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Door-to-door candy bar sale leads resident to question fundraiser

Vicky O. Misa
Phyllis Bolt stands just inside her doorway Thursday as she did earlier in the week when someone peddling candy rang her doorbell.

This week a local resident had a short encounter with a young woman who came to her home in the name of fundraising — whether it was for herself or for a legitimate cause, the jury is still out.

With three candy bars in-hand, the mobile merchant worked the neighborhood with the claim she was raising money with First Christian Church for a youth group trip to the zoo.

The Rev. Ray Belford, pastor of Shawnee First Christian Church, confirmed Thursday his church does not have a youth group, let alone one planning a trip to the zoo.

He wants the community to know that any such sales tactic in the name of his church or congregation is not legitimate.

Belford discovered the incident because the approached resident thought to inquire further about the claim.

“We received a call from a lady asking if we were selling candy,” Belford said. “We are not.”

The lady with the presence of mind to call Belford was Phyllis Bolt, wife of Ward 1 Shawnee City Commissioner Ed Bolt; the couple lives near the neighborhood of First Christian Church.

Phyllis said she became suspicious when the door-to-door candy peddler struggled with an answer when she asked the name of the pastor.

“She didn't know,” she said.

Red flags began to pop up.

“The incident happened on Tuesday afternoon, about 2:30 p.m.,” she said. “If she was a student, she should have still been in school.”

Bolt said she couldn't be certain exactly how old the girl was.

“It's kind of hard to tell; she was young,” she said.

Teens to early twenties was her best guess at pegging an age on the girl.

Bolt purchased one of the treats for $3, trying to help the girl out.

The candy bar sold to Bolt had none of the typical fundraiser markings on its wrapper. It was a bar of dark chocolate branded as Landmark Confections.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), at fda.gov, Landmark Confections is a trademark brand by Greenbrier International, Inc., dba (Doing Business As) Dollar Tree Corp. The for-profit company also operates a chain of supermarkets.

With two Dollar Tree stores in Shawnee, the candy bar has a retail value of $1 and can be purchased locally.

Reflecting on the incident, Bolt said she can't help but wonder if the girl was hungry or just looking for some quick cash.

Without answers directly from the peddler, one can't be certain what her motive or situation really was. All that is certain is that the story that was laid on Bolt was not true.

“If the effort was just to get some money, why didn't she just ask?” she said. “I would rather be approached truthfully — and have been before — for money straight out.”

History

Belford said incidents like this have happened before.

“About a year ago, there were some young people doing the same thing,” he said.

Belford said he believes it is a group of young people who come into a community, they see a church in a good neighborhood, and begin knocking on doors saying they are selling candy as a fundraiser for the church. Belford said he believed several people were scammed last year and paid high prices for candy bars.

“One individual who called the church said was the candy was terrible,” Belford said. “When he found out we had nothing to do with the sale of the candy, he said he was throwing it out.”

Scam awareness

The Shawnee Police Department was notified, Belford said.

The SPD did not return inquiries from The Shawnee News-Star for information or comments about the incident.

Tecumseh Police Chief J.R. Kidney said though he is not aware of any reports of that nature in his office, he does advise residents to do their homework before shelling out those dollars.

“There are so many scams going around out there, whether they are through the mail, by phone or in person,” he said. “You just never know.”

He said there are people trying to make money any way they can, and it's getting more and more difficult to know what is a legitimate cause — that includes anything from GoFundMe accounts to a fundraising jug sitting on the counter at the local gas station.

“Take the time to do some research to make sure it's really going to a good cause,” he said.