Check out charities before handing over

By UTE SCHULENBERG

IT MAY be the 'giving time of year' but people are being warned to check the credentials of the charity asking them for a donation.

David Marlow and Steve Russo wish they had.

The Coffs Harbour building supplier and Nambucca Heads plumber were both approached by one, Russell Loel, wanting materials and work at reduced cost for his Bush Haven Handicapped Children's Home.

"Mr Loel contacted me some years ago to construct trusses for his building," Mr Marlow said.

"He'd contacted me previously wanting materials and had not been reliable then.

"I should have picked up something but he was tenacious and we ended up sending the trusses COD. He never paid me, even after umpteen phone calls."

Steve Russo has a similar tale and still gets angry talking about it.

"This bloke rang us saying he needed showers hooked up urgently because the school, down at Urunga, was opening that weekend (July 21,22,23 2006)," Mr Russo said.

"We were flat out, but he laid a guilt-trip on me and then my wife he's very good.

"I ended up taking a heap of blokes off another job and we worked for him for two days.

"In the back of my head I was thinking something was not right but I ignored that under the pressure of wanting to get the job finished."

The 'opening' turned out to be a three-day 'Roman Extravaganza' advertised with saunas, lotsa massage, artists in the raw and a tribal sleeping bed!

Mr Russo was incensed, and as with Mr Marlow, final payment was a problem.

Eventually the men and three other businesses met Mr Loel at a Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal in Coffs Harbour in February and June this year.

In all cases the presiding officer, Murray Sainsbury, found against Mr Loel and ordered him to repay the outstanding sums.

Mr Russo says people need to be warned about such operators.

"The whole thing ended up a fiasco. It was heartbreaking. We really like doing things to help kids, but this really puts you off helping even those who are genuine. I'm certainly a lot wiser now."

Mr Marlow, who has a severely handicapped brother, said the whole experience really got to him.

"I do a lot for charities so many of them do amazing things but now I am very rigorous about checking credentials. It really leaves a bad taste in your mouth."

When contacted Mr Loel refused to comment on Bush Haven or the tribunal findings.



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