AUSTIN (KXAN) — On this Veterans’ Day, you may be thinking of how you can help needy veterans. A KXAN investigation revealed how most of your donated money can go to professional fundraisers instead of helping veterans. So, how do you find a veterans charity you feel comfortable giving your hard earned money? KXAN found one local group that is helping our military heroes without putting a dime in the pockets of paid solicitors.
At an event honoring veterans today in Lakeway, we found Rick Zehrer, a retired fighter pilot and brigadier general in the U.S. Airforce. General Zehrer runs the veterans group, Lake Travis Christmas Hope. He saw our investigation into veterans charities in which fundraisers keep the majority of money given to veterans.
“When you donate money it ought to go to the people who are deserving,” said General Zehrer. “Yes, I understand there are fundraising costs for certain organizations…we have none.”
General Zehrer says Lake Travis Christmas Hope is an all-volunteer, non-profit organization run by people who live in the Lake Travis area. They raise money for wounded warriors and their families during treatment and rehabilitation at the San Antonio Military Medical Center. The group’s cash grants to veterans are made primarily during the Christmas holiday season and the money helps buy food, gifts, meet other needs of families identified by hospital staff as being in a financial crisis. The charity has been so successful it now give grants all year round, more than $110,000 this year.
“I absolutely love it. They appreciate it and they don’t worry about how many dollars they get,” said General Zehrer “The two most important things to people (about donating) is that they know exactly where there money is going and that 100 percent is going where we tell them.”
The Texas VFW and others cannot say the same. A charity watchdog group that reviewed the financial reports of the Texas VFW obtained by KXAN say it’s hard to tell exactly how much goes toward direct financial assistance for veterans.
“We can’t tell how much money is going directly to veterans because the filings are just so terrible,” said Ken Berger of Charity Navigator. “There’s not specificity. They’re a mess,” Berger said of the Texas VFW’s financial records.