds will grow back.’ Drew Swainston, content editor at Homes & Gardens and former professional gardener, doesn’t recommend the method – as although the younger weeds are likely to be affected by boiling water, the older and stronger weeds will survive. He said: ‘The truth is you have not killed them, you may have scalded it and damaged them, but the plant’s roots will not have been affected. ‘Perennial, established, and weeds with taproots will continue to stay alive under the surface and merely just shoot again in the near future.’ Another downside to using boiling water is the risk of damaging soil health and any other plants or lawn in the vicinity – as well as the health and safety risk of burning yourself – so it’s worth considering the method before trying it out.

According to gardening experts, boiling hot water will kill the part of the weed it comes into contact with, but it won’t get down to the root

Here’s What Goodwill Actually Does With Your Donated Clothes

Giving away used clothes may sound simple: You drop them off at a donation center, and then they’re sold to somebody who can re-use them. Right?

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Not quite. In reality, donated clothing often takes a much longer journey before meeting its ultimate fate. In the end, it may get re-sold. But it also may end up in the trash, joining the approximately 12.8 million tons of American textile waste that was sent to landfills during 2013. And that benefits no one.

Goodwill is one of the biggest U.S. landing points for donated clothes: Stores in New York and New Jersey alone collected more than 85.7 million pounds of textile donations last year, Jose Medellin, director of communications for Goodwill NY/NJ, told HuffPost. And his Goodwill region is just one of 164 regional Goodwill organizations across the U.S. and Canada.

As you’re probably starting to realize, it takes a ton of effort to guide your clothes from the Goodwill donation bin to their final resting place. Knowing how Goodwill works can help you make smarter decisions when deciding if another jeans purchase is really worth it for you, for the donations staff and for the environment.

Step 1: The Goodwill retail store

Goodwill operates more than 3,200 individual stores, Kyle Stewart, director of donated goods retail, told HuffPost. When you donate a bag of clothing at a store, workers most likely parse through it to determine what can be sold and what can’t: Wet or mildew-y clothes are eliminated, but everything else is fair game.

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Ray Tellez, the vice president of retail operations for Goodwill Southern California, said stores in his region track how long each piece of clothing has been on the retail floor. If an item doesn’t sell within four weeks, it’s sent onward in the process.

A Goodwill store in Los Angeles

Sean Teer manages Envision, a not-for-profit turning plastic bottle tops that would otherwise go to landfill into prosthetic hands and arms. Based in Werribee, the project aims to change the lives of as many disadvantaged people as possible in countries like Cambodia and India. Supported by the global Coca‑Cola Foundation, Melbourne based not-for-profit Envision is in the process of turning bottle caps into mobility aids, or artificial plastic limbs.

Achievements:

  • Set up and ran Progressive Personnel – First centrally based employer marketing service of its type in Australia for Disability Services
  • Author of a number of Articles and book on Job Seeking
  • National Finalist, Best Supervisor Work for the Dole Prime Minister’s Award 2005
  • Author of Self Development Book – Master the Art of Happiness
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